(photo, bug and box by Sappymoosetree)
I'm a huge fan of Tripadvisor.com. I can't remember the last time I booked a hotel without reading their user reviews. Interpreting the reviews isn't always easy because the users don't adhere to a single set of standards. Often you'll find more consistently favorable reviews for budget-priced accommodations like the Hampton Inn Kansas City Liberty than for the expensive ones like the Westin St. John Resort & Villas. But I'd take the Westin (which I've seen but not stayed at) any day, and not just because it's on a pristine, if small, U.S. Virgin Island beach. The main problem seems to be that people are far more critical when they're spending a lot of money at a luxury property, and sometimes have unrealistic expectations. That's why I take every review with a liberal amount of salt, unless it mentions bed bugs. That stops me dead in my tracks. To me, that's the worst you can say about a place — I'll take 100 surly staff members over one tiny bed bug, especially because there's no such thing as just one bed bug.
This probably isn't fair, but I can't help it. I've never encountered bed bugs and I never want to. It's not even the horror of waking up covered in red welts. It's the fear that they would stow away in my luggage and then infest my apartment. And then I'd have to throw away most of my worldly possessions.
There's no way that all of the bed bug claims on Tripadvisor are true. If you want to get back at a hotel because something went wrong during your stay, it's the perfect thing to write. And if you want to harm a competitor's reputation, well, it's almost too easy. Hotels are allowed to respond, but most don't and even if they do, the damage is already done. I was just researching hotels on Key West and I came across the well-priced Banana Bay Resort. It has a decent location and what appears to be a good-sized pool. As soon as I saw a recent review mentioning bed bugs, I decided there were too many Key West accommodations to take the risk. And in this case, the hotel did respond, saying they couldn't find any evidence of the bugs.
It's often the travelers who BYOB (bring your own bedbugs), picking them up at the first hotel and then unwittingly transferring them to the second hotel where they stay. When I went to Greece last summer, I stayed at five different hotels. Fortunately, they were all immaculate. But if my first stop, Aegeon Beach Hotel, had been infested, I would have spread the bugs all over the place. So that's why bad bed bugs can happen to good hotels. I was recently looking at reviews for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where I stayed in 2002 and still recommend because of its multiple pools and lazy river. And even though there's a review from 2006 citing bed bugs, I'm still going to recommend it. There's a statute of limitations on everything, even bed bugs.
Have you ever encountered bed bugs? Tell us in the comments below.