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What part of ‘execute my f*ing trade’ don’t you understand!?
December 3, 2009 9:07 PM   Subscribe

“Uhh,” he stuttered, “wait. Are you delivering… coal? To… uhh, us?” “Well, yeah! Twenty-eight thousand tons of the good ol’ black gold!” The workman sarcastically furrowed his brow adding, “I mean, we did get the right address, har har. This is Æxecor? And this is Pier 53? And you are Brad, the fella who ordered it, right?” It was that moment that Brad’s palm almost immediately made contact with his forehead. He realized that something must have really gone awry: instead of virtually trading 28,000 tons of coal, Brad had somehow ended up with 28,000 tons of real coal.
posted by empath (59 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
WTF ?!?
posted by mazola at 9:11 PM on December 3, 2009


ha, i saw this earlier, great story. one of my friends used to be a trader, and he let me in on the fact that the biggest commodity traders (he named Morgan Stanley as one) actually do accept physical orders of oil and the like all the time, and own huge warehouses to store them in. this lets them screw with pricing via excess supply to make things more favorable to them.
posted by Mach5 at 9:14 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wait - coal only costs 2.6 cents per pound? Wow. No wonder it's so hard to move to renewables!
posted by rkent at 9:23 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


aaaannnndddd scene.
posted by oddman at 9:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Guy in my home town was famous for unwittingly taking physical delivery of an entire rail car filled with eggs.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:29 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


No wonder it's so hard to move to renewables!

Yep. Civilization is living on gigantic chemical batteries. The last time I read about this, the extraction process pays off about 10:1 in terms of energy use; that is, for every unit of energy we spend on extracting these resources, we get about 10 usable, deliverable units. Energy is very cheap when we're just digging it up instead of creating it. And because it's mostly chemical, it has very little in the way of transmission losses, unless we convert it to electricity.

That's why renewable energy is so hard; we have to actually generate and store all the power we use, and neither of those processes are terribly efficient. That cost differential is a giant mountain for alternative energy to climb.

More on-topic: from the stuff I've been exposed to, asshole Brad is probably a fairly average guy as traders go. That culture is really, really f*cked up.
posted by Malor at 9:34 PM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


You know, I've always wondered sometimes just how truthful some of the stories on TheDailyWTF are. And then I remember the stuff I've seen at my jobs. Hell, the stuff I've done at some of my jobs. And I don't wonder anymore.
posted by kmz at 9:35 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Yeah, I make a lot of money. I'm into the stock market recently. Commodities. I bought cardboard when it was 14 cents a ton. It's up to 16 cents now, and let's see, I bought three tons of it. That's...hell, I don't know. You figure it out. And I made a special deal where I only have to keep two tons of it at my house."

Shamelessly paraphrased from an old Steve Martin routine on, I think, "Comedy is not Pretty."

This seems pretty anecdotal. I cannot find any reference to Æxecor except for this story.
posted by maxwelton at 9:36 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, this is a piece of fiction describing a thing that could happen, yes? Or are we supposed to take it as a description of a real event? Involving the "WTFSE"?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:38 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


" Æxecor traded coal on only one exchange (the WTFSE),... "

The WTF stock exchange? I'm guessing all names are changed to protect the innocent?
posted by NikitaNikita at 9:42 PM on December 3, 2009


DailyWTF always changes names.
posted by empath at 9:44 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


So this is a story about a fictitious company, a fictitious stock exchange, a renamed guy, with fake dialogue and a storyline about how a rich jerk gets his comeuppance through something that could happen.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:48 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whoa, that was some pretty poorly written dialog in the opening scene.
posted by justkevin at 9:48 PM on December 3, 2009


The names in their stories are anonymized, but the stories themselves are purportedly true.
posted by knave at 9:52 PM on December 3, 2009


So this is a story about a fictitious company, a fictitious stock exchange, a renamed guy, with fake dialogue and a storyline about how a rich jerk gets his comeuppance through something that could happen.

In theory, everything described happened. Just all the names have been changed. But of course there's no real way to verify anything.
posted by kmz at 9:52 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


How does one sarcastically furrow one's brow?
posted by katillathehun at 10:13 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whoa, that was some pretty poorly written dialog in the opening scene.

Hey, you liberal arts nerds, could you back off and let us computer nerds have some fun?
posted by greasepig at 10:20 PM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


A bit of code from the code base that I currently poke and tweak turned up in the dailywtf, well it sure seemed like it matched, but it probably could have come from a lot of places. What a missed photo op on that dock that day!
posted by sammyo at 10:43 PM on December 3, 2009


How does one sarcastically furrow one's brow?

