A Good Jerk Is Hard to Find

Several weeks ago, Laura Gilbert, a 26-year-old magazine editor, arrived in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, from Denver, Colo. Ms. Gilbert’s furniture, however, did not. The movers hired to deliver her belongings didn’t do the job on time, and when Ms. Gilbert telephoned the moving company, she got no relief.

“When I tried to reason with the company, I’d get so flustered that I’d cry,” said Ms. Gilbert, who is tall and slender, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. “I definitely didn’t need to spend all day at my new job on the phone in tears. But I wanted to feel like I’d done everything I could to not get screwed.”

So Ms. Gilbert posted this “help wanted” advertisement on the classifieds Web site Craigslist.org:

$50-1 DAY’S WORK FOR THE RIGHT JERK

I recently hired the world’s worst moving company to relocate me from Denver to Brooklyn. Naturally, my stuff is nowhere in sight, and I have to start work Monday. I’m offering $50 for you to sit in my Cobble Hill apartment one day-supposedly next week-and be a dick and watch the movers haul a one-bedroom’s worth of stuff up two flights of stairs …. If you’re a particularly angry asshole, there are opportunities for advancement: I can give you the details and you can get on the phone and pretend to be my boss and yell at the movers and I’ll give you 20% of however much you talk them down off the total cost. That’s up to $1,000 JUST FOR BEING AN ASSHOLE! If you have gone your whole life with people wanting to kick your ass because you are a prick, this is a really good job for you. Serious inquiries-and assholes-only, please. Experience yelling at asshole companies a plus.

Ms. Gilbert received 60 responses to her ad. The first person to respond wrote:

Aw, I would be such a good prick for you. I’ve had experience doing this for my girlfriend’s mother a while back when her new furniture didn’t arrive on time-I ended up getting her a free ottoman and they knocked half of the transportation charge off. If you’d like me to take care of this situation for you it could be done.

– A.J. “The Fixer” Daulerio

Mr. Daulerio-who, coincidentally, is also an editor-was hired. He spent an hour each day plotting with Ms. Gilbert and hounding the moving company on her behalf. He told them that Ms. Gilbert was his employee, and that he was anxious to see her settled in her new apartment. He was polite, but gave no quarter.

“At one point, the representative said, ‘It’s nice of you to look out for her-I wish I had a boss like you,’” Mr. Daulerio said.

Finally, the delinquent Colorado movers rolled into Cobble Hill at 2 a.m. on June 10- two weeks late. Ms. Gilbert, who did not receive an on-the-spot discount, was weary and eager to unpack.

And the Fixer’s payday? “A.J. is being paid in liquor,” Ms. Gilbert said.

That was fine with Mr. Daulerio.

“If I’ve done something to help, she doesn’t have to pay me,” he said. “It’ll come back around eventually.”

-Lynn Harris

At Belmont, ‘Amateur Day’

On Saturday, June 8, the kingpins of horse racing-and the usual suspects who gimp along the railings-saddled up next to 100,000 or so spectators at Belmont Park to witness the last leg of the Triple Crown. All saw an excellent day of racing. But with heavy favorite War Emblem losing to a 70-to-1 long shot named Sarava, few made much money.

Serious horse-players avoid the Belmont Stakes itself, as it rarely pays. Racing odds are established by the market, and the return on a horse reflects the percentage of the public that bets it to win (in gambling, this is known as a “parimutuel system”). When an exceptionally large number of people bet, particularly on one horse, it can distort the odds and scare off the pros. Much like Joe Kennedy-who, legend has it, bailed on the stock market when a shoeshine guy offered him a tip-a seasoned horse-player is wary of the public’s enthusiasm.

For example, War Emblem. This year, with a Triple Crown on the line, the pros knew the amateurs and collectors would buy so many War Emblem tickets that they’d warp the odds and price the favorite out of profitability. Indeed, War Emblem would go off at 6-to-5, paying $2.20 on a $2 bet-not exactly Lotto. (Figure in the vigorish, which begins at 14 percent at Belmont but can be as much as 25 percent, and it’s enough to make an honest gambler call his bookie.)

Still, Belmont Stakes day-known as “Amateur Day” among regulars-has its pluses. Yahoos and first-timers belly up to the tellers and bet aimlessly-not only on the marquee race, but on 11 other ones as well. Those races are where the money, odds and opportunity are for an experienced hand.

Take Saturday’s second race: a six-furlong (three-quarter-mile) allowance for 3-year-olds and up that never won anything other than a maiden race (i.e., one for horses with no previous victories). The winner, Official Flame, was making his American debut-which meant that he could receive Lasix, a drug legal in the U.S. but banned in other countries. It’s unlikely a yahoo would know that Lasix restricts capillary bleeding in the lungs, or that it has a “wakeup effect,” improving performance in creatures previously unexposed to diuretics. But among horses running at the level of a graded stakes, Lasix-like cocaine in the 80′s-is rampant. The Daily Racing Forum actually lists what drugs the horses are taking. (Imagine if baseball programs did this for players.) Bettors who looked for the “Lasix on” symbols on Saturday were rewarded by Official Flame.

It’s also unlikely that the amateurs in attendance came prepared to digest Beyer figures. “Beyers” are a uniform speed measurement that account for the factors which distinguish horse races. Many race-to-race variables-such as track type, condition and distance-make finishing times a poor predictor of relative performance. But Beyer logarithms consider those variables and process time fractions into a single rating, so you can be sure that the higher the Beyer, the faster the horse. As for their worth, six of the last 10 Derby winners exhibited the highest Beyer in a past performance. Still, it’s far from a sure thing; except for Babae in the seventh race, there wasn’t a single “best Beyer” hit on Saturday.

Even so, some handicappers prize speed above all-especially early speed. There is value here, as over half of all sprints are won by a front-runner at the opening quarter-mile. Yet when a race is loaded with speed, time fractions can be anomalous and the Beyer logarithms less accurate than pace formulas. You have to compute pace formulas yourself, but the racing form puts most of the necessary information at your fingertips, including workout rankings. And when a filly wins impressively, some handicappers check for horses that outran the filly in practice. Those who did this after the first race noted that Official Flame outranked its winner in workouts and, hopefully, bet him in the second.

Apart from sensible strategies, plenty of handicapping is without reason. Someone I know likes “geldings,” or horses that have been castrated, under the theory that they’re missing something and in a rush to find it. (The winner of Saturday’s eighth race was a gelding.) Another leans towards the “underlay,” or a horse that goes off at longer odds than the morning line, under the theory that a parimutuel system is inefficient. (The winner of the third race paid three times the early line.) I myself am partial to tips: The place finisher in the ninth race was suggested to me by its stable hand.

Whereas these last systems may resemble roulette, they have the virtue of practicality when you have five minutes until a meeting and are across the street from an O.T.B. As for the Belmont Stakes, the winner Sarava returned $142.50 on a $2 ticket. It was nothing a horse-player would have wagered via any system. But as War Emblem could attest, it was a spectacle to witness.

-Jon Trichter