Homophobic Arbitrage

Vitaliy Katsenelson's picture

Last week I went to a conference in South Beach. I made reservations for our hotel a few months ago, but I did not make a reservation for the one night we needed at Key West. I did not know much about the Keys and didn’t have time to research them before the trip. I figured my brother Alex and I would find a hotel when we got there. We were traveling without our families, we are very low-maintenance men, and the hotel was our lowest priority.

We arrived in Miami, rented a car, and headed to the Keys. While Alex was driving I was researching our final destination on my iPad. It did not take me much time to realize that there is very little to see and do (other than go fishing) on the islands other than Key West, so we needed to stay overnight there. And it was four hours away – it’s the largest island and the one furthest one from Miami – so we had plenty of time to find a hotel.

I looked for hotels on Kayak, and there were plenty available in the $300-400 range, plus a few for $200 on my Hotel Tonight app (I highly recommend that app). But I wanted to enjoy the scenery, so I put hotel finding on the back burner. An hour and a half before we were to arrive in Key West, I finally got back to it; but now the Hotel Tonight app did not list any rooms at all, and Kayak showed just a few hotels, all for $600 and up. And every time I called to try to reserve a room, they were gone.

I figured maybe not all hotels are listed on Kayak. So I pulled up Google Maps and called every hotel and motel in the Key West area: every room on the island was booked (this included adjacent islands, too). I even enrolled in a local service that brokered Key West hotel rooms. There were literally no rooms, at any price, available on Key West. Period.

I have to admit that instead of worrying about it I was laughing. I looked at it as an adventure. I had this weird curiosity about how it was going to play out. The feeling was similar to the one I get when I sit down to write an article and don’t have the slightest idea what it will look like when I’m done. The potential downside was merely that Alex and I might have to drive back at night, or most likely just sleep in the car.

Back to the hotel search. There was one exception. Every time I searched there was this one hotel that showed up: New Orleans House, which was described as an “all-male” hotel that offered rooms for $200. I was not quite sure what “all-male” meant – was it maybe a refuge for men tired of their nagging wives? Or maybe it was an all-the-beer-you-can-drink hotel.

new orleans hotelSo I pulled up the hotel’s website, and in seconds it became crystal clear to me that it was a hotel for gay men. I am the least homophobic person I know, but I had never stayed in a gay hotel before. I was not quite sure what the expectations were of guests. But our options were really limited: stay in that hotel, sleep in the car, or drive at least three hours to the nearest hotel and then drive another three hours back to Key West tomorrow.

I called the hotel and tried to politely ask if there was anything else I needed to know about the hotel, other than that it was for men only. A very polite gentleman told me that I had to be at least 18 (check!) and that clothing was optional. So I asked, “Are you saying there are naked men roaming around the hotel?” I was told they were just at the pool.

Alex was hesitant, but he didn’t like our options either, so I convinced him to at least check it out. It turned out to be a very nice, quaint hotel in the center of Key West (probably in one the best locations). The room was absolutely fine, and we could walk out onto a balcony that overlooked Duval St., one of the touristiest spots in Key West – it looked a lot like New Orleans’s French Quarter.

The swimming pool, which I was not anxious to see, was somewhere in the back. Every man I encountered was fully and neatly dressed and extremely polite. If not for the odd pictures of drag queens on the wall, it would have looked just like any other hotel (if you did not visit the swimming pool). I fit in well, as I was wearing my favorite shirt that just happened to be pink.

There is a life/investment lesson in this adventure. If you think about it, Alex and I capitalized on “homophobic arbitrage.” We were not the only ones looking for a room that night. This was only hotel with a room that was showing up on Kayak or in any other search that evening. With the rooms disappearing fast, I know that there were some people who chose to drive back or sleep in the car rather than stay in that hotel.

In investing you have opportunities that open up because dogmatic investors say “I don’t do retail” (or bankruptcies, or … the list goes on). I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of that, too. But often, opportunities are created because enough people say “I don’t do that.” We are analyzing a company right now that will be delisted because it has not filed its financials for two years. Enough investors have said “I don’t do delisted companies” to create a sell-off and thus an opportunity in that stock.

In early May I am going to Omaha for Buffett’s annual meeting. I have yet to book my room. There are no good rooms available right now; most were booked ten months ago. Usually, rooms show up a few days before the event, but I’m not worried – I can always count on homophobic arbitrage.

