SPOKANE, Wash. -- We all love a good deal. Facebook, Craigslist and thrift stores can be excellent places to shop for steals. But buyers beware, local exterminators say they are receiving daily calls from people who brought home a lot more than furniture into their home.
"I just got taken for, I really did," Patty Tucker said. "I work hard for my money."
Patty had been saving and saving for a 'new to them' couch.
"It was nice, very nice," she said.
And even though it was used, it appeared to be in good shape. At first. Patty's 9-year-old daughter was thrilled.
"She slept on it that night," she said. "The next day I went to work. I came home and she showed me these bites."
The likely culprit according to Patty was bed bugs. She spent nearly $50 on sprays to try to treat it, but quickly realized the only way to salvage the rest of her stuff was to get the couch out immediately. The seller told her, no refunds.
"I don't know what to do," she said through tears. "I'm out furniture, I'm out $100 for the set, and then more for the (bug sprays.)"
Patty and her daughter are devastated but want to share their story so you can avoid the same.
"That's why I got a hold of (Help Me Hayley) to see if you could help me," she said.
To do that, KHQ turned to the experts to see just how big of a problem this really is.
"I know it's happening daily," Raymond Vanderlouw with Eden Pest Control said. "In this economy, $20 is $20, if you can find something for free and then clean it up and sell it for up to $40, people will do that. I see it all the time."
Vanderlou says the calls keep coming. People saying they purchased used furniture only to find that wasn't all they were getting.
"Bed bugs can be on metal," he said. "They can be in wood. People think because they buy something that is plastic, they are okay but that's not true."
He says when a home or apartment is treated for bed bugs, the people living there will often toss things like couches, chairs, or mattresses. Those items are then taken by those looking to make a quick buck. He says he even treated the place of a woman who was unknowingly doing exactly that and in turn, got bed bugs herself.
"She got the stuff, cleaned it up and then sold it on Facebook," Vanderlou said. "There's no telling how many insects she could have spread throughout Spokane."
It's hard to say whether these sellers know or not. That's why you did be looking out for yourself
"Where that material overlaps or where the fabric comes together, you can get bed bugs a lot of times in there," he said. "Spend a good 15 minutes just looking."
You can still bargain hunt, just be careful and thorough. Closely examine every inch of what you're about to bring inside your home.
"That bargain deal is not a bargain deal if you then have to spend thousands on a bed bug treatment," he said.
Experts recommend paying close attention to any pleats or seems. They say even the smallest indentations are where bed bugs can get in and stay. They advise looking closely for feces. Using a flashlight can help you get a better look at every crevice. If the seller hesitates or even forbids an in-depth inspection, it's best to walk away.
Vanderlouw does have an organization that works to ensure there are more bed bug-free items readily available to those in need. Visit: www.bedbugfreefurnishings.org.