The Crazy Eddie Story is an Insane Read

His prices may have been insane but Eddie Antar was anything but. He was a brilliant – if incredibly dishonest – retailer and he made not just other retailers but journalists, financial analysts, bankers and just about anybody else he came into contact with in the business world look like complete fools.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps his alter-ego and the name of his retailing company will: Crazy Eddie. For much of the 1970s and 1980s, starting in New York City and stretching well throughout the Northeast at its peak, Crazy Eddie was the dominant retailer in the consumer electronics business, its ubiquitous 645-1196 phone number still embedded into the gray matter of most everyone from the era.

Crazy Eddie is also the subject of a new book by business journalist Gary Weiss, “Retail Gangster” and if you’re in the retailing business – or anyone who follows the industry or even someone who once shopped there – it is a fascinating read. It goes deep down into the truly insane and ultimately illegal business practices that made the retailer so successful…until it all came crashing down upon Eddie and so many people associated with him.

The book is a fast read and you will get consumed in Eddie’s story from the streets of Brooklyn to Wall Street, all the while running a company that created innovative marketing tactics still being used by retailer today even as behind the scenes he was cooking the books in ways that were even more imaginative. You’ll read how Eddie maneuvered fraudulent claims against insurance companies by moving previously damaged merchandise into stores that were legitimally  flooded, increasing the size of those claims. You’ll see how he made manufacturers pay up on warranty claims two, three and even more times on the same items.

And you’ll learn how he bamboozled supposedly smart financial analysts, bankers and, yes, business journalists, into believing he was running an incredibly profitable business, taking it public and adding investors to the long list of those fooled.

If you think you know the retail business and all its dirty little secrets, you’ll be shocked to find out you absolutely positively don’t. Eddie was inventing retail trickery at a level never seen before — and perhaps not since either…although after reading this you might not believe anything you read in a financial filing, business profile or analyst report ever again.

But you should read Retail Gangster. It’s insane.

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