Trying To Be More Than a Sympathetic Ear

Departments - View Point

March 2, 2018

Every so often the PCT staff receives a phone call from a homeowner/apartment dweller. Usually it is someone who mistakenly thinks we are a Cleveland-area pest control company, or someone who reads a PCT article online (a great reminder that our magazine’s content is important and of interest to not only those involved in the pest control industry).

Since I am not a licensed pest management professional I don’t feel it’s my place to give advice about how to control pests, but I want to help people out. I encourage them to contact a professional for their pest control problem. If they insist on doing the job themselves, or if they just have general pest questions, I will direct them to useful resources.

The callers I really have sympathy for are apartment dwellers. For the most part, they are at the mercy of their landlord. Take, for example, a call I recently received from a distressed elderly woman who was living on a fixed income in a low-income apartment complex. The woman was at her wit’s end due to a bed bug infestation in her apartment. It sounded like the landlord/property management wasn’t doing much to solve the problem; and what they were doing seemed questionable at best. The problem was so bad, the woman claimed, that she had taken the drastic measure of heating her clothes in her oven to rid them of bed bugs. (OK, I know I said I don’t give out advice, but in this situation I did advise against this practice. I told her that heating her clothes in a dryer for 30 minutes was a better alternative).

I asked Ohio State University entomology professor Dr. Susan Jones how she responds to these type of phone calls. “In a case like that, she has to find the appropriate entity to let her know what the laws are,” she said, adding that many states have non-profit law centers for low-income residents. “Be sympathetic with her. Tell her that they should be able to get the bed bugs under control, but it needs to be a building-wide approach. Adjacent units must be treated.”

Susan also said apartment dwellers can be proactive. Don’t just bring complaints to management; give them possible solutions. For example, she said apartment dwellers could recommend resources focused on building-wide bed bug management practices such as the University of Minnesota’s “Let’s Beat the Bed Bug!” website, which includes a section for homeowners and tenants.

Susan’s advice was great, and she has given me some new tools. Hopefully, the next time I receive this type of call I can be a bit more than a sympathetic ear.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As you are flipping through this month’s issue there is a good chance the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament is on your television screen. The tournament (aka, March Madness) has become of one of America’s most popular sporting past times. (Fun fact: Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated that in 2016 the loss of productivity in the opening week of March Madness cost employers nearly $4 billion in lost revenue.) The beauty of March Madness is that the winning team must make it through a grueling 64-team bracket; in the end there really is no argument who is the best team in the country.

This tournament got the PCT staff thinking: Could we use a similar formula for determining the pest control industry’s “Final Four?” We tasked contributing writer Anne Nagro with reaching out to a variety technical directors from different parts of the country to help us determine the “worst of the worst” based on factors such as: the amount of revenue they generate; the degree of difficulty in controlling them; and the amount of customer concern they cause. We hope you enjoy our “take” on the industry’s “Final Four,” and we’d love to get your opinion on which of our four loathsome pests you deem “worst.” You can vote for your “top pest” in our online poll, and comment on PCT’s social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).

The author can be contacted at