A real T-shirt-and-jeans kind of guy, Peter H. Shankman certainly doesn't look like a high roller, but American Express Co. knows better. After he was snubbed by salesmen at a Giorgio Armani boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York recently, the 31-year-old publicist -- who was made available to BusinessWeek by Amex -- saw "an unbelievable attitude reversal" at the cash register when he whipped out his black Amex Centurion Card.
The only thing you need while travelling in Europe, is this lightweight black friend.
After making our selection, we were ushered to the cashier. A distinguished looking man was manning the till. You know the sort that does not smile. He rang up the purchase. I giggled at the amount. And he gave me the look, almost saying, “Will you have the money to pay for this?”
I passed my card to him. A smile! Oh how quickly he defrosted!
“The black card madam! You will have no problem paying for this.” I smiled. Did I say I will have problems paying for this? I thought.
“Ah yes but my husband might kill me first,” I smiled conspiratorially to him.
“But I got him a tie, he should be OK.” I winked at him.
The sales girl who was serving us had a conversation with him in Italian. Ah she only bought him a tie and got herself all these shoes and handbags. I merely smiled.
Its funny how the black card suddenly gain you respect and friendship from the sales people. Suddenly they wanted to know you, where you are from. Where you are staying. How long. Before that was just frosty silence, sometimes a forced smile.
The story was similar in Gucci in Rome. We had to wait for a long time before we could get anyone to serve us. Of course the snazzy looking couple got served first. And the Japanese tourist. Only when they realised that we were not going away, and is seriously waiting for service that finally someone came to serve us. Showed us the pouch and the wallet.
Until the black card made its appearance.
“Ah which hotel are you staying Madam?”
Gulp! I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we were staying in a youth hostel where 6 of us were sharing a room! And she only started making conversation with me after scrutinizing my card really hard! Almost making sure that it was real.
“Ah we’re staying at this hotel near Termini station,” I said casually. Darned! I should have said the name of some posh hotel, but never mind. I was carrying a small daypack on my back, a well worn jeans and an oversized 8 year old jacket. It was a wonder that they let us in the shop at all. And it was a surprise to them that we bought anything at all. And a black card. She almost had an orgasm, I thought.
There were smiles all round when we left the shop.
The smell of money. Or at least the smell of potential money somehow changes how people perceive of you and how they treat you.
Did I tell you how the eyes of a snooty host at the hairdresser on the high street almost popped out when he saw the card?
He almost expected us to hand over the creased bills with hands shaking when he presented the bill. And suddenly he was showering us with all sort of coupons we could use for our next visit!
Just because we were shabbily dressed with jeans and T shirt.
Do not judge a book by its cover, especially when there is a black bookmark within.