You use irony to take out the wrinkles.
posted by carsonb at 10:49 PM on December 3, 2009 [43 favorites]


"The “old docks” district " is a nice try, but the idea that a huge cargo barge like that would go to an "address," rather than go to a port and then be offloaded into trucks, is ridiculous.

And even if that could happen, I somehow suspect they just kind of expect to be expected by whoever's working on the dock, rather than asking for a name like it's a FedEx.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:49 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think "fleet of trucks" would have had more plausibility, but then you can't use the stock photo of the barge.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:51 PM on December 3, 2009


How does one sarcastically furrow one's brow?

/me tells you "You just use the /me command."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:52 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


My first job out of college was with a large bank in Oklahoma (long story), where I worked as a technical writer. This was in the mid-80's. Shortly after I started the Midwest energy market went bust and the bank failed (a somewhat more interesting story before bank failure became as common as Starbucks). The failed bank's assets were bought by a much larger interstate bank, and I was kept on to help document procedures for the asset recovery process (aka, "How To Repossess Grandma's House"). Talk about the banality of evil! Most of this stuff was dull, dull, dull, but one thing that was interesting was documenting the bank's handling of livestock investments. Because while taking delivery of 28,000 tons of coal is no doubt ulcer-inducing, it's another kind of horror for a bank to inadvertently take delivery of 5,000 head of very-much-alive-and-smelly Limousin cattle. They really don't want to do that, not even accidentally, not even once, even if it means taking a horrible loss. They were really fucking clear about it, and the document I wrote reflected that they never ever wanted to wind up actually owning cattle. The irony was that the old bank made a lot of cattle loans for which the collateral was, yup, more cattle. Now what, geniuses?
posted by mosk at 10:55 PM on December 3, 2009 [23 favorites]


And even if that could happen, I somehow suspect they just kind of expect to be expected by whoever's working on the dock, rather than asking for a name like it's a FedEx.

Not to mention shipments don't just show up like the mail delivery like that. They wouldn't offload that stuff into barges without contacting the end recipients first.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:55 PM on December 3, 2009


The story does imply that Brad has unthinkingly shouted his way through a bunch of "we're ready to deliver this coal, is your wharf ready?" phone calls.
posted by breath at 11:10 PM on December 3, 2009


The extended version...

"Now lookie here, turkey," said the boat driver with a quixotic turn of his eyebrow. "You ordered yerself some coals. Now I got yer coals. And I'm gonna deliver yer dadgum coals! What kinda crap are you tryin' ta pull here? You ain't even GOT a wharf! We had to park the boat in a handicapped space!"

Brad felt the warmth of his lunch growing sarcastically in the seat of his pants.

"Yikes," he winced curiously. "C-can't I return it?"

The boat driver laughed the kind of laugh that only a boat driver can laugh.

"Maybe we'll take store credit," he chortled laughingly.

Brad's forehead broke out in beads of sweat. He knew he was up poop creep without a paddle board. The only sound he could make was, "WHA.. WHA... WIBBLE?"
posted by katillathehun at 11:21 PM on December 3, 2009 [52 favorites]


The boat driver laughed the kind of laugh that only a boat driver can laugh.

Maybe it is because it is 2:30 in the morning but I think this might be the funniest thing I have ever read.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl, that quote reminds me of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Check out some of the past contest results, I'm sure you'll enjoy them. "She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida - the pink ones, not the white ones - except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't. "
posted by knave at 11:43 PM on December 3, 2009 [12 favorites]


They were really fucking clear about it, and the document I wrote reflected that they never ever wanted to wind up actually owning cattle. The irony was that the old bank made a lot of cattle loans for which the collateral was, yup, more cattle. Now what, geniuses?

There are several different ways of taking security over an asset, many of which don't require the physical delivery of the asset, for just this sort of reason. For a banking lawyer, this is the sort of thing that they learn before they even qualify. I'm surprised that they didn't have lawyers working on this.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:08 AM on December 4, 2009


I thought the exchanges themselves often manage warehouses for physical deliveries. It separates the process of trading the contracts and delivering the actual materials. Back in 2005-2006 when the rogue Chinese trader disappeared after making a huge gamble on copper, I vaguely recall the government decided to physically deliver the copper instead of taking a huge loss.
posted by FuManchu at 12:33 AM on December 4, 2009


Russian Banks Count Pigs, Lingerie as Collateral
“It is not a viable strategy for a bank because banks aren’t doing their core business there,” Eugene Tarzimanov, assistant vice president and banking analyst at Moody’s in Moscow, said. “They could be stuck with those assets for a number of years.”

