A Couple of Real Assets

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief

Acquisitive Craigslist post reddens faces at JPMorgan Chase
by Andrew Adam Newman
The New York Times
October 8, 2007

fant_golddigger-200.jpgLast month on Craigslist.com, someone who described herself as a “spectacularly beautiful” 25-year-old placed a personal ad seeking a husband who made at least $500,000 a year, because “$250,000 won”™t get me to Central Park West.”

As her post hit the blogs, it received a scathing response from a man who said he fit her description and told her that her proposition was a bad business deal. “In economic terms, you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset,” he wrote, because “your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity.”

Last week, this exchange spilled over into the e-mail world, where the it turned into a popular item to send to friends as a joke. The difference between this and other outrageous share-mail messages, however, was that instead of remaining anonymous, its ostensible author signed his name and the company where he worked, which happened to be the investment banking division of JPMorgan Chase.

This detail, which may have provoked nearly as much mirth as the contents of the exchange, made the correspondence either more or less credible. Would someone with a big job at a prestigious company really have linked his name to a message that read in part: “You”™re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!”

The man who is widely credited with writing the response did not respond to a voice message, but the media relations department at JPMorgan Chase confirmed that he worked there and said that he was not the author. Rather, a company spokesman said, he had forwarded the e-mail message to friends, and the signature setting on his e-mail accompanied the response when it wound up on blogs.

By this account, the employee was just an accidental sexist, the latest object lesson in the dangers of e-mail getting into the wrong hands “” the Wall Street equivalent of a Pittsburgh Steelers coach who passed along an e-mail message with a sex video to the National Football League commissioner, among others.

“Your workplace computer does not exist as a tool for forwarding jokey things,” said Will Schwalbe, an author of Send: The Essential Guide to E-Mail for Office and Home.

As for the legitimacy of the original posting by the husband seeker, a spokeswoman for Craigslist wrote in an e-mail message that “it does look as if the post was made sincerely.” A message sent to the Craigslist mailbox seeking comment yielded no response.

Craigslist declined to say how many people responded to the personal ad (which asked, among other things, for names of bars, restaurants and gyms where rich single men hung out). And so far, the identity of the responder remains a mystery too.

“I wish we wrote it because I think it”™s great,” said John Carney, editor of DealBreaker, a Wall Street gossip site that posted the exchange on Wednesday.

Mr. Carney said that he had received the zinger in an e-mail message from someone other than the author, and his source did not know who wrote it. (The response never appeared on Craigslist itself.)

On Thursday, Howard Lindzon posted it to his blog. After a commenter asked who wrote it, Mr. Lindzon responded “me,” but then said in a telephone interview that he had been kidding. The traffic the posting drew was serious, though. Mr. Lindzon usually gets about 3,000 daily visitors, but popularity-rating sites digg.com and reddit.com linked to the item, drawing more than 100,000 visitors and crashing his server.

Brett Michael Dykes, a blogger notorious for fake listings on Craigslist, said he had received about 40 e-mail messages accusing him of posting the husband-seeking personal ad. But he said he had not written it and was stumped about its provenance.

“I”™ve probably read it five or six times, and I go back and forth,” Mr. Dykes said. “Sadly I think it may be real. I have met in New York City that type of girl.”

By now, Mr. Dykes said, a blogger would have taken credit for the listing if it were a hoax, but “who would want to step from the shadows and say, “˜I”™m the gold digger”™?”

And Mr. Carney said he was not holding his breath that the Wall Street type would step forward. “In the age of ultrasensitivity to sexual harassment, people might think that this guy”™s response about women being depreciating assets is not exactly how they want their firm to be perceived by the public,” he said.

Photo: paulogualano.com