As a person who scribbles on a semiconstant basis, I was curious about Hemingway’s writing habits. He got up in the morning and cranked out about 700 words a day. I have been getting up at 5 AM for the last month and a half to write. The only difference between Hemingway and me is that he went fishing and then drinking for the rest of the day while I drive the kids to school and then go to work. But I definitely see the benefits of writing early in the morning. Now, on weekends I can spend time with the family, ski, and read.

hemingways house
Hemingway's House

Then we went to see the Little White House, the place where Harry Truman spent 175 days during his presidency. It is a relatively small house, considering that a president spent a lot of his time there. It had previously been occupied by the superintendent of the navy base and was made available to the president when he wanted to get away from cold Washington, DC (this was before Camp David).

I have never been to the White House, but I imagine you might get feelings similar to those I had at the Little White House. You start imagining all the important decisions that were made there and that changed the lives of millions. Did Truman decide to drop atomic bombs on Japan while he was there? (Unlikely – that happened in August 1945, and he was in Key West only in wintertime.)

Finally, we visited the Ship Wreck Museum. This was probably the most interesting of the three. I learned that in the 1860s Key West was the wealthiest town in the US. It made money by salvaging ship wrecks. About a hundred ships sailed by Key West every day, but the island is surrounded by reefs, and a ship would wreck about once a week.

There were observation towers all over Key West. When a wreck was spotted, the watchman would call out the two words the populace of Key West most liked to hear: “Wreck Ashore!” Men would run to small boats and rush to the wreck. The first boat that got there and helped the crew off the ship would be awarded the salvage fee.

We were told a good diver could hold his breath for five minutes. They were scarce and in high demand and therefore made $700 a month – a lot of money in the 1860s. If you worked a month you could buy a house for $700. Most divers only lasted a few months, as diving through shipwrecks was extremely dangerous.

Once the cargo was salvaged it was stored in a warehouse and then auctioned – usually for about half of its original value. A judge would decide on the size of the salvage fee, which ranged between 20-50% of the cargo value. The fee would be based on how far the ship was off the coast, how difficult it was to get to the cargo and retrieve it, etc. Salvage fees ranged in the ballpark of $20-50 thousand dollars.

In the 1920s railroads started to steal market share from shipping, navigation got better, and Key West became just another resort town with a great all-male hotel.

If you believe your friends, enemies, relatives or random strangers accumulated a seven figure portfolio and will benefit from our investment services, call Theresa at (303) 796-8333 and we’ll be happy to mail them a signed copy of The Little Book of Sideways Markets.


Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, CFA, is Chief Investment Officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, Colo. He is the author of The Little Book of Sideways Markets (Wiley, December 2010). To receive Vitaliy’s future articles by email or read his articles click here


Investment Management Associates Inc. is a value investing firm based in Denver, Colorado. Its main focus is on growing and preserving wealth for private investors and institutions while adhering to a disciplined value investment process, as detailed in Vitaliy’s book Active Value Investing (Wiley, 2007).

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Seize Mars's picture

What's with the overt gay agenda everywhere in the media lately? I mean, who cares? Why is this?

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

it isn't.

Various odd conditions can happen anywhere & this is one of them.

Quite a few male friends of mine were scared solid of being naked all day every day on Wreck Beach. Consequently their choices were a) get naked but don't mingle with the ladies, for whatever fear that may involve or b) don't get naked, and be isolated from everyone.

The beach was packed with naked girls & the only side of the beach that was mostly men was, you guessed it, mostly gays. I didn't realize that at first but I figured it out pretty quick.

Consequently since I wasn't scared shitless I got to mingle with all the hot naked girls. They didn't.

Lesson learned.

Freddie's picture

If not for the odd pictures of drag queens on the wall, it would have looked just like any other hotel (if you did not visit the swimming pool). I fit in well, as I was wearing my favorite shirt that just happened to be pink.

Ahh..yeah.  I wonder if Vlad chased this guy out of Russia or the Ukraine.

Freddie's picture

In early May I am going to Omaha for Buffett’s annual meeting. I have yet to book my room. There are no good rooms available right now; most were booked ten months ago. Usually, rooms show up a few days before the event, but I’m not worried – I can always count on homophobic arbitrage.

Any money manager or investment manager who follows Buffett is a douchebag.  He might as well follow the S&P 500 index because last time I looked, Buffet has not beaten it.


Dr. Sandi's picture

But it's a great place to meet investors who might become clients.

I believe some people call that networking. Or marketing.

0b1knob's picture

Were Obama, Rahm Emanuel or Kal Penn ever guests at this hotel?

Comte d'herblay's picture

Why do writers insist on classifying everyone who wishes people would keep their sexuality to themselves, "Homophobic"??

We do not fear gays, most of us chortle, laugh out loud or pity the ones with AIDS/HIV but fear is not among the emotions 99.9% of the people have towards perverted, unnatural alliances.

You didn't get your hotel room because of a homophobic pandemic.  You got it because those of us who discriminate, we choose to associate with those who do not feel forced to plaster their sexuality on their foreheads.

