Hollister, the teen-oriented clothing store that's a subsidiary of Abercrombie & Fitch, was shut down yesterday due to what one employee described as "a massive bedbug outbreak" at the four-story SoHo flagship location. And according to our source, who spoke on condition of anonymity so that he/she wouldn't lose his/her job at the creepy "bedbug breeding ground," the senior management blew off complaints about bedbugs for almost a month. In a long, outraged email, the employee described the nightmarish situation:
The four story flagship store is known for hiring models and having them stand around the store scantily clad to help market the brand. The first report of bedbug bites in the store was three weeks ago by and employee and a manager, but that was ignored. On Tuesday the 29th, an employee found that she had been bitten, and also found a live bedbug and an exoskeleton on her borrowed Hollister outfit. All of the employees were forced to continue working even though more and more bugs were being discovered.
Multiple employees were covered in bites. Hollister was more concerned about losing money than the health and safety of their hundreds of employees and thousands of customers. If they were concerned in the least, the store would have been shut down the moment the first bugs were discovered. Just today they closed the store down, but who knows how many employees and customers were exposed to the outbreak in the past three weeks, only jeopardizing the rest if the stores in the area as bedbugs spread like wildfire.
Bedbugs only feed at night, and if you've ever been inside Hollister, you know that it is almost completely dark. I'm sure you can imagine the store has become a bedbug breeding ground since it was first exposed. Go Hollister!
Aaaaaand Go Lawsuit! Since bedbugs are capable of traveling in the folds of clothing, you can imagine the class action lawsuit potential here. "Technically it's a breach of warranty of merchantability," Michael M. Martin, a professor at Fordham University School of Law, tells the Wall Street Journal (paywall). "They are defective because they don't meet consumer expectation. The usual remedy for that, first of all you can get price back and, second, you might well be able to recover for the consequential injuries. I'd be willing to take that case."
Our source says "only the full time employees are being paid while the store is closed, even though many part time employees work 40+ hours a week and depend on that store to pay bills... Now they have three shirtless models standing outside to tell customers that the store is closed until further notice." A spokesman for Hollister confirmed the infestation and said the bedbugs were "affecting certain isolated areas of the store." He also said he expected the store to open within the next day or two, but we all know how resilient bedbugs are—the bastards can live over a year between feedings!