Lebedev is still waiting to collect the pigs, which he plans to take to a slaughterhouse or another farm.
posted by Catfry at 12:46 AM on December 4, 2009


Yeah, I think this story is probably apocryphal bullshit. Maybe it could have happened, but come on. And like someone said, these companies do sometimes store their commodities themselves.

Lehman Brother's Owned 225 tons of Uranium Yellow Cake, the had it stored in a variety of facilities.

I suppose it would be a hassle to have an unexpected coal delivery show up like this though. I don't know how easy or difficult it would be to actually find somewhere to stick it.
posted by delmoi at 1:00 AM on December 4, 2009


The owner of The Daily WTF (Alex?) does some heavy editing on submitted stories, not just changing names. I had a WTF published a couple of years ago and I could barely recognize it. My 20 person laid back startup turned into an IBM like monster, my pretty cool but under-qualified candidate turned into a stuttering sweating lying moron and my flash-monkey self turned into some middle aged power tripping manager.

I expect the real story to be something along the lines of the exchange's warehouse manager making a call to ask the trader if he should accept delivery of a couple tons of some commodity or other, although in the comments someone tells a similar story of a convoy of trucks dumping several tons of hazardous junk on an exchange's parking lot.

Anyone with experience in the field can tell us what the plausibility of the story is?
posted by dirty lies at 1:57 AM on December 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


My favorite probably-apocryphal story is the one about the firm that started undercutting all the other used tyre recyclers in Melbourne, offering to charge only 70% of the going rate for disposal. The business ran like gangbusters for about a year; then one day, the whole organization had just disappeared. Nobody could get in touch with them - not even the landlord of the enormous warehouse they'd rented in the south eastern suburbs. When he eventually got annoyed enough to get out there with a locksmith, he found the whole place packed full - back to front, floor to ceiling - with used tyres.
posted by flabdablet at 2:13 AM on December 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


Well, this is how Sticky Fingers bbq restaurants got their start. Maybe he should give up the futures trading and open a coal stall on the street.
posted by crataegus at 3:28 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I expect the real story to be something along the lines of the exchange's warehouse manager making a call to ask the trader if he should accept delivery of a couple tons of some commodity or other

I wouldn't be surprised if only the code snippets are real and the rest of the story is imagined around it.
posted by cillit bang at 3:53 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hope you people are happy - you just killed Trading Places II: Got my Holbrook Working (but it just won't work on you).
posted by hawthorne at 4:47 AM on December 4, 2009


I did a little googling to see if I could find out more about this story but everything just led back to the article in the FPP. I did, however find this gem (from Fark of all places):

Who delivers anthracite fuel to a jazz club?








Coal Porter!
posted by TedW at 4:53 AM on December 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


Story is probably fake, as it is quite difficult to accidentally take delivery.

If the story is actually about coal in the U.S., it is almost certainly fake. Here are the CBOT coal futures specifications, which you can follow a link inside to get specific rules in this pdf.

Here we learn a couple of interesting facts:
1) The seller does not deliver the coal, rather the buyer brings a ship to the seller's delivery facility (located "on the Ohio River between Mileposts 306 and 317 or on the Big Sandy River") and the seller loads it onto the ship [260.07.A]. So you couldn't have a barge show up to your door in the first place.

2) Buyers must submit signed "NOTICE[S] OF INTENTION TO ACCEPT" [260.13.A.1]. Presumably failing to submit this form does not mean they go ahead and deliver you coal anyway. From googling, it seems that if you get to this stage you may have to pay a couple of hundred dollars in fines if you don't actually want to take delivery. If you do want to take delivery, there are additional forms to submit indicating what company you want to inspect the coal and what barge you plan on putting the coal on.
posted by Pyry at 5:01 AM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if only the code snippets are real and the rest of the story is imagined around it.

Someone points out in the comments that standardized contracts have standardized shipping addresses (see e.g. "Delivery shall be made F.O.B. buyer’s barge at seller’s delivery facility at ..." from this NYMEX coal futures contract) and the WTF author counters that by pointing to this article as proof that things like this happen -- obviously without noticing that the article he links to also says that "All commodities have specified delivery points".

So, as so often before, in this context, WTF means "some shit I just made up".
posted by effbot at 5:11 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


My favorite probably-apocryphal story is the one about the firm that started undercutting all the other used tyre recyclers in Melbourne...

*reaches for phone, googles for warehouse space*
posted by pompomtom at 5:13 AM on December 4, 2009


Sounds like Brad really pissed off Santa...
posted by greatgefilte at 5:43 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the first two sentences of dialogue quoted in the post, I was so hoping that this exchange took place in Newcastle.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:45 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


The irony was that the old bank made a lot of cattle loans for which the collateral was, yup, more cattle. Now what, geniuses?

