I once asked a LAME in Cairns if the tropical climate caused any peculiar aircraft maintenance problems.
He thought for a moment and said, "Yes, cockroaches, because they thrive in all the hidden recesses despite blazing heat on the ground and chilly temperatures in flight, and can really make a mess."
Then he told me a story about a businessman who woke up some years ago on an international flight only to find a giant cockroach crawling down his cheek. He was so revolted by this that he filled in a complaint form about the incident and sent it off.
Some weeks later a letter from the airline's Public Relations Manager landed on his desk. It was an outstanding example of the practitioner's art and convincingly explained the airline's strict precautions against such pests before admitting that, in very rare circumstances, bugs did get on board their airliners, but when they did so, it was always somebody else's fault; the unhygienic dumps they had to land at, or when they had to rely on contractors for servicing, or when carried aboard in passenger's hand luggage.
Then to show how repentant the airline was, the PR manager invited the business man to present his letter at check-in when next he flew, when he would be automatically upgraded to first class.
After carefully filing the letter, the business man crumpled up the envelope and pitched it into the waste paper basket. As it landed he noticed something inside it. So he retrieved the envelope and withdrew one of the ubiquitous
It was his instruction to her to, "Just send this jerk the standard cockroach letter."
A wealthy gentleman was badly bitten by bugs while riding on a certain railway line. Arriving at his destination, he wrote the company an indignant letter and received a prompt reply. It was, said the letter, the first complaint the company had ever had of this nature. Inquiry had failed to reveal any explanation for this unprecedented occurrence. Nevertheless, a number of new precautions were being taken to make absolutely certain such an unfortunate incident never happened again. The letter was signed by a high official of the railway.
The gentleman was well satisfied with this reply and was returning it to the envelope when a slip of paper fell out onto the floor. The hastily scribbled note on it read: "Send this guy the bug letter."
- Both the method of transport (airplane, train) and the type of pest encountered (bedbug, flea, cockroach) vary from telling to telling.
- Some versions situate the bedbugging in a snooty big-city hotel.
It was a tiring journey to the capital of the Orange Free State and took us just twenty-six hours, so that we were weary folk when late at night on December 1st we found ourselves at Polley's Hotel. Travelling is not luxurious in South
[The New Yorker, March 1927]
Recurrent is the story, or perhaps it is the incident itself, of the gentleman who moved into a new apartment, to discover the presence of water bugs. He immediately dispatched a wrathful letter to the renting agent. In reply he received a lengthy communication in which the agent expressed his deepest grief, his intention of taking up the matter with the owner at once and his assurance that nothing remedial would be left undone. A careless secretary, however, had enclosed a note which read:
Did a real event spark off this legend? Possibly. Folklore Jan Harold Brunvand reported on a 1992 letter from the corresponding secretary of the George Mortimer Pullman Encomium Society in which it was claimed the bed bugging took place on
An interesting related incident was recorded as a news story in November 2000: Ian Payne wrote the BBC to request a season of Jean Simmons films and the autograph of Lorraine Heggessey. He received back a short letter saying the BBC could not consider a Simmons season at this time, and attached to the letter was a
Another similar incident took place in September 2013, when a Seattle woman named Erin Boudreau
Mr. Lehmann subsequently posted an apologetic blog entry in which he referred to his message as a "bad joke":
I immediately reached out to the customer and offered my full and sincere apology. I would like to extend that same apology to all of our customers and Customer Service team. There is no excuse for this.
In July 2014 a redditor posted an image of apology letter sent by United Airlines in response to a complaint, showing that the letter was a template and the sender had neglected to customize the appropriate fields:
Barbara "apology excepted" Mikkelson
Last updated: 31 July 2014
Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Baby Train. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. ISBN 0-393-31208-9 (pp. 158-162). Cerf, Bennett. The Pocket Book of War Humor. New York: Pocket Books, 1943 (p. 126). Doyle, Arthur Conan. Our African Winter. London: Duckworth, 2001 (p. 64). Tunbridge, Jeff. "Bug Off." Australian Aviation. April 1997 (p. 90). The [Aylesbury] Bucks Herald. "Movie Buff Blasts the Rude BBC." 1 November 2000. The New Yorker. "The Talk of the Town: Entomological." 5 March 1927 (p. 19). Playboy. "Party Jokes." May 1955 (p. 23).
Also told in:
Braude, Jacob M.
- Complete Speaker's and Toastmaster's Library: Business and Professional Pointmakers.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965 (p. 282). Petras, Ross and Kathryn. The 176 Stupidest Things Ever Done. New York: Doubleday, 1996. ISBN 0-385-48341-4 (p. 150). The Big Book of Urban Legends. New York: Paradox Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56389-165-4 (p. 177).