Whenever we travel to different countries, we generally have preconceived notions.
Like if you’re going to Japan, you expect hotel rooms to be minimalist but prettily packaged; in Venice, you’d expect hints of Renaissance; in China, you can almost bet that there will be dragons, flower/landscape paintings and red decorations somewhere.
With Singapore, our country is typically seen as an ideal tourist destination with a good standard of hygiene and sanitation, clean drinking water, and overall safety, though there are a few jabs at our overly strict laws.
When Malaysian Phia Boo and his friend decided to book their rooms at a budget hotel for their stay in Singapore, they thought, “What’s the worst that could happen, right? It’s Singapore, after all.”
However, they didn’t expect that they would end up with rashes all over their bodies due to bed bug bites.
The Hotel and Bed Bugs
In her Facebook review, Phia Boo warned netizens away from ST Signature, the lodging that they regretted choosing, as it left them “petrified and traumatised”.
From 15 to 17 June, Boo and her friend stayed at the budget hotel located in Jalan Besar.
It was branded as a “co-living hotel” on the website, and Boo had booked a twin-sharing room with no ensuite bathroom.
Upon checking into the hotel, they had to switch rooms because the air-conditioning in the first room wasn’t working well.
The second room didn’t seem much better at first glance either; since the duo noticed that it was less well-kept and there were “black spots on the wallpaper”.
Although there were oddities with their accommodations, the pair had shrugged it off (because you kind of know what you’re paying for), but the experience only worsened as the night wore on.
For Boo, she was unable to sleep as she couldn’t resist the urge to scratch herself the moment she laid down on the bed.
Meanwhile, her friend had no troubles as she “slept like a log”.
However, her tossing and turning might have been a blessing in disguise (kind of, if you ignore the eyebags), since she woke up to lesser bites compared to her friend.
When they saw the obvious bite marks on their bodies, they started to scan the bed, only to find what appeared to be a bed bug.
Thus, they informed the hotel of the problem.
The Bed Bugs Are Still Biting
To the hotel’s credit, they took action immediately.
ST Signature upgraded and changed their room for their second night’s stay, and even offered a free laundry service for their clothes, which they accepted.
However, the same problem persisted to the next day.
There were still more bed bugs.
When another staff member came over, they managed to find more bed bugs and later killed it.
To their horror, it looked and felt even worse, because they could see the blood that the bed bug had clearly leached from them on the sheets it lay dead.
And you know the saying: once is happenstance, two is coincidence, three is a pattern.
But it was the last day of their trip anyway, so they bit the bullet and toughed it out for the last time.
Fearful of the bed bugs biting, Boo and her friend sprayed themselves down with tea tree oil in an effort to prevent more bites on their persons before they went to sleep.
Even then, Boo still found more bed bugs, and the red welts on her friend’s skin had visibly worsened and grown in numbers.
Precautionary Measures and Aftermath
Needless to say, neither of them were pleased with the hotel, regardless of how friendly and helpful the staff were.
Once the pair checked out of their hotel and crossed the borders into Johor Bahru, they went to a laundromat immediately to wash their clothes and backpacks with hot water to ensure that they weren’t bringing any of those nasty pests home.
It’s the type of the memento you never want.
While Boo came out of the hotel with itchy rashes too, her friend was faring much worse, such that she needed to see a doctor to treat her skin condition.
Although she complained about the troubles she went through on her Facebook post, and how it was “a waste of time and money”, she admits that they didn’t ask for any refunds or medical compensation.
However, Boo was appalled and wondered how ST Signature managed to obtain the “SG Clean Certified” from the government with the cleanliness problems their rooms had.
“Ridiculous!” She exclaimed, adding that she had been to so many countries and stayed in so many hotels and motels, but this has never happened to her.
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Why Did She Make The Review?
When a hotel has such an obvious problem, you’d think that the internet’s review and rating system would inform you of what you’re getting into.
Alas, on the Air BnB page, ST Signature has a good reputation, which was why Boo and her friend chose the hotel in the first place.
It was only after her bad experience that she decided to go through the comments with a fine comb, before she found the two negative reviews that reflected her poor experience.
One complained about bedbugs in the room, rats in the pantry, and cockroaches in the toilet showers.
The other reviewer noted that there was a pungent odour coming from the bed and there were bed bugs too. Even though they managed to swap to a different room, the problems persisted, and they didn’t have a good experience at the budget hotel at all.
The Hotel’s Response
When AsiaOne reached out to ST Signature, the management stated that they have engaged the services of a pest control vendor Autopest Pte Ltd to clean up the affected rooms.
While they found adult bed bugs, there were no eggs around.
Since there were no eggs, the hotel claimed that there couldn’t possibly be an infestation and it was more likely that Boo’s case was an isolated incident.
…Not sure if that’s how it works, but okay.
Rather than pinning it on their own hygiene standards, ST Signature claimed that it was possible that the bed bugs were “brought in with luggage in the days prior to the incident”.
When Boo heard their response, she trashed their explanation, stating that if her luggage had been the problem, she should have been experiencing the rashes ever since they started driving from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru.
Moreover, they had found the bed bugs on the linen, and relatively large ones too.
Boo had initially contemplated whether she should share her negative review of ST Signature, but as her friend’s skin condition became more severe on the third day, she decided that it was her duty to warn her fellow travellers.
In the end, she decided to share it on Facebook.
Boo: It’s Not About The Money
Ever since then, her post has gone viral on Facebook, garnering over 550 responses and shared more than 4,100 times.
Since this is incredibly bad publicity for ST Signature, they promptly released a media report.
ST Signature said they had given the affected guests a full refund, to which Boo confirmed receiving, except the amount wasn’t paid in full.
Boo elaborated, saying that they paid around RM662 for their stay, but the refund was only around RM528.
However, Boo claims that she made the review not because she wanted a refund; it was never about the money, but the experience and the unneeded suffering.
ST Signature also confirmed that they really did offer a refund even though the guests hadn’t filed for one. It was merely a gesture of their goodwill.
As for the discrepancy in the two amounts, ST Signature noted that the amount paid by guests are subjected to platform fees and can be affected by exchange rates as well.
Ever since Boo’s visit, they have begun engaging in pest-ridding services weekly, and the aforementioned rooms have been fumigated and isolated for at least six days before they were allocated to the next guests.
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 [them] back to ST Signature again in the future.”
After what they’ve been through, you can rest assured in the fact that they’ll never be returning ever again.
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