So, they were all cattle, and no hat?
posted by eriko at 6:16 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think "fleet of trucks" would have had more plausibility, but then you can't use the stock photo of the barge.

Actually, I think the barge makes the story somewhat more plausible. Do you have any idea of just how many trucks it would take to transport such an amount of coal?

I think there must be a (much embellished) core of truth within the story. Some trader bought a large amount of some commodity (not necessarily coal), and then, because of the coding mishap and the trader's huge ego, it was delivered (possibly by barge or train) to some facility (not necessarily the offices) of the trading company which lacked the space or some other requirement to store it. And this story didn't necessarily happen in the US. I can think of a few places where something quite similar to this could have taken place (London, Rotterdam, Singapore...)
posted by Skeptic at 6:17 AM on December 4, 2009


Duh, he should have just put it in peoples' stockings.
posted by exogenous at 6:26 AM on December 4, 2009


I doubt it's fake and I'm sure it happens more times then you'd imagine.

I personally know of a trader that bought sugar before heading off on holiday, and promptly forgot about it. A few weeks later they get a call from the dock about their delivery.

You're not making huge money on each of these so the thing that hurts you is the storage fees, better to leave it floating in limbo. so they took a loss and sold it on (better then crossing ones fingers and hoping to get a good price quickly), and off it went to it's next owner.
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:44 AM on December 4, 2009


Do you have any idea of just how many trucks it would take to transport such an amount of coal?

I'm no shipping expert, but I doubt coal is ever delivered by truck in any large amount. Trucks are pretty expensive, not to mention that most coal consumers are located either near canals/rivers or rail lines.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:45 AM on December 4, 2009


that quote reminds me of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Check out some of the past contest results, I'm sure you'll enjoy them

Lyttle Lytton is better.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:05 AM on December 4, 2009


Lehman Brother's Owned 225 tons of Uranium Yellow Cake, they had it stored in a variety of facilities.

"Toxic assets? We'll show you toxic assets...!"
posted by chalbe at 7:05 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I came for the barge-related mischef but I stayed for the XML lesson.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:16 AM on December 4, 2009


Supposedly my friend's high school science teacher once bought oranges on the commodities market. Then the price kept going down, so he kept holding his futures, waiting for the price to go back up so he could sell. It never does.

Eventually he gets a phone call from the local rail yard: they have his boxcar full of oranges, would he kindly come down and pick them up?

He gave a bunch of oranges to all the kids in his classes, sold as many as he could to local supermarkets out of the truck of his car, etc., but he still wound up with half a boxcar's worth of rotting oranges.
posted by fings at 7:22 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


xsd:complexType name="Schadenfreude">
xsd:sequence>
xsd:element name="Summary" type="xsd:string"/>
xsd:element name="LoudmouthEgomaniac" type="UnwittingParticipant"
maxOccurs="unbounded"/>
xsd:element name="EpicScrewup" type="Action"
maxOccurs="unbounded"/>
/xsd:sequence>
xsd:attribute name="Name" type="xsd:string" use="required"/>
xsd:attribute name="PrecipitatingEvent" type="xsd:unsignedShort"
use="optional"/>
xsd:attribute name="ComplicatingFactor" type="xsd:unsignedShort"
use="optional"/>
/xsd:complexType>
posted by spacely_sprocket at 7:42 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


good god this is poorly written
posted by nathancaswell at 8:10 AM on December 4, 2009


The whole story sounds suspect to me, but ignoring that; "Brad was no longer thought of the senior trader at Æxecor; instead, he was the guy who accidently bought all that coal."

Shit, if I found myself in this inconceivable position, I'd quickly become known as the "Don't piss me off, or you'll end up with a literal ton of unwanted coal in your life" guy. I mean, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but it does have a certain power to it.
posted by quin at 8:52 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


IMO, The Daily WTF is at its best when it actually discusses/mocks failures of IT instead of the broader process-/manager-from-hell that it's been doing more and more of recently. Then again, there are only so many stories you can run about the catastrophic side effects of bad code before it all starts sounding the same.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 9:23 AM on December 4, 2009


Yaaaay! I love The Daily WTF. If I ever teach a CS class, I'll make it required reading. Or extra credit, at the very least.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2009


Good thing he wasn't trading pork belly futures, you know what I mean?
posted by tommasz at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2009


You say that like having 28,000 tons of bacon is a bad thing.
posted by bigbigdog at 6:53 PM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


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