Life as a pure rent-seeker? Or as the ultimate Kirznerian entrepreneur?

Or both.  Gary Bemsel has visual acuity:

He can scan hundreds of video slots a minute, with an eagle eye honed by the past 15 years making his living as a racetrack stooper — someone who bends down to gather betting slips off the track floor in the hope of finding a mistakenly discarded winner.

…“It’s a legitimate living — the money’s been left behind,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s surer money than stooping; it’s steadier, and it’s cleaner — you don’t have to fish through garbage cans.”

Mr. Bemsel has not given up stooping. After a loop through the racino, he has enough cash to hit the betting window in the track and then scour the floor and trash for winning tickets. Slipping deftly through crowds of cheering and swearing horseplayers, he can read slips on the ground and tell immediately if they are winners. For face-down slips, he has developed a nimble, soccer-style flip move using both feet — so he barely has to stoop at all.

Yet returns are down:

“The first few weeks you could hit the A.T.M. machines for stray $20 bills lodged up in the dispenser,” Mr. Bemsel said. “But certain guys caught onto it, and now they stake out a machine all day, snatching them up.”

Nor has it worked out entirely well for him:

He works 12-hour days and finds $600 to $1,200 a week, Mr. Bemsel said, but winds up blowing most of it on bad horse picks. “The whole reason I do this is to feed my gambling addiction,” he said. “It’s an illness.”

The excellent article is here, and for the pointer I thank Ben Greenfield.

Comments

I have fun scavenging for stuff to turn into money various ways. I think of it as efficient recycling. My top two:

1. Colleges at the end of semesters. I mostly rummage for textbooks that are thrown out and sell them to Amazon or on Half.com. The richer the kids the more likely they are to dump their books.

2. Electronics recycling drop offs. Laptops are generally worth something on Ebay if they are new enough. Although I once picked up an old Hi8 video player/recorder and turned it around for ~$300.

It is more of a hobby, what can I find that people throw out that is easily convertible into cash if only those people knew what it was they were throwing out.

This person is an entrepreneur. He is creating value.

His tax rate should be 15%.

It is carried interest.

What value is he creating?

Jim, please turn on your sarcasm detector.

This is surely perverting the meaning of the term "rent seeker".

We think of rents as quasi-rents, i.e. earnings above and beyond those required to keep a particular resource in a particular use.

How does that apply in the example of this guy?

Perhaps you were using "rent seeking" more colloquially. OK, but in colloquialisms, we think of "rent seeking" as lobbying for inefficient outcomes (i.e. lowering total welfare / inducing deadweight loss) in order to gain distributionally. How is this guy doing that?

Hear ye!

I was thinking the same thing. What rent is he extracting? The casino would still have to pay the winning ticket otherwise, and the original purchaser obviously doesn't value it highly enough to double-check. One man gathers what another man spills.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/sports/08otb.html

oops. meant to say that's the 2nd piece the NYT did on this, at least, and there may have been one more on espn that i may or may not remember. somehow it stuck vivdly in my head.

the societal benefit, reallocating money from casinos (and whatever tax rate they are paying) to stoopers, and whatever tax rates they are paying, seems dubious. The link i provided seems to be much more generous to the stooper than the one tyler provided

EMH disproved?

quite the opposite Jim, EMH would allow for the occasional winning ticket sitting on the floor, but it wouldn't be there for very long. The very fact that there are people out there hawking out ATM stations and picking up winning tickets all day long would be an illustration of an efficient market.

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