Archiver > ABOUT-WORDS > 2002-02 > 1014575340

From: Lee Daniel Quinn <>
Subject: Bug Letter, The
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 01:28:19 -0500

This topic reminded me of a classic that I have recorded and
it is loveingly kept in my vault. Here is the essay:


For years, in the direct mail business, there existed many
references to this apocryphal letter.

After tracing many blind alleys, I believe that I have discovered
the beginnings of this term. So, here it is.

According to legend, it was first bug letter was used by the
president of the Bangor and Aroostock Railroad which went "down
into Maine" from its headquarters in Boston.

It was written, as those would have us believe, in response to a
letter received from Mr. James P. O'Farrell, a well-to-do Boston
business man who took the overnight train from some Maine city into
Boston. When he awoke in the morning, he found that he was covered
by bedbug bites. Naturally, as a big shipper, he dispatched an
irate letter to the B&A president telling him of the shocking fact.

In response, he received this letter, typed on heavy cream-colored
bond paper, and signed by the president.

Dear Mr. O'Farrell:
When I received you letter yesterday, I immediately got on the
phone to my chief operating engineer and ordered him to have
the Pullman car you wrote about shunted on to my private

Then, the operations chief, my director of sanitation and
myself personally inspected the accommodations. I must humbly
say that you were one hundred percent correct in your
indictment of our service.

I immediately signed an order instructing our cleaning force
to inspect all the other cars on all our lines and to report
to me personally any conditions which they found did not live
up the "100% cleanliness" conditions which is our promise to
the riding public.

I want to thank you for taking the time to write to me, and I
can assure you that you may ride the B&A in absolute comfort
as long as my staff and I are running this railroad.

Mr. O'Farrell was very impressed by the fact that the president of
the railroad, himself, took such an interest in his problems. That
was before he looked in the envelope and found a paper clip and a
note scrawled on a small piece of paper. The note said: "send him
the bug letter."

Bug letters today are now "personalized" through the magic of
computer. But, those in the know can tell when they get a bug

Lee Daniel Quinn

a/k/a GrampsQ

At 11:01 AM 2/24/02 -0600, you wrote:
>Bottomline-conscious business writers now eschew the trite, the stale
>and the redundant.
>And they eschew eschew, too. Eschew: sounds like a sneeze, pass the
>tissue (on 'issue' -- as Winnie-the-Pooh).
>But to business...
> Say 'bye-bye' to: Replace with
>-as per your request -as you request
>-enclosed please find -enclosed is
>-every effort will be made -we'll try
>-in accordance with your wishes -as you wish
>-in receipt of -have received
>-please do not hesitate to -please (+ affirmative)
>-under separate cover -separately
>-with reference to -about
>So the formal is eschewed in favor of the conversational.
> " "
>-As per your verbal instruction, -At your suggestion, I'm
> steps will be undertaken immediately investigating your billing
> to investigate your billing problem. immediately.
> (Latinate, passive voice, inf. verb, (first person, active v.,
> compound noun, and generally awful) brief)
>As the young soldier said when told to scale a 600 ft cliff right now,
>"I'll try, sir."
If you want me to read your email, DON'T include any

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