‘Blood-suckers were bugging us in bed’

Restonic manufacture over 300 000 beds a year and have never had a legitimate bed bug complaint, said Herman du Preez, key account holder, after Jolyn Hewitson of Retreat complained the bamboo mattress that they bought from Tafelberg Furnishers, Tokai, was infested with bed bugs.

The Hewitsons notified Tafelberg about the problem eight months after they bought the mattress.

“If Restonic had a pest problem, there would be thousands of them, it is impossible to only have one bed bug case. We have supplied beds to Tafelberg Furnishers for over 16 years and this is the first complaint regarding bed bugs.

“Each of our nationwide factories has highly skilled health and safety officers who implement and follow stringent health and safety measures that are above international standards,” Mr Du Preez said.

Ms Hewitson and her husband Alexander paid R3 199 for the bamboo mattress on October 17 2019.

“During February we started itching, and, thinking it was a flea or two, we randomly sprayed to eliminate whatever was bothering us. But the itching and scratching continued until we saw the bugs crawling across the bed linen. When we lifted the mattress and pushed it up against the wall we saw black marks made by the bugs over the months on the ribbon fabric. The back of the mattress is covered in brown synthetic leather and knowing we could not sleep on it (synthetic leather) we’ve never bothered to flip the mattress before,” said Ms Hewitson.

Ms Hewitson said that they were able to contact Tafelberg Furnishers in May during level 5 lockdown when salesman André Munnik told them he would complete the necessary documents and forward it to Restonic with the images the Hewitsons sent him. Restonic, however, was still closed.

A few weeks later Ms Hewitson received an email from Mr Du Preez stating that “after careful consideration, we are not going to repair, or replace the product, as you were aware of our terms and conditions. However, we will give you a new mattress at cost price, excluding VAT”.

Ms Hewitson told Restonic that the only document they received was an invoice without any terms and conditions. Some days later Mr Du Preez emailed them a four-page booklet stating the terms and conditions.

“I told Mr Du Preez that it was the first time I’d seen the booklet and that he should do the right thing and do an exchange or give us a refund. I then phoned Mr Munnik who said he would speak to the manager,” Ms Hewitson said.

And that was the last they heard from Restonic or Tafelberg Furnishers.

“This is only the third mattress we have bought and the first time we’ve had this experience. Please assist,” Ms Hewitson said.

Mr Du Preez said they were only notified about the complaint on May 19 this year and the bed was bought in October 2019.

“Bed bugs, in order to survive, need to feed on blood and will need to feed every three to seven days, which means the bugs would have caused bites and severe discomfort in October 2019, but the Hewitsons didn’t complain then.

“Research shows that bed bugs are blood-eating insects and require blood to breed and require blood meals to survive; unlike mosquitoes they can’t fly to get to their food. And, unlike ticks, they don’t have the convenience of living on a host. Bed bugs must find another way to get the food they need.

So, these bugs hide near their food source and wait until it is safe to come out and feed. They mainly feed when people are sleeping.

“Restonic do not have people sleeping in our factories and do not store beds for long periods of time, Restonic operate a Just In Time (JIT system*) and only produce stock according to a confirmed booking date,” Mr Du Preez said.

“In the manufacturing process of a bed, there are also numerous heating processes that take place in the assembly and packaging, which will make it impossible for bed bugs to survive. Our nationwide factories have a credible track record and are fumigated every month. You are more than welcome to get pest experts to inspect our factory and the Tafelberg warehouse, at any time.

“We find claims like this to be unfair. However, as a gesture of goodwill Restonic will supply a new mattress at no cost and without prejudice,” said Mr Du Preez, who advised the Hewitsons to fumigate the area around the bed and the frame before they do the exchange and to dispose of the old mattress in a safe way “as we can’t bring the mattress back onto our premises because of health and safety regulations”.

The area was fumigated and the certificate was sent to Tafelberg Furnishers. Riaan Lamprecht, chief executive officer of Tafelberg Furnishers, confirmed that the mattress was exchanged for a “Support-A-Paedic Executive (turnable mattress), the Hewitsons had a Restonic Ortho Firm”.

“Thank you for successfully handling the investigation,” Ms Hewitson said.

*JIT is a Japanese system invented by Toyota and is designed to increase efficiency, cut costs and decrease waste by receiving goods only as they are needed.

Visit https://www.actionpest.com/what-causes-bed-bugs to find out more about bed bugs.