In New York City in the 1980s, Crazy Eddie was viral before viral was a thing.
The family-run consumer electronics chain, founded by Eddie Antar in the 1970s, grew famous for its wacky radio and TV ads starring former DJ Jerry Carroll.
But Crazy Eddie was never just a business. It was a criminal enterprise. After 15 years of white collar fraud, the Antars decided to take the operation public, inviting a higher degree of scrutiny than ever before. The ads continued at breakneck speed, as did the crimes. And then the house of cards fell.
So why did the Antars think they’d never get caught? Allison Schrager, Quartz contributor and author of An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk, notes that criminal acts are just extreme cases of a global phenomenon. We all hit the same pitfalls when gauging risk: we underestimate it, overestimate it, and misunderstand key information.
But we can all do better. In the first episode of RISK, a series made exclusively for Quartz members, we meet Sam Antar, former CFO of Crazy Eddie and self-proclaimed “professional bullshit artist.” Then we travel to the world’s first Center for Risk Literacy in Berlin to learn why most of us are “risk illiterate” and how, precisely, we can change that.