Business Adventures

11:14, twenty minutes; at 11:35, twenty-eight minutes; at 11:58,

American Telephone & Telegraph, the largest company of them all,

Any board-room sitter with a taste for Wall Street lore has heard of the retort that J. P. Morgan the Elder is supposed to have made to a naïve acquaintance who had ventured to ask the great man what the market was going to do. “It will fluctuate,” replied Morgan dryly.

collecting 10 per cent on high incomes and lower rates on lower incomes constituted undue discrimination against wealth.

Confusion of Confusions,” written by a plunger on the Amsterdam market named Joseph de la Vega;

doldrums, not only did prices continue to decline

Every dog has one free bite. A dog cannot be presumed to be vicious until he has proved that he is by biting someone.

expectation of an event creates a much deeper impression … than the event itself.”—de

Furthermore, I found it seductive. In fact, I was in danger of becoming a slave. Business has its man-eating side, and part of the man-eating side is that it’s so absorbing.

hard-working Krafve explains gamely that when a company

He who sells what isn’t his’n must buy it back or go to prison.

I don’t think money makes much difference, as long as you have enough.

If you’re not able to communicate successfully between yourself and yourself, how are you supposed to make it with the strangers outside?

In industry, you take a bump now and then, but you bounce back as long as you don’t get defeated inside.

In the stock market, however, as de la Vega points out, “the news [as such] is often of little value;” in the short run, the mood of the investors is what counts.

One of de la Vega’s observations about the Amsterdam traders was that they were “very clever in inventing reasons” for a sudden rise or fall in stock prices,

One rather odd use of xerography insures that brides get the wedding presents they want. The prospective bride submits her list of preferred presents to a department store; the store sends the list to its bridal-registry counter, which is equipped with a Xerox copier; each friend of the bride, having been tactfully briefed in advance, comes to this counter and is issued a copy of the list, whereupon he does his shopping and then returns the copy with the purchased items checked off, so that the master list may be revised and thus ready for the next donor.

On the first day of his duel with the bears, Saunders, operating behind his mask of brokers, bought 33,000 shares of Piggly Wiggly, mostly from the short sellers; within a week he had brought the total to 105,000—more than half of the 200,000 shares outstanding. Meanwhile, ventilating his emotions at the cost of tipping his hand, he began running a series of advertisements in which he vigorously and pungently told the readers of Southern and Western newspapers what he thought of Wall Street. “Shall the gambler rule?” he demanded in one of these effusions. “On a white horse he rides. Bluff is his coat of mail and thus shielded is a yellow heart. His helmet is deceit, his spurs clink with treachery, and the hoofbeats of his horse thunder destruction. Shall good business flee? Shall it tremble with fear? Shall it be the loot of the speculator?” On Wall Street, Livermore went on buying Piggly Wiggly.

The button waiting to be pushed, the whir of action, the neat reproduction dropping into the tray—all this adds up to a heady experience, and the neophyte operator of a copier feels an impulse to copy all the papers in his pockets. And once one has used a copier, one tends to be hooked.

The Edsel was a classic case of the wrong car for the wrong market at the wrong time. It was also a prime example of the limitations of market research, with its ‘depth interviews’ and ‘motivational’ mumbo-jumbo.

(“The expectation of an event creates a much deeper impression … than the event itself.”—de la Vega.)

THE game of Corner—for in its heyday it was a game, a high-stakes gambling game, pure and simple, embodying a good many of the characteristics of poker—was one phase of the endless Wall Street contest between bulls, who want the price of a stock to go up, and bears, who want it to go down.

the Piggly Wiggly Stores in 1919, had most of the standard traits of the flamboyant American promoters—suspect generosity, a knack for attracting publicity, love of ostentation, and so on—but he also had some much less common traits, notably a remarkably vivid style, both in speech and writing, and a gift, of which he may or may not have been aware, for comedy. But like so many great men before him, he had a weakness, a tragic flaw. It was that he insisted on thinking of himself as a hick, a boob, and a sucker, and, in doing so, he sometimes became all three. This unlikely fellow was the man who engineered

There is no possible protection from technology except by technology,” he wrote. “When you create a new environment with one phase of technology,

they were “very clever in inventing reasons” for a sudden rise or fall in stock prices,

To set high goals, to have almost unattainable aspirations, to imbue people with the belief that they can be achieved—these are as important as the balance sheet, perhaps more

we may see another speculative buildup followed by another crash, and so on until God makes people less greedy.

Whether the nostalgia of the Edsel boys for the Edsel runs to the humorous or to the tragic, it is a thought-provoking phenomenon. Maybe it means merely that they miss the limelight they first basked in and later squirmed in, or maybe it means that a time has come when—as in Elizabethan drama but seldom before in American business—failure can have a certain grandeur that success never knows.

Why should I want to have a lot of copies of this and that lying around? Nothing but clutter in the office, a temptation to prying eyes, and a waste of good paper.

Xerography is bringing a reign of terror into the world of publishing, because it means that every reader can become both author and publisher,