I stayed at the Capitol Hill Suites Hotel from 17 April to 21 April 2011. If my accommodations had not already been paid for via a third party - I booked the hotel from the UK via Ebookers.com - I would not have stayed for more than the ten minutes it took me to find the bed bugs.
When I arrived on the 17th, I was given room 225 in the main building (which includes the front desk). Since I have been through bed bug trauma when I lived in New York a few years ago, I always inspect my hotel r
ooms thoroughly when I arrive. Until now, I had never found evidence of bed bugs and was starting to think that I was overly paranoid and obsessive. But, as I always do, I entered the room, put my luggage in the bathtub, took out my flashlight and went to work on the mattress. When I pulled back the sheets from the first corner at the foot of the bed, I did not see anything at first. But the mattress had one of those additional layers of cushioning on top, and when I pulled it up, I noticed a couple of the tell-tale bed bug spots (as I say, I know what these black dots look like because we had them in our bed in New York). So, now I was a little worried, but thinking that maybe it was just an old mattress, and a couple of spots do not make a scare. But then I pulled up the sheets on the mattress at the head of the bed; when I lifted the edge of that additional comfort layer I saw the last thing I ever want to see in a hotel room - a significant cluster of spots all around the corner of the mattress. This is exactly what the corner of our infested mattress looked like in New York. There was evidence of both blood and the black feces dots.
I called the front desk and told them what I had found. The guy working the front desk was completely professional, apologized profusely, and said he would move me to another room. When I asked him to move me as far away from that room as possible - again, I did not have the option of just going out and finding another hotel - he said fine. He also said that he expected the management would maybe give me one free night or some kind of discount for the trouble of putting me in that room. I went downstairs and exchanged my keys for a room on the 5th floor.
When I got to the new room (506), I did the same thing, but found no evidence of bed bugs. The only thing I noticed were occasional individual black spots that look like the earliest indication of a bed bug problem; when we had these in New York, we saw them but didn't know what they were. And when you launder your sheets, they don't come out. If they're fresh, they smudge, but none of these smudged, so I figured that these sheets had been on some other bed with the problem at some other time.
For the rest of my stay, I kept my luggage and all other possessions in the bathroom, and mostly in the tub (except when I needed to shower). And I inspected the bed and linens every night, but never found additional indications of bed bugs.
When I checked out on the 21st, I asked about the discount and got the brush-off. First, the woman at the front desk expressed complete disbelief that I had seen any evidence of bed bugs; she claims they've never had them at the hotel in the three years she worked there. Then she told me that a manager would be willing to talk with me, but could never produce the manager; this same manager was supposed to call me after I returned to the UK, but it's been two weeks and I've heard nothing.
Finally, she got her supervisor to talk to me. This is where the story gets most distressing. He told me that they had closed down Room 225 when they heard that I had seen evidence of bed bugs. They then sent in their engineer to inspect the room and the bed, and he found nothing. I asked him if he looked at the corner of the bed I had left uncovered, and he said he thought so, but he still found no evidence of bed bugs. He also said that they called their pest control company to come and take a look, and that they had found nothing as well. I asked if the pest control company has any expertise with bed bugs - because your average cockroach killers may not have bed bug sniffing dogs or even know what signs to look for - and he said he assumed so.
I told him that although I did not relish returning to that room, I would take him up there right then and show him what I had seen, so that he'd know what to look for and, more important, recognize that they have a significant problem on their hands. He said we couldn't go up there now because they had rented the room to someone else.
I told him he is playing with fire, that this is only going to get worse, and that their business will suffer. He said he appreciated my concern. And then I just got the hell out of there.
It is really too bad that they are taking the familiar denial route. It is otherwise a nice hotel and situated close to everything on Capitol Hill; I was there doing research in the Library of Congress, and the hotel's location could not have been more ideal. But I will never stay there again.