If you ever get the chance to speak to a veteran floor trader, you really should.
That’s because they’re likely full of incredible stories about the good (or bad) ole days on the floor.
They’ll 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.
However, the humour has subsided in recent years.
“Fortunately, or unfortunately, you don’t see those pranks anymore,” another veteran floor trader told Business Insider.
The reason for the pranks in the past, the trader explained, is that they helped everyone on the floor “blow off steam.”
“You can’t be running at 100 per cent all the time. You need to break the tension and that’s why on the floor, every floor, they’d have some sort of prank or joke,” the trader told Business Insider.
Now traders have to worry about lower trading volumes and what’s going on in the eurozone.
Another reason they’re fewer pranks is that the NYSE emerged as a publicly traded company, meaning there are more sensitive eyes these days. The CME Group, which owns the Chicago Board of Trade and the New York Mercantile Exchange, is also publicly traded.
“We always had respect for what we did as a living — it was just joking around. Once we went public the world was watching,” the trader said, adding, “Now it’s strictly business once everyone went public. Everyone down here is holding the utmost respect.”
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]
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: '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.
A new broker at the American Stock Exchange would be given a fake stock to trade as part of their initiation.
Location: American Stock Exchange
The Prank: The entire AMEX floor would prank the newbie by giving them a fake stock to trade. The entire floor would be on it and prevent the new broker from getting their order executed until the stock ran up five points. Then the newbie's booth would make them sell it. The crowd would block the new broker from getting their order executed until the stock ran down five points.
'The broker would not know what's going on. Then, all of the sudden, a hand would reach in and grab his collar of his shirt and rip it off and the crowd would cheer and he would now be considered 'one of us,'' former AMEX broker 'Groucho' said.
Location: American Stock Exchange
The Prank: 'When someone got married, we took them outside and handcuffed them to a fire hydrant and then tossed anything and everything we could find -- ketchup, mustard, powder, flour. And actually we cuffed the bride-to-be alongside her future and did it to her also,' former AMEX broker 'Groucho' said.
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.
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.
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: Some veteran floor traders told us another popular prank was to tape paper spurs on the back of someone's feet.
Then people would start yelling, '¡Arriba! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! Yeehaw!'
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 $10K. (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: 'My favourite was the shoulder tap,' a trader told us. 'You would stand on the left and tap on the right shoulder and then look away. The person would say 'who's tapping me?''
The trader said he had a boss who never appreciated it and would swear at him.
The Prank: This is not a floor prank tradition, but a trader told us this one guy used to play the lottery religiously so they decided to mess with him a bit.
The lottery playing trader kept a stack of tickets and a paper.
One day some traders took his newspaper and they played Saturday's numbers and put it in his stack so he appeared to have the winning lottery numbers.
'The guy thought he won the lottery until he looked at the date on the ticket!'
Naturally, he was disappointed.
Location: NYSE and CBOT
The Prank(s): We're told it was popular to cut things out of paper and stick it on someone's back.
For example, a trader might cut out a knife out of paper and stick it on another person's back.
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.
The Prank: If traders didn't watch out, they might be walking around with a tail of ticker tape.
Traders would take the ticker tape and attach it to the bottom of their coats.