Fear has noting to do with it.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

because keeping your sexuality to yourself so no one could ever guess it is like wearing a bag over your head instead of showing your natural haircolour and face, you douche.

Everyone else shows off their sexuality, clothing preferences & appearance of their face, etc., so there's no reason to restrict any particular class of people from doing so, be that gay, Down's syndrome, dark skin, big nose, lost a limb in an accident or war, etc.

It's not your business to judge others in the way you are & to do so is both your freedom & your shame.

Comte d'herblay's picture

You seem pretty judgmental your own self, toots.

I don't give one good damn about your sexuality or anyone else's.

Everyone else shows their sexuality off, eh, and you can determine if they take it in the ass solely, by their clothing, face, and their "etc"???

That's damned unique judgment and like your bag over your head, your douche, and your lost limb, and your down's and your skin....big schnoz.



MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Holding hands with your wife or girlfriend definitely gives away your sexuality.

You feel a right to be free to do so.

To deny the right of gay couples to do the same is to deny free rights & instead to make upper & lower 'moral' classes of people as per your say-so.

You flat out don't have the authority to do that to everyone else nor should that authority be granted to anyone.

I am heterosexual but unlike you I can fully elicit or restrain all emotional responses for each custom situation.

Nice try but the jedi mind tricks don't work on me.

Freddie's picture

Why do gays think their lifestyle is unique?  There is no novelty.  get over yourselves - you are boring.  Gay males are like elderly female interior decorators with the libido of a 13 year old boy.  You are not unique.  I don't care about your desire to engage in very effecient methods of spreading viruses and bacteria.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

wrong again. HIV spreads faster in heterosexual intercourse & faster still in IV drug use which isn't a sexual activity & certainly isn't isolated to gays.

Comte d'herblay's picture

Yeah, because the FIrst Causes of  AIDS who are a fraction in number purposely tainted the blood supply.

You don't get off most of the blame because the hetero community is 90 x larger.  They were first contaminated by queers, and bisexuals.


They own ALL the consequences.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

incorrect. HIV is from SIV which comes from bushmeat. The consumption of other infected primates as a food source is the cause, as easily as mad cow disease is the same prion from scrapie.

Some things shouldn't be eaten by us & gorilla meat is one of them.

Once SIV & various (still) evolving strains of HIV were brought into humans it was the blood that kept it spreading, not just sex, but sex certainly works as well.

You are very ignorant of science.

What is the source of your ignorance, religion? I'm atheist, that's also part of the reason I'm immune from being a retard.

Maybe you think evolution is mumbo-jumbo voodoo too.

zionhead101's picture

Google "Litton Bionetics" [ Operation paper-clip NAZI factory post WW2 USA, the 'factory' where all CIA BIO-WARFARE is manufactured ]

Google "Fort Detrick" [ This is the CIA MIL base where all tests are done on human subjects, ... operation paper-clip requires humans, ... just like the Nazis required ]

THen you can learn the REAL history of how the UN/CIA engineered the HIV.

Essentially they inoculated 'Human Leukemia' in pigs, and then transferred it to apes, and then passed to humans. All this work is documented by the UN Health Organization in the early 1960's, a human-to-human means of passing Leukemia as a weapon, then the CIA perfected it in the late 1960's and it went global in the 1970's.

Today some +50% of African men are HIV positive, ... in the future there will be no blacks in Africa.


Today all this work is done by "Suterra", owned buy DUAL Citizen Stewart Resnick, richest man in the world trillionaire on paper. [ Google, Bio-Encapsulated ISO-CYaNATE Delivery systems, crazy-glue encapsulated pills delivered by air with 6 months release ]

MeelionDollerBogus's picture


Get an electron microscope.

Get samples of HIV and SIV.

You can watch it change before your very eyes & google won't do that for you. Invalid reference/source dismissed.

You can also trace back segments of each strain to see what is the time-ordered chain of evolution.

MrPalladium's picture

It is liberalism and tolerance that are ultimately homophobic. Now that they are out of the closet there will be far fewer of them in the next generation. Some problems take care of themselves without my interference.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Incorrect again.

A lot of ignorant people on ZH.

The strongest factor to cause gay males is in utero exposure to an imbalance of hormones & the strongest factor to cause that is pollution to the water supply of hormones & hormone analogues like decaying plastics.

None of which are filtered by normal water filters, ever.

Surprise, surprise.

mrdenis's picture

So did you get it in the end ?.............I mean the room ? 

astoriajoe's picture

what were the clothing-optional straight hotel rooms going for?

did you count the rainbow flags at the other hotels and do any regressions?

Jack Sheet's picture

Want to make a small fortune? Entrust a large one to an investment manager!