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Credit card concierges pass the ultimate test

We pity the poor concierges who had to respond to these questions.

By Karen Datko May 21, 2010 2:16PM

Will your credit card's concierge service really change your hotel reservation, extend your stay and (gasp!) have a real person on the other end of the line when you call with your request?

Oh, yes, and so much more, it appears. (That's good to know because this kind of service is becoming increasingly common.) In fact, John Hargrave wrote about how he put his credit card concierge service to the ultimate test in a guest post at The Blog of Tim Ferriss, the four-hour workweek man. To do so, Hargrave submitted five "incredibly ridiculous requests."


For the record, Hargrave's card is a Visa Signature. (Ferriss said he has tested -- should we say "tortured"? -- the concierge service of his American Express Platinum card "with similar results.")


Briefly, here's what transpired, in increasing order of ridiculousness:


Ridiculous Request No. 1: enough nacho cheese to fill a punchbowl. The concierge service called back the next day with the address and phone number of a store that sells large cans of nacho cheese, plus the price.


Ridiculous Request No. 2: the answer to the crossword puzzle clue "Blue Grotto locale." "The only grotto I know is at the Playboy Mansion," Hargrave told the Visa concierge. "But this is 11 letters, and starts with I." Two minutes later, the concierge responded with "Isle of Capri."


RR No. 3: Hargrave asked for a daily affirmation like the one popularized by Stuart Smalley. Could the concierge call him every day to tell him what a good guy he is? A snippet of the conversation is required to fully explain what occurred.

"I'm afraid we can't do this for you," she said, "but we can look up services that would do this for you."
"What?" I asked. "Why? Am I not good enough? Oh, I knew it."
"I'm sorry, we're just not allowed to do anything of a medical or emotional nature."
"You can't tell me I'm good enough because I'm not," I moaned. "Which is exactly what I thought!"
"Sir," she said patiently, "I'd be happy to look up other services that can send you these affirmations, and e-mail you that information."

Visa came through by finding an affirmation service that costs $89.25 a month for unlimited messages.


RR No. 4: space travel. Too easy, Hargrave. Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures are available.

RR No. 5: a list of all the services the concierges could not provide. The concierge said that would take three days to prepare, not soon enough to meet Hargrave's deadline.


Ferriss did include a list of services beyond the concierges' scope, including writing your school paper, doing your job for you, and getting you a room in a hotel that is really totally booked. Also: "We cannot get you an interview to work for a sports team."


So, in some quarters, great customer service does exist. Some of these cards come with an annual fee -- sometimes hefty -- and some do not, says our pal Jim Wang at Bargaineering.


Have you used a credit card's concierge service? How did it work out? Or would you prefer to take care of these matters yourself? Usually it's not that difficult.


And, please don't try this test at home. We pity the poor, unfailingly polite employees who had to put up with this stuff.


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