Friday, October 31, 2008

AMEX and Sentient Jet Team Up With The Business of No

I stopped using my American Express Card a few years back when after spending over $140,000 for that callendar year the company refused to offer me a "black" (Centurion) card as the standard was $150,000 in yearly spending (its now over $250,000 reportedly). I informed a Sr. vice president of customer service at AMEX that I was getting married the next year and had a home in Los Angeles that I was fully renovating and that I would gladly pay their $4,000 fee for the card. Even with $100,000's of pending spending in the near future I was denied the card therefor I moved my business to Chase who has both a business and personal card that gives me valuable United Airlines miles. I have racked up nearly 1,000,000 since then and have cancled all but one of my three AMEX cards as I don't want to lose the 590,000 AMEX rewards miles. Overall I am very happy with my decision to cut my AMEX spending down to a mere few $100 per year.

This week I received a glossy printed book about my many options for AMEX miles and over a luxurious, Jared-inspired Subway six inch "club on wheat" I read through the book. I have always thought the best value in credit card miles is to use them for flight upgrades. You can spend $700,000 and get a $4,000 watch if you like but you can also buy a $1,500 coach ticket from Los Angeles to London and upgrade it with 50,000 miles to a $17,000 business class ticket thus getting a lot more value for your miles if your are inclined to fly in Business or First Class.

Towards the back of the brochure was a promotion that caught my attention. An attractive couple were stepping out of what looked to be a Challenger 300 private jet featured on a right-facing page. The copy on the promo said that AMEX has "flight experiences starting at 500,000 miles with partners like Atlantic Aviation, Delta (private) and Sentient Jet. With an upcoming trip from LA to Pebble Beach in December, this got me to put my cardboard-tasting sandwich down and call the 800 number. I just had to know what my 500,000 miles got me. I didn't expect much but anything helps right?

At my new offices I have phones that count off the time you are on the phone. It was 19:45 on hold with AMEX before someone picked up. The person quickly realized I needed to be handed off to the "land and sea" department and waited on the line with me until I got to a woman to help me. The problem is - she couldn't pronounce Sentient Jet let alone explain to me what the program was with the charter and jet membership company. At around 32:00 into the call - she transferred me to Sentient Jet.

A minute later, I had a guy on the phone who knew a LOT more about private jet travel and he needed to have someone get me a quote for my trip on a shorter basis and or see how my 500,000 miles would pay for part of one of their "membership cards" which I assuredly would be adding tens upon tens of thousands of dollars to. This gentleman, who sells one of the world's most fantastically luxurious commodities on the planet Earth, said he would have someone get back to me the next day with a full quote for both options. He took down all of my info - specifically about the trip up to Monterey, the airports, the aircraft I might want to use etc...

Its been five days with no return phone call or follow up from Sentient Jet.

In America, you can outsource your customer service to Bangalore or New Delhi or you can keep it right at home but as long as you don't know how to close and or don't care if you close a qualified client - the results will always be the same and those results are not good. When the economy is booming or during difficult times like now, truly qualified clients are hard to come by and when you get them on the phone - closing them should be a company's top priority. AMEX walked my business because of their ultimate arrogance and Sentient hasn't made much of a statement about how much they want my future business or my up-sell to their $50,000 membership card. Even in the straosphere of luxury, you still can find companies mired in the Business of No.

I am sure there is someone who wants to earn my business for this flight even if its United Airlines. Perhaps I should save the money and buy stock in companies who are in the Business of Yes? How is Berkshire Hathaway stock looking these days?