“Sucks to be you,” says TransGlobe

I’ve been Lundegaarded.

"Let me just ask my manager about that."

There’s a scene in the movie Fargo where crooked car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (played by William H Macy) is trying to rip off an older couple. Asked if he can lower the price a bit, Lundegaard says, “I’ll have to ask my manager.”

With no intention whatsoever of talking to his manager, of course, he then saunters into the back room, pours himself a cup of coffee, spends a while shooting the breeze with a colleague about sports, and then saunters back to the couple with the inevitable “no.”

Last week, about 10 days after my request to TransGlobe (the corporation that manages the building I live in), to reimburse me for the $1100 I’ve spent so far on Operation Bedbug, I got Lundegaarded.

I can’t say this is a big surprise, however, corporations being what they are. In an environment where Bell Canada can charge customers a $45.00 “equipment upgrade fee” just for buying a new phone, and banks can gouge you for 20 bucks a month for the “privilege” of parking your money with them, this really didn’t faze me at all.

Even the 10-day wait didn’t faze me—as a neighbour pointed out, it was more or less like being on hold; TransGlobe was just waiting for me to get tired and go away.

What did surprise me, though (aside from the fact that they called me back at all) is that the people I spoke to, managers Penny Colomvakos and Jonas Varrik, were almost completely (dare I say blissfully) unaware of what a bedbug infestation entailed for their tenants. (Actually, many people are still blissfully unaware of what bedbugs are all about; all I can say is “your turn will come.” But in a building management company, this is jaw-dropping.)

Penny, the “front-line” residential manager who first spoke to me about the possibility (cough) of my being reimbursed, was shocked, to be sure, and even sounded sympathetic. But to my astonishment, she had no idea of what a bedbug actually looked like, never mind what their bites look like, what’s involved in “preparations” for a spray (see my previous columns on this particular joy), or really anything at all about them except that they have more legs than a beagle and are somewhat smaller.

"Is this what's bothering you? Well, just throw it some kibble."

I confess that it was just a teensy bit fun giving her the gory details and hearing her go “Oh my god, gross, ew…” and to be fair, she was very nice about it all, although she said she sure hoped she and her kids never got them, ha ha.

The same goes for Mr Varrik, the nice young man who ultimately called me back to do the Lundegaarding. (And I do mean this guy is young – maybe it’s just my age, but if this lad can get into a nightclub without a note from his mom, I’ll eat my hat.)

Anyway, he too was certainly nice enough, the way the mammography technicians are nice – it’s not THEIR boobs being slammed between two sheets of glass, after all. He even used the word “unfortunately,” as in “unfortunately, we’re not able to reimburse you for your expenses.”

More out of curiosity than anything, I asked young Jonas what his rationale was for turning down my request.

“Well,” he said, “if we reimbursed you, then everyone would be coming to us with their hands out. [This is true, I suspect.] And it’s not our fault that there are bedbugs.”

There was a pregnant pause while I digested this. “What do you mean?” I croaked.

“Well,” he said again, “one of the tenants brought the bugs in. And as soon as we found out about it, we went ‘above and beyond’ in treating your building!”

“Actually,” I reminded him, “you sprayed just the one unit, in secret. And that drove the bugs out into the other units, like mine.”

“Well, we eventually sprayed the whole building,” he said somewhat huffily. “Most companies just spray the unit that’s infested and leave it at that.

“It cost us twenty-six thousand dollars,” he added unhappily.

I know a losing battle when I hear one. To be fair, the guy has probably been on the phone non-stop with enraged tenants since back in April when this all started. One loon in particular, who has never actually had a bug in her apartment, has been screaming to management and our poor beleaguered superintendent about it long, often and loud – fuelled by more than her fair share of Jack Daniels, we suspect – which accomplishes nothing and just encourages management to do what they do best, after all, which is duck calls from tenants.

The plumage of the Common Shouting Loon.

I also know that the “most companies” to which Jonas referred includes TransGlobe, which owns a large number of buildings in Toronto and across Canada – many of which (surprise) have bedbugs. Again, this is not TransGlobe’s fault, per se, but I find it shocking that a company would be willing to drop $26,000 to treat a problem they barely understand and then learn nothing about how to prevent it from happening in future.

So I switched tactics quickly, in favour of keeping the channels of communication open, as they say in … well, wherever they say things like that.

I spent a few minutes talking to him about how spraying the entire building is fast becoming the only way to deal with these pests; about how legislation will probably (hopefully) be changing soon; and about the importance of tenants and landlords working together, rather than standing around pointing fingers (or inserting them in their respective descending colons) while the bedbugs run riot around us all.

I like to think I accomplished something with all this. As I said, I knew before I hung up the phone with Penny two weeks ago that I was going to be Lundegaarded, so there was no point blowing an aneurysm getting mad at either Jonas or Penny; I’ll leave the angry histrionics to our Building Loon.

The cynics (and I am sometimes among them) will say I did Jonas’s job for him by educating him about a pest he should have been familiar with in the first place, and that I am just too damn nice (again, true).

But mostly I’m a realist and, despite everything, at least somewhat of an optimist, and I think that calm, rational discussion about this, and cooperation between landlords and tenants, is ultimately the only way that anything is going to get accomplished vis a vis bedbugs.

All this said, I have just found out that I am being fumigated yet again on Monday – this will be the third time, and there will likely be a fourth, and a fifth, ad infinitum until either the pests die, or I do, or the pest control company’s warranty runs out. So we’ll see how calm and rational I feel on Monday morning, as I stand there yet again, screwdriver in hand, surrounded by plastic bags full of my linens, cat yowling in her carrier, the day’s plans blown to shit once more to make room for the fumigation schedule.

Because, refund or no refund, right now no one is winning except the damn bedbugs.

"I don't wanna play the Spray Game any more."

Related:

Dogs sniff out bedbugs from G20 delegates’ hotel rooms (Toronto Star, June 18, 2010)

Bedbugs found at Toronto hospital: “Now tell me bedbugs aren’t a health menace” (Toronto Star, June 11, 2010)

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