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Today we talk about credit cards.

I watched part of the Victoria's Secret fashion show last night, and caught a commercial for Visa's black card.

While it sounds impressive, being made of carbon graphite (because you totally need something that makes your wallet weigh twice as much as it does now), my personal experience of black card users has been somewhat negative.

I do not move in celebrity circles, so I have not had the opportunity to see how the glitterati behave when deploying it, but the guy who used it at Michael's Arts and Crafts after cutting in front of me in line was not cool or impressive (in the way he so clearly wanted to be as he oh-so-casually waved it around before sliding it through the card machine), he was a douche.

In fact, flashing your black card anywhere makes you a douche, because only douches feel the need to show off that they have money to burn on a credit card that costs $495 a year (I do not know about the spending requirements, but I don't think they're as high as the Amex Centurion Card, with a requirement that you spend a quarter million a year just to qualify).

Honestly, if these people were as cool as they think their black cards make them, they'd have no need of credit cards - other people would pick up the tab for them. When one is really rich, one does not carry anything; one has people to take care of that sort of thing.

The fundamental problem with all these show-off methods of payment is that Americans do not have an aristocratic class to show them how to live elegantly. Due to several generations of proletariats getting angsty about the role of aristocrats in their life (oppression, oppression, taxing, taking advantage of the proles for cheap labour, oppression, etc.), we no longer have a ruling class that knows how to Do It Right[TM], and as a result, certain Americans suffer from a lack of finesse when it comes to the employment of cash (and the graphite substitutes they crave). They fail to reach the dizzying heights of coolness, but slide into douchedom.

I think we can all agree that money alone does not make one cool. If you want to be cool, save the black card for when you're buying drinks for the whole restaurant (and that restaurant had better not be an Olive Garden). Use it when you're chartering a private jet. Slip it discreetly to the maitre'd when you're renting the entire garden rooftop floor of the hotel for a very private dinner. But don't use it for everyday purchases; it just looks douchey.

Sadly, lacking the proper role models, many Black Card users think that the simple possession of the ready cash to afford such a superfluous method of payment is enough to make them cool, and they make the rookie mistake of using the card everywhere.

Honestly, if you have a black card and insist on using it with a huge fanfare of fake casualness every single time you buy something, save yourself the effort, and just super-glue it to your forehead, because we all know that's why you really got it. You want to impress people. You want people to know you've arrived. You have bought into the sales pitch hook line and sinker.

A credit card is a credit card. They all have "rewards", but those rewards are frequently contingent on you giving that credit card more money than most of those rewards would have cost you in cash.

(Mind you, Amex sent us a free i-Pod Shuffle last Christmas. If you're going to spend the money anyway, you may as well use the convenient card.)

But if you have the card for looks, and not for convenience, then give it up. A douche with a black card is still a douche, and you can't buy your way out of that.

And if you think the black card gives you carte blanche (ha ha, irony) to cut in line ahead of me because you are too precious and important to wait two minutes for your cheap craft paint, then surely you are important enough to send someone out to do your shopping for you.

Send someone with some damn manners.



( 91 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Dec. 4th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)
Huh, I never even knew there was such a thing as a "black card."

From what you say it seems like it's no coincidence that "Black Card" and "Blackguard" sound so much alike.
Dec. 4th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
Everyday> it has a spending requirement and if your normal outgoings are around that level then you are going to have to put all your outgoings on the card... flashing it around is dumb though.

I know someone whose ex-box had a Centurion. From what he said some of the benefits really are worth having, you basically get to have Amex do anything (legal) for you - saving you the hassle of, eg, having to employ people to do those things for you. Of course you have to be pretty rich for the price to be payable, and richer still for the cost/benefit to start looking good.
Dec. 4th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
My Mum always said that the "half-rich" always felt the need to show everyone, but the "real rich" would almost hide their wealth. I think she meant the nouveau riche and "Old Money".

I promise you that when I am spendifourously wealthy, we will be as discreet as Jeeves and Bertie. =)
Dec. 4th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)
My mom's friend and mentor, Dorothy Hicks, had a similar take. She always said that the people to watch out for at estate sales and acutions were the women "in old (but not worn) cashmere sweaters and pearls." Those were the Old Money rich women.
(no subject) - popelizbet - Dec. 4th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Dec. 4th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
"Use it when you're chartering a private jet. "

Unless you are one of the big three auto makers begging for money from Congress...faux pas, party of three, faux pas party of three...
Dec. 4th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
Dec. 4th, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)
I love this post...thanks.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 4th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
A few years back, during a personal Dark Age financially brought on by a layoff, I worked the Christmas season as a cashier in the Gift Wrap side-store for Neimann-Marcus. The first day someone stole a purse, and my asking to see ID to go with their claim check set off a security pursuit when they ran away. The next day Mrs. Perot came in to claim her presents, with a toady, female companion even I could see was distressing her with fale snobbery. Mrs. Perot herself was the epitome of grace and politeness.

