Honor and Praise

American Express Card

Years ago I worked in a very high-end restaurant, The Compound, in Santa Fe. The only credit card we accepted was American Express. When people made reservations we always told them this. My line went, "If you choose to pay with a credit card, please be advised that we accept the American Express card only." That doesn't mean I didn't have arguments with people who tried to pay with a MasterCard. And when they told me how foolish it was, all I could say was "Well, the only card we accept is the American Express Card. No point discussing anything else."

One day, while making his reservation, the customer asked if we accepted AmEx. I replied with my "It's the only one we take" and he told me this tale.

He called a very pricey New York restaurant to make a reservation for a very important party of 9 clients. He asked if the restaurant honored the American Express card. Upon their assurance that the card was indeed honored, he brought his party to the restaurant, spent a ton of money and, when presented with the check, pulled out his AmEx card. The waiter said "We don't accept American Express." The customer sputtered, badly embarrassed, baffled and confused, and finally blurted "When I made the reservation I asked if you honored the American Express card. The person on the phone said yes, you do."

The waiter blandly replied "Oh yes, sir. We honor the American Express card. We just don't accept it."

Well, this has proved to be a wonderfully useful concept over the years. Again and again it comes up. The major corporation that claims to support open standards except within their own workforce. The education class I endured lecturing about the evils of lecturing. Health care workers who'd drown an infant if it got in their way describing their lifelong commitment to child welfare. Supervisors who value diversity of opinion but listen only to the sycophants and suckups. The usual phrase is "lip service" but now you can say, as I often do, "Oh, yes sir, we honor the American Express card, we just don't accept it."