Malaysian tourists left 'petrified and traumatised' after suffering bed bug bites at Singapore hotel

Malaysian tourists ended up with their bodies covered in itchy bed bug bites during their hotel stay.
PHOTO: Phia Boo, ST Signature

"How bad can it be? It's Singapore," That's the thought that ran through the minds of Malaysian Phia Boo and a friend, when they decided to book their stay at a budget hotel here.

What they didn't expect after a two-night stay, however, was to end up with their bodies covered in itchy bed bug bites.

Boo had booked a two-night stay from June 15 to 17 at ST Signature located at Jalan Besar. Branded as a "co-living hotel", the room Boo stayed in was a twin-sharing room with no ensuite bathroom.

In a Facebook post on June 18, the 45-year-old detailed her experience after she and a friend woke up after their first night at the hotel, covered in multiple red welts. They were "petrified and traumatised", she wrote.

Photos shared in the post showed bumps around her friend's chest and up to her neck. Swollen marks were also found on their feet and torso.

A photo taken of her friend's bites after the first night. PHOTO: Phia Boo

Speaking to AsiaOne about the "nightmare" that they went through, Boo shared that upon checking in, they had to switch rooms as the air-conditioning in the first room wasn't working well.

The second room, they noticed, was less well-kept with "black spots on the wallpaper".

"The moment I laid down on the bed, I started to scratch already," said Boo. 

She believed she had fewer bites than her friend because she was tossing and turning while "scratching the whole night", whereas her friend "slept like a log".

Upon waking up after their first night with the obvious bite marks, they found what appeared to be a bed bug on the bedsheet and informed the hotel.

PHOTO: Phia Boo

A staff member who later came to inspect the room also found another bed bug, which she killed. 

Bed bugs found during subsequent night's stay

The guests were offered an upgraded room for their second night's stay as well as a free laundry service for their clothes, which they accepted.

PHOTO: Phia Boo

Before sleeping in the new room the next night, Boo and her friend sprayed themselves with tea tree oil that they had bought that day in an effort to prevent any more bites.

However, Boo found another bedbug on the linen the next morning, and the bites on her friend appeared to have worsened in number and appearance.

PHOTO: Phia Boo

Checking out of the hotel and getting into Johor Bahru, Boo shared that the pair immediately went to a laundromat to wash their clothes and bag packs again with hot water to ensure that they weren't bringing home any bugs.

Boo's friend also had to see a doctor for her rashes.

She added that no refund was given nor medical compensation offered at that point, but admitted that they did not request for it.

"We go through so much hassles and wasted our time and money. I wonder how they get the 'SG Clean Certified' from the government [sic]. Ridiculous!" wrote Boo in her Facebook post. 

Boo told AsiaOne that the reviews of ST Signature on Airbnb's booking platform were good, which was why they decided to stay at the hotel.

However, it was only after their bad experience that her friend discovered two other reviews that cited incidents of bed bugs in the hotel, both from early this year. 

Screengrab from Facebook
Screengrab from Google

'A couple of bed bugs found'

In a response given to AsiaOne on Wednesday (June 29), ST Signature stated that they had engaged a pest control vendor Autopest Pte Ltd to clean the affected room after the first complaint, where they found "a couple of bed bugs but no eggs".

The second room was inspected by the host and housekeeper after the second complaint, whereupon "one adult bed bug and no eggs" were found. 

It also claimed that "the absence of any eggs [found in the room] almost certainly rules out an infestation".

In an email reply, the hotel said it considers Boo's case an "isolated incident" and believes that the bugs were "very likely" to have been "brought in with luggage in the days prior to the incident".

Boo maintained to AsiaOne, however, that staff had informed them that pest control had sanitised the room they were upgraded to prior to their stay, and staff member had told them that "they found one adult bed bug and no eggs".

Boo has rubbished any allegations that they could have brought in the bed bugs, sharing with AsiaOne that if they had carried the bed bugs, she should have been "scratching while driving from KL to JB".

Moreover, the pair had also found another bed bug crawling on their sheets after their second night.

PHOTO: Phia Boo

Boo said that she was hesitant to post their complaint on Facebook at first as she "didn't want to create drama", but only decided to do so only after her friend's bites became more severe on the third day.

"I started to feel bad so I felt I had to put it on Facebook and warn others," Boo told AsiaOne.

Bite marks on Boo's friend which appeared to have gotten more severe after the second night. PHOTO: Phia Boo

'It's not about the money at all'

And while the hotel stated in a media report published on Tuesday (June 28) that they have since given a full refund, Boo said she had only been notified of the refund the same day of the report, and that the refund amount was "not in full".

"We paid about RM662 [about S$209] but the refund was about RM528," shared Boo, who said that the hotel has not reached out personally to enquire about the incident.

She added: "It's not about the money at all, we can afford it, it is the experience and suffering."

In response to AsiaOne's queries, ST Signature confirmed that no request for refund nor compensation was filed and that the refund was "processed out of goodwill on our end based on the full amount we received".

"The actual amount guests paid are subject to platform fees and can be influenced by exchange rates as well."

According to a hotel spokesperson, ST Signature engages a weekly "pest management service", and if pest activity is confirmed, "the room will be treated/fumigated and left isolated for at least six days" before it can be allocated to guests. 

The spokesperson indicated that they have not detected any bed bug activity since "nor received reports of similar encounters".

They added: "We are disheartened that the guests had an unpleasant experience during their stay in Singapore.

"We have done our best to provide the service and assistance to the affected guests and we sincerely hope to welcome back to ST Signature again in the future."

candicecai@asiaone.com