The mayor was very startled when I had to ask her last name; I'm not at my best under pressure and that position supplied a lot of pressure per hour. But she was still polite. Even the butler one lady sent to fetch her packages was polite, no matter how severely I'd put his nose out of joint insisting to call and make certain the owner knew him.

Really, the rudest person I had to deal with was a Texas senator. He was outright insulting, and without much reason other than he thought he was too important to wait. Any. Even five seconds.

But all of them paid with normal credit cards indistinguishable from my own. Save for the butler - those had already been placed on the employer's account at the store.
Dec. 4th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
The nouveau riche are uncouth and cannot be saved. Money does not buy class no matter how much one tries. There is even a channel devoted to teaching these snickering little buggers how to be rich, it's called "The Wealth Channel." This channel is so infantile and pathetic in their attempt to educate the new wealthy it is more than embarrassing, it is insulting to the educated.

The worst is when I travel to Europe, my countrymen/women have no manners and wave their money around with verve, "look at me, look at me!" I cringe.
Dec. 4th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
I am very proud to say that when in Italy, there were times that people did not think my husband and I were Americans.

The priceless moment was when my husband was grabbing a smoke outside of the hotel in Palermo (the et des Palmes) and I had joined him just to look at the street scene. Coming out of the hotel was an elegant old Frenchman in a beret followed by two stunning young women. "Buona sera," I said to them; my husband said, "Good evening." The man stopped, gave us a shocked look, and said, "You're American?"

"Yes, we are," we admitted.

"I thought you were French!" he said. "You look good!" With approving nod, he strode out into the night, followed by his entourage.

(Needless to say, we were not waving our money around anyway, Palermo and Rome are not good places to do that.)
Dec. 4th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
This post is made of win! You are completely right there are some very sad individuals who think they are rich and "high falut'n" but have absolutly no tact or finese (or taste for that matter).

My personal experience with one of these douches was when I was working at the WALMART jewelry counter in RADFORD va. I had one came in looking to add to her "extensive jewelry collection." She complained that none of it was up to her par and why didn't I have better....oh and where was the IGA certification for those diamonds...yadda...yadda. Seriously, if this lady was even half as much of a rich jewelry connoisseur as she was pretending to be...she would not have been at the WALMART jewelry counter! *headdesk* I can't remember if she had a black card or not...I seem to have repressed the memory :P
Dec. 4th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
ooo! carbon graphite!
isnt that what they make pencils out of? how clever, having a credit card that you can buy a car and then write a note with.

oo wait. pencil. does that mean it will turn your wallet and fingers all black? oh, never mind. the people who really deserve it wouldnt TOUCH it, having people to handle their wallets. so its kind of a test. if you have the black card and black fingers, you're a poser wannabe!

clever indeed!
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 4th, 2008 02:57 pm (UTC)
Using a fancy credit card at a Michael's is so out of whack that it's making my ears bleed.

My MIL is teaching me how to be Old Money. The basic secret seems to be to pretend you're as poor as anyone until you convince yourself that you are, and then act confused when other people point out that real wealth is never knowing on any level that money is something people worry about.

It's been a decade. I'm getting better.
Dec. 4th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)

This makes me laugh, because it's so true.
Dec. 4th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
My dad enjoys kind of the reverse of this. He owns a printing business and does pretty well. He loves to go shopping in his ink-stained shirts with his name on them (his favorite times are on the floor rather than in the office). He likes to see what kind of service he gets. Usually they will be pretty rude. At that point he'll pick what he wants & hand them a wad of cash. I've seen this done & the expression on the sales guys faces in priceless. He'll leave them with a smile & a wink and say "I guess you'll treat the next working guy a little better won't ya!" I love my daddy!
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - living400lbs - Dec. 4th, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 4th, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
One of my dearest friends comes from 'Old Money' & minor aristocracy: I think the fact that she never discusses money AT ALL with anyone who isn't a very close friend, and then only in a highly private setting, is very telling.

On the other hand, my 'New Money' friends often gab on about the price they pay for toilet paper (their's is ever so much better than the stuff that *you* can get, after all - *insert eye roll here*).

You just can't teach class. It is either there or it isn't.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 4th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
big money
I went to Hungary for a week a few years ago. At the bank in Szeged, I was waiting in line at one of the windows. Two very polite women -- one early twenties, the other somewhat older -- got into line together at the adjacent window. When they arrived at the teller window, they asked for and received 100,000 Euros, in cash (I discreetly counted, more than once, to be sure I was actually seeing this; so too were the little old ladies in my line). Noticing they were being discretely watched, the young woman gave us a nice smile, put the money in her purse, and they left.

It was all very understated and subtle.

So now you know one of the scenes you'll be in in that book...

- Johannes
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