Gunther and I

We hung out last night. I ran into Gunther at the mailboxes and he was like, “Fletcher!” and I’m like, “Gunther!” like we were old friends.

I was going to leave it at that but then he said, “You ready for that beer?” Before I could answer, he teased me. “Or wine.”

I was like, “Right now?”

“Unless you’re busy.”

Yeah, right. I think season one of Party Down on my Roku can wait. So I changed and went over to 302.

Turns out Gunther is a pretty weird dude, but in a cool way. He looks like a surfer, but he’s actually got a masters in economics from Berkeley. But does he use that degree to teach or work at the federal reserve? No. He sells shit on eBay.

Not like that girl in “40 Year Old Virgin.” He doesn’t sell other people’s stuff. And he doesn’t sell his own shit. He just scours eBay all day long for “undervalued assets” and “arbitrage opportunities.” He doesn’t care what the item is as long as it has a value that can be semi-objectively quantified and for some reason the bids are not meeting that price.

For example, he says the number one area where an auction gets undervalued is when people misspell the item they’re selling. So he actually has an algorithm that looks for common misspellings in the auction title, like “Genuine Piage Watch” (it’s Piaget) or “Jimmy Olson #1” (it’s Olsen). It doesn’t turn up on a normal search so no one bids on it. Gunther buys it below market and turns around and sells it again. He doesn’t just buy misspelled items–there’s a lot of reasons why an auction fails to sell at market price, like ending the auction at 3:00 in the morning, for example. But when the seller misspells the items in the description, they’re just asking to be taken advantage of, according to Gunther, because “money should flow from stupid people to smart people.”

I was pretty skeptical. I kind of beat around the bush for a while before I just came out and asked, “Do you really make money doing this?” Gunther was totally frank and honest. He said he made about eighty grand last year. Okay, not gonna buy any islands with that kind of money, but then he pointed out that he only works two hours a day, tops.

That blew me away. Naturally I asked him what he did the rest of the day. He said he reads. He sees a lot of movies. He’s writing a book on economics. And he goes hiking with his girlfriend Monica. (I was wrong, she doesn’t live there. Just stays over a lot.)

Of course, Gunther’s apartment was crammed full of junk that he’s in between buying and selling, so the place looks like one of those crazy people’s houses where they find the dead body two weeks later under a pile of newspapers. But on the other hand, there was a lot of cool shit to check out. We read Jimmy Olsen comic books for a while and got a pizza. It was cool.

Lesson learned: A little initiative goes a long way. All I said to Gunther originally was, “Hey, we should hang out some time.” And guess what? We did. How’s that for taking control of your life.

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