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Where Are the Customers' Yachts? or A Good Hard Look at Wall Street (A Marketplace Book) 1st Edition

98 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471923053
ISBN-10: 0471119784
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Editorial Reviews


"wonderful book" (Evening Standard, 24 August 2001)

From the Back Cover

"Once I picked it up I did not put it down until I finished . . . What Schwed has done is capture fully-in deceptively clean language-the lunacy at the heart of the investment business."-From the Foreword by Michael Lewis, Bestselling author of Liar's Poker

This hilarious portrait of everyday Wall Street and its denizens rings as true today as it did when it was first published in 1940. Writing with a rare mixture of wry cynicism and bonhomie reminiscent of Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken, Fred Schwed, Jr., skewers everyone including himself in his brilliant send-ups of bankers, brokers, traders, investors, analysts, and hapless customers.

"How great to have a reissue of a hilarious classic that proves the more things change the more they stay the same. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent." -Michael Bloomberg President, Bloomberg, LP

". . . one of the funniest books ever written about Wall Street."-Jane Bryant Quinn, The Washington Post

"It's amazing how well Schwed's book is holding up after 55 years. About the only thing that's changed on Wall Street is that computers have replaced pencils and graph paper. Otherwise, the basics are the same. The investor's need to believe somebody is matched by the financial advisor's need to make a nice living. If one of them has to be disappointed, it's bound to be the former."-John Rothchild, Author, A Fool and His Money Financial Columnist, Time magazine

"A delightful classic and reminder of excesses past and how little things change." -Bob Farrell, Senior Vice President, Merrill Lynch

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Product Details

  • Series: A Marketplace Book (Book 7)
  • Paperback: 215 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471119784
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471923053
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

220 of 228 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book clearly deserves more than five stars for exposing the folly of Wall Street in the most humorous possible terms.
This book's fame far exceeds the number of people who have read it. Almost every experienced stock investor will cite examples from the book, without even knowing their source.
The title refers to an ancient story (which the author finds is probably at least 100 years old by now) about a visitor to New York who admired the yachts that the bankers and brokers had in the harbor. Naively, he then asked where the customers' yachts were. Naturally, there were no customers' yachts.
Let me set the stage. The author spent two years on Wall Street in the 20s, but knew it better than that and continued to invest in stocks. He wrote the book in 1940 after the horrible bear years of 1929-1940. The memories of the 1920s were still fresh. Then he updated the book in 1955 in the midst of the 50s bull market with a new introduction in which he explained that the book did not need updating.
Although commissions are no longer fixed, and few spend the day sitting in a broker's office, many of the other observations in the book remain as timely as those in The Madness of Crowds. Human nature doesn't change.
Behind all of the hype about getting rich with stock investments is a sad reality. Over a lifetime, the vast majority of people get poor results from their stock investing. Around 90 percent of professionals will also underperform the market averages over their careers.
But the desire to "outsmart" everyone else is almost universal. Raging bull markets, like the one we had until March 2000 on the NASDAQ, only tend to reinforce these ultimately expensive urges.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Leslie D. Ehrlich on November 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
In the current gloomy environment -- with scandals and investigations ("shocked, shocked, I say, to hear...") at every turn -- this book is a LOL reminder of the constancy of human behavior in the face of temptation.
As the other reviewers note, Schwed worked as a broker in the early 1920's. He then wrote this book -- the "Liar's Poker" of its time -- in the 1940's, with the wry perspective that only a crash and ten years of stagnation can bring. Ancient history? Au contraire. What makes this book such a must-read is two things.
First, the things that firms and brokers do to separate customers from their money haven't really changed. Touting low quality underwritings, cramming unwanted inventory down customers' throats at inflated prices, using fancy phrases to flog dogs were as prevalent then as now.
But this is not a one-sided bashing of the Street and its techniques. Schwed gives equal time to customers' susceptability, even eagerness, to play their part in the game. Schwed's fundamental point is that people -- clients and brokers alike -- are forever led astray by their wanting to earn outsized returns without having to take any risk.
But the thing that really sets the book apart is Schwed's lucid yet highly entertaining style. You'll walk away with fresh insights into industry practices and market structures that you can apply to today's events. And even when you realize the target is you -- the ever-hopeful investor -- you'll be laughing so hard you won't mind.
If you even mildly liked Liar's Poker, you'll love "Yachts."
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book takes a cynical look at the internals of the stock market in general and stock market mania of the late 20s in particular. The author's hilarious style should make your eyes shed tears as you read this book. Despite its focus on the markets of the late 20s, this book is a timeless classic. With slight changes certain events described in the book can be related to today's market. Towards the end of the book, Fred Schwed offers this priceless advice:
"For no fee at all I am prepared to offer to any wealthy person an investment program which will last a lifetime and will not only preserve the estate but greatly increase it. Like other great ideas, this one is simple:
When there is a stock-market boom, and everyone is scrambling for common stocks, take all your common stocks and sell them. Take the proceeds and buy conservative bonds. No doubt that the stocks you sold will go higher. Pay no attention to this - just wait for the depression, which will come sooner or later. When the depression - or panic - becomes a national catastrophe, sell out the bonds (perhaps at a loss) and buy back the stocks. No doubt the stocks will go still lower. Again pay no attention. Wait for the next boom. Continue to repeat this process as long as you live, and you have the pleasure of dying rich."
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By goodnewscowboy on January 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book years ago before was even a glint in Jeffs eye, and happenstance put it back in my hands recently. It is every bit as hilarious today as it was back then. I came here as I was curious to see if it was still in print and if so, what people today were saying about it.

As not enough of the reviews reflected my experience I felt compelled to post my two cents so as to keep any prospective readers from being scared away.

Even if you've never had any personal experience with Wall Street, the Chicago Board of Trade or anything else in between, if you'd like a very, very funny read I recommend this book. If you *do* have investment experience you'll find it even funnier.

If you're going to be taking the Paoli local into town anytime soon, look for the copy Scott left on the bench on his way to Starbuck's. I promise you if read with a sense of humour you'll be howling with laughter before you get to Daylesford!
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