The Executive Game
December 6, 2007
Funny, isn’t it, how these high-flying capitalist types are so starved for ego stroking and self-image-buffing that they pay through the nose to have something called “The American Express Centurion Black Card” so they can pretend they’re Roman emperors. It would be just as ridiculous and a whole lot cheaper just to put Caligula on the DVD player and flounce around the living room in a toga, but these pigeons want service industry types to cry “Hail Caesar!” every time they walk into a showroom or a restaurant.
Let Forbes explain it to you:
Most of the people who need, and can afford, this type of service are likely to already be holders of the Centurion card from American Express (nyse: AXP – news – people ). Also known as the “black card,” this wallet-sized status symbol is available to people who charge upwards of $150,000 per year and are willing to pay an annual membership fee of $1,000 for the privilege. For their money, cardholders get a raft of concierge-type services — as well as astronomical spending limits.
But it still means talking with a service representative from Amex, a process that can deflate even the most pumped-up ego. Centurion client Sassan Baghai, chief executive of Micronage Limited, a privately held software development firm, in Manchester, England, says that the card has failed to live up to its hype.
“The Centurion card is for people with more money than sense. Centurion claims to be the best in the world for what they do — but could not find me a proper place to eat when I was on business in Ottawa. Plus, every time I call, I get diverted to a call center. I’m looking around for another concierge company, and the only reason I keep the card in the meantime is because I can put it on the table at a business dinner — and it makes the point. Unfortunately, the card is still a status symbol.”
YouTube is bulging with clips from The Sopranos, but I couldn’t find the scene from the second season in which Uncle Junior talks about the way credit card companies routinely charge interest rates that dwarf the rates he could have gotten away with during his loan-sharking days. He also outlines the high-stakes poker game he started in order to fleece people who wanted to feel like high rollers. “We called it The Executive Game,” Junior sighs, with a farway look in his eyes.
Alert Sopranos watchers will remember that The Executive Game is the one that helped compulsive gambler Dave Scatino ruin his life and business, but the kind of people who covet something like a black card probably think they’ll never be a loser like Scatino. A lot of people have been living in that kind of dream bubble for the last several years. And right now, a lot of those bubbles are getting popped — or soon will be.