The tale of the bedbug letter dates back to the 19th century and the era of the railroad magnates. More specifically, it was back in 1889, and in an era when bedbugs were far more commonplace, that an oft-bitten train traveler named Phineas Jenkins sent a letter of complaint to the Pullman Company, operator of the Pullman Coaches, whose overnight bunks were infested with the critters.
The complaint went all the way up to Pullman president George M. Pullman, from whose hand a long and seemingly sincere apology was sent back to Mr. Jenkins. (Snopes.com details the story fairly accurately, though they detail it as an 'urban legend.') Anyhow, as the legend goes, attached to the voluminous apology was a brief note from Pullman to an underling: "Send this SOB the bedbug letter."
Since then, the concept of the bedbug letter has grown to refer to either of two related things, whether the actual faux apology itself, as in a wonderfully long but insincere note, or to the act of inclusion --- accidental or intentional --- of another note or information that shows some original item to be a pile of poo.
One of those bedbug letter situations occurred recently when Jimmy 'gobboboy' Fricke made a lengthy post on 2+2, called 'Beat: Am a freak and a very weird dude.'
Fricke made his post after approaching Full Tilt about possible sponsorship in future events, and received what's very likely a common, form-letter response to many similar inquiries:
Thank you for your interest in becoming a member of Full Tilt Poker.
Unfortunately FTP does not take open solicitations from players wishing to
join the team. It is an invite only process that does not have set
standards or qualifications. In the future, if we are interested in
adding you as a FTP representative we will contact you directly. We wish
you the best of luck and we hope to see you at a final table soon.
However, later in the e-mail, in the form of text that came from an earlier e-mail that was also included, was the following:
From: Howard Lederer
Sent: Sat 11/3/2007 7:21 PM
To: Robert H. Wolf; Ray Bitar
Cc: Jason Newitt
Subject: RE: Aussie Millions. (KMM4237266I19928L0KM)
The guy's a freak and a very weird dude. He is also quite young. I think we should stay away.
Oooops. That's a classic "bedbug" situation, in a very poker-y sense. Needless to say, the post by Fricke led to hundreds of followup posts pilloring Lederer for his sharp comment, others getting on Fricke for a number of reasons, and others piling on others just because... in other words, it degenerated into a flame war almost immediately and wandered off into a half dozen nonsensical directions.
This post isn't pro- or anti-anyone, by the way. It's just an acknowledgment of how human nature works: we so often say things about others that we really don't intend them to hear, as Lederer did here, yet once in a while those private comments don't stay private for long. I know from my own experience I've fired off nasty comments about people on many, many occasions, although my own failing tends to be when I let the person have it directly. Nor do most of ever outgrow it entirely, even if we do learn to rein it in as the years advance.
So what of this? Well, late reports say that Lederer wrote a private apology to Fricke, which was certainly the minimum he should have done. The two don't have to be best buds --- nor are they likely to, maybe --- but I'm betting they both learned something here. As poker players grow ever more to be a part of the public scene, it's a great lesson for all of us.