Customer finds bed bugs at Phoenix Walmart; store is investigating

PHOENIX - Don’t let the bed bugs bite — is not a saying that should ever apply to a grocery store, but one Valley man said he was bitten by bugs several times at a Valley Walmart.

Jose Avalos de Leon and his wife, Lupita Cruz, said they went to a Walmart at 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road this past weekend. Avalos had an injured leg so he decided to use one of the store's motorized shopping scooters.

“Just riding down Walmart for a little bit, my back started getting itchy,” said Avalos.

Avalos got off the scooter to look at the seat and saw tiny brown bugs crawling around in the seat’s crevices.  They looked at another scooter chair and found the same thing.   

“I got off the chair, turned around and the whole chair was infested with bed bugs,” said Avalos. 

ABC15 asked a pest expert to watch the video, and he confirmed that the tiny brown insects are indeed bed bugs. Ian Campbell, who owns The Works Pest Control, said somebody who has bugs at home probably brought them into Walmart on their clothes.  He said anybody who sat on the scooters after the infestation could have accidentally taken some bugs back to their home to start a new colony.

“That person goes home and sits on their couch and instantly the bed bug tries to hide,” said Campbell, describing how an infestation begins. “That bed bug is gong to feed on [that person] and once they feed they start laying eggs.”

Walmart issued a statement to ABC15.

“The carts have been pulled from public use, and we’re awaiting a team to arrive at the store for testing,” said the statement from Charles Crowson, senior manager of corporate communications for Walmart.

On Monday afternoon, there were seven motorized carts sitting outside behind the Walmart. The vinyl cover had been removed from several of the scooter seats. 

The Maricopa County Environmental Services Department is responsible for food inspections in Valley restaurants. A spokesperson for environmental services said beg bugs found in a store that sells food would fall under their regulatory umbrella. 

The department spokesman said this particular situation hadn’t been brought to the county’s attention. In general, however, he said someone would need to file a complaint about bed bugs that would be followed up by the department. If county inspectors find bed bugs, they mandate action by the store. Fines are unlikely if the store follows extermination instructions.

In the meantime, if you’re worried about taking home bed bugs, Campbell has advice.

“All the clothes you're wearing, put them in in the dryer on high heat for about an hour and a half or so,” he said. 

And that’s basically what Avalos did.

“I got outside, I literally just stripped down." 

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