Are you relatively new to this bustling metropolis? Don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York once upon a time, except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and still resides there. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.

This week's question comes from a New Yorker who is considering buying a mattress on Craigslist.

Hi Jake,

Look, I know what you're thinking. "Hell no don't buy a used mattress, you monster!" is what you're thinking. So do all my friends. But why? I'm an adult with sound judgment and I bought everything else I own off craigslist. My eyeballs and nose are functioning normally; I can see any weird stains and smell any weird smells. In a town as transient as NYC Isn't it possible that someone took care of their mattress and needs to get rid of it because they're moving? Also the prices are incredibly low exactly because no one trusts used mattresses. What do you think?

Could A Smart Person Elaborate Revulsion

A native New Yorker responds:

Dear Could A Smart Person Elaborate Revulsion,

Absolutely, positively not. A bedbug can be the size of a pinhead, and all you need is one queen up in there somewhere for you to have a total infestation on your hands. You can get an Ikea mattress for $89—the Craigslist savings cannot be so great that it is worth risking your health and sanity, and that of your roommates, visitors, or neighbors. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it is ethically wrong to take the risk, because you are putting lives besides your own in danger.

But maybe you think I'm some kind of native germaphobe or something (not so—my puddle pictures require me to sometimes stick my hands into some pretty gruesome puddles and I handle that just fine). So I polled my colleagues for their advice:

Rebecca Fishbein: "extremely gross"

John Del Signore: no comment except a link to this video:

Raphael Pope-Sussman: "NO FUCKING WAY! Not only is this a terrible idea, but doing so would wreak havoc on the person's karma forever. He is risking bringing bedbugs into his apartment and spreading it to roommates or other residents of the building. Just to save some money? Why is the seller getting rid of her mattress? Doesn't she know that only lunatics buy used mattresses and that she's therefore inviting a lunatic over to her house? And what kind of person wants a lunatic in the house? Another lunatic, probably one with bedbugs or worse!"

Jen Carlson: "God no. Craigslist mattress is a HARD PASS always. I want to buy this person a mattress now."


What I do not understand is that people who would never touch a Craigslist mattress are often perfectly willing to buy upholstered armchairs, Ikea dressers, and other furniture from strangers on that platform. Bedbugs can lurk pretty much anywhere, and they can last up to 18 months between feedings. That means they can infest any piece of furniture and linger. Sure, mattresses might be convenient for a bedbug to cling to, because it's close to their nightly blood buffet, but so too is that innocent bedside table you just bought for $25. I say avoid it all.

Yes, this does have an unfortunate environmental consequence, but many of these pieces of furniture can be recycled into their constituent materials, and to be honest, even if every last piece of furniture in NYC must be burned when it is thrown out, that is worth it if stops the bedbug plague that has afflicted us these many years. Yes, this may be an overreaction, but I just spent six minutes watching that bedbug video and it's going to take me at least two weeks to get it out of my head.

(Or if you're certain that furniture you're parting with is bedbug free, consider donating it to a non-profit organization like Housing Works—they will reinspect it before they sell it to the public.)

This is also a time to meditate on the advantages of a minimalist lifestyle: the less furniture you own, the less you'll ever need to replace, and the less chance you have of being tempted by that sidewalk armoire you spotted on your walk to work. Of course, you will still need to occasionally replace a mattress, but the massive savings you will build up from not wasting money on non-essential things will make those purchases easy to handle.

(For more on living in a city with bedbugs, here are some thoughts on the age old dilemma "A Friend Has Bedbugs...Can I Exclude Her From My Party?")



N.B.: When you throw out your mattress, you need to wrap it in a plastic cover, which you can buy at most hardware stores, and then put it out for the last collection of the week. If you don't follow the rules you risk a $100 fine and/or getting yelled at by your super.

Ask a Native New Yorker anything via email. Anonymity is assured.