Ken Chenault

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

My American Express Gold Card says: "Member since '64." This is my 50th anniversary as an AmEx cardmember. I remember in 2004 being (1) hurt and (2) offended that I never received a thank-you card from CEO Kenneth I. Chenault for being a member for 40 years. I doubt if I will receive a 50th anniversary card. Chenault is a rude dude. In the average corporate database, how many customers have been active for 50 years? Not many, I'll bet.

Are financial services companies planning to screw over their most affluent customers as a result of the recent credit card legislation?

In October 2008, I wrote in these paragraphs:

Take a gander at this paragraph from a Wall Street Journal story by Robin Sidel on Oct. 20, 2008:

“AmEx recently slapped a $1,100-a-month spending limit on John and Monica Bell's platinum AmEx charge card. The reason: AmEx customers who pay with plastic at the same places where Mrs. Bell shops and have the same mortgage lender have poor repayment histories, according to a letter sent by AmEx.”

The couple pays $450 a year for the card—which promises "no pre-set spending limit." The couple routinely spent $5,000 a month—that's $60,000 a year—and has never been late with a payment.

If the data goons are allowed to start treating blue-ribbon American Express Platinum Cardmembers like chronic deadbeats, what will happen to the rest of us?

AmEx CEO Ken Chenault was punished for his perfidy. In the first quarter of 2009, his customers reduced spending by 16% and his net was down 55%.

On May 19, AmEx announced it would ax 4,000 employees (on top of the 7,000 canned last October) and scramble to cut $800 million in expenses.

A personal note to Ken Chenault, Visa, MasterCard, et al: When you allow bean counters and data analysts to make marketing decisions, you'll be punished.

Now is the time to study the masters of customer relationship magic.

And a good place to start is with Annemarie Victory.

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