It’s April Fools’ Day and you can expect that some pranks and jokes might be pulled on Wall Street.
But the pranks are nothing like they used to be.
If you ever get the chance to speak to a veteran floor trader, you really should. They’re likely full of incredible stories about the good (or bad) ole days on the floor.
They will probably tell you about the amazing sense of camaraderie on the floor and the epic pranks they used to pull on each other.
“Every joke was invented down there,” a retired NYSE specialist said.
“I always tell people that it was like being in a fraternity. The biggest jokes that were played on new workers and even better when companies had their clients come to visit were the spurs, an arrow on their backs. When the arrow (which was made of paper) was placed on their back everyone would do a tribal dance and chants. The customers had no idea what was going on, it was comical,” a former NYMEX clerk told us.
However, the humour has subsided in recent years since some of the exchanges are publicly traded and have more eyes and television cameras on them.
“Fortunately, or unfortunately, you don’t see those pranks anymore,” another veteran floor trader told Business Insider.
Veteran traders both in New York and Chicago from the NYSE, CBOT, NYMEX and AMEX told us about some of the classic pranks and jokes they used to pull back in the day.
* If you have another trading floor prank, joke or story you would like to share, please send Julia an email at [email protected]
A really long time ago, traders would launch cups of water at each other from their spring-loaded jump seats.
The Prank: 'The old style trading posts had spring-loaded jump seats that the traders could pull down to sit and take a load off. Those days, they only traded two to three million shares a day, so there was plenty of downtime. The prank was to take a paper cup, fill it with water, and wedge it into the seat. The next sucker to pull the seat down launched this missile at himself - and got doused. Good clean (wet) fun!,' the grandson of a NYSE trader told Business Insider.
The prank: Back when the floor of the NYSE was super crowded if a guy would fall down, others floor brokers and specialists would draw a chalk outline around him.
The Prank: After a contract expired, you would tell a clerk or even a broker to see where that market was on the contract that just expired.
'So for example we are trading may crude oil now. Whenever that expires you would tell the clerk to see where that market is. They would go ask and everyone would just make fun of them. It was so childish but it was great,' a former clerk told us.
The Prank: At the NYMEX, they would tell new workers to go and find a left handed phone.
Apparently, some people fell for it...
The Prank: A trader told us a prank they used to pull on the floor was directing the intern to go find the keys to the clearinghouse.
The intern would then bounce all over the place searching for the keys asking different people and being sent in different directions.
The thing is, there is no clearinghouse.
The Prank: What's a 'gum bomb'?
A veteran trader from Chicago told us that this is when you stick a wad of chewed up gum on the back of a trading ticket and flick it on the floor so someone will step on it and get it stuck to the bottom of their shoe.
'I got gum bombed all the time,' the veteran CBOT trader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Business Insider. 'I'm really a clumsy guy.'
The Prank: A trader once left his jacket out and another trader slipped a rotten egg into one of the pockets.
The trader was walking around the next day wearing the jacket trying to figure out what that awful smell was and eventually he realised someone was messing with him.
Another trader told us that sometimes traders would randomly toss an egg into the commodities pits.
Of course, we're told that's not the case anymore.
Sometimes NYSE floor traders would baby powder bomb someone's newly shined shoes so the person would do a silly dance.
The Prank: Back when the floor of the NYSE was jam-packed, a floor trader could come up behind someone with a bottle of baby powder while that person was engaged in a serious conversation.
The person with the baby powder would then put their arm around the trader and puff the powder on the guy's shoes.
Of course, everyone had their shoes shined so when they looked down they'd notice the powder and start stamping their feet in a sort of dance and a cloud of white powder would rise up.
Then the people around them would start chanting 'Heya, Heya, Heya!.'
'It was such a stupid gag -- so corny!,' a trader said.
The Prank: A lot of the floor traders wear mesh jackets and those tiny holes are really convenient for attaching things.
A popular trick was to take a long piece of string attached to a paperclip. At the end of the the 15-foot long piece a string was a toy car.
A trader would sneak up behind another person and attach it to their jacket. The result would be that the trader was wheeling around a little toy car without even realising it.
The Prank: OK, so eating contests aren't really a prank, but more of a humorous tradition.
They're pretty much ubiquitous with trading floors, especially at banks these days.
During the summer doldrums (i.e. those warm summer days when people would rather hang outside the office and so trading volume drops) there would be eating contests on the floor, a trader told us.
Back in the day, there was one where someone had to eat 10 Big Macs for $US10K. (We're assuming there was a time limit on this one).
'I've never seen anyone do it,' a trader told us. 'I have seen a Big Mac come out of someone's nose on No. 7.'
The Prank: 'I worked in a booth and had a contentious relationship with a broker two booths back. I couldn't stand the guy. One day, I was in my booth and smelled cigarette smoke. I was far enough away from the hallway where they permitted smoking not to smell it, so I couldn't understand why I kept smelling cigarette smoke. My nemesis had taken several drinking straws and taped them together so that the end was at my booth. He blew cigarette smoke into this long straw and the smoke billowed out of the last straw at my booth. It was creative, I'll give him that.'
The Prank: Veteran traders from the CBOT told Business Insider that they would take a trading card, or two, and fold it into the shape of a fin. Then they had to carefully slide it under someone's collar so it looked like they had a fin on their back. Then everyone would scream 'SHARK!'
'This was a tough one,' a trader told us explaining you had to have very dexterous hands. 'They would be pissed if they caught you.'
'It's a classic,' another trader said.
Speaking of paper cutouts, who could ever forget the infamous 'Who put this d*** on my back?' prank pulled off by a CBOT trader in 2007. Enjoy!
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