How to Make Visa Obey Your Every Desire: The Credit Card Concierge Experiment

308 Comments

The following post is a guest post by John Hargrave, whom I met in 2007 at SXSW.

If you find large-scale pranks (Super Bowl, anyone?), impersonating celebrities, and other clever mischief amusing, he’s the king of the domain. His book Prank the Monkey is a guide to unleashing your inner Loki.

Given my interest in outsourcing and pushing the envelope with concierge services, he suggested the following post, which looks at just how far VISA will go to keep you happy. I’ve run similar experiments with American Express Platinum Card with similar results. There are no credit card affiliate links in this post, so no ulterior motives. Just eager for you to reap benefits you’ve probably never taken advantage of. Enjoy.

Please share your success stories, past or present, in the comments.

Herewith enters Sir John Hargrave.

###

I recently signed up for The Visa SIGNATURE Chase Freedom card, for one reason: it has a concierge service. [Tim note: In fact, all of the "Visa Signature" cards have this concierge service, among other benefits]

A credit card concierge service is much like a hotel concierge service, except you don’t have to tip. A concierge is your own personal assistant, someone who will do anything you want them to do: make dinner reservations, book a trip to Hawaii, or shop for negligees for your grandmother.

We’re so used to being treated badly by credit card companies that it’s almost impossible to believe that they are serving you. But that’s how it works: they’re your virtual assistants, ready to help you with anything.

Anything?

I wanted to test the limits of my Visa Chase Freedom concierge service, so I spent a week making incredibly ridiculous requests, to see how they’d hold up…

TEST #1: GIANT TUB OF NACHO CHEESE

I made my first call to the Visa Chase Freedom concierge service by calling the toll-free number on the back of my card. I was connected to a concierge named David, who I pictured wearing a little bellboy hat, like a hotel concierge, though I think they just wear a telephone headset nowadays.

David spoke English, which was a nice change from my usual calls to Visa. “I’m traveling to Austin next week, and I want a big tub of nacho cheese. Make that a HUGE tub,” I told him. “Enough to fill a punch bowl.”

“Does it need to be in a tub?” he asked, taking the request with the seriousness of someone who worked for me.

“Can, jar, tub, I don’t care,” I said. “I just want liquid cheese, and a lot of it.”

“Would you like us to get back to you by phone or email?”

“Phone, please. I don’t want there to be any miscommunication about my cheese.”

“Is it okay if we have this information to you by 2:00 pm tomorrow?” he asked.

“That would be fine,” I responded, “as long as I get my cheese intel.”

“You’ll get it, sir,” he assured me. “Thank you for calling Visa Signature concierge service.”


Chase Freedom, before it runs away.

Here’s how the service works: your request is assigned a “case number,” which goes into an enormous pool of concierge requests. These requests get outsourced to overseas workers who track down the information and enter it into their system. Then you either get e-mailed, or an English-speaking worker phones you back the next day with what they’ve found.

“I have your information,” said a young woman named Jenny who called me the following day. “There is a supermarket in downtown Austin named Fiesta that sells large cans of nacho cheese.” She gave me the address, phone number, and the price of the cheese.

I went to Austin the following week, where I went to Fiesta, and I actually found the cheese exactly as she had described.

I was floored. This service was a dream come true. Just think of the ridiculous errands I could send them on next!

When I heard that the Visa Chase Freedom card came with a concierge service that would do anything I wanted, I had to put them to the test. Don’t we all want to make our credit card company work for us for a change?

TEST #2: CROSSWORD PUZZLE

“I’m really stuck on 62 across,” I complained to Maurice, the concierge who helped me the following night. I came to learn that I would get a different concierge every time I called, but they were all quite helpful, with none of the attitude that you normally get from customer service reps.

“What crossword puzzle are you doing, sir?”

“It’s the USA Today puzzle,” I said. “The clue is BLUE GROTTO LOCALE. I have no idea what that means.”

“Blue Grotto locale,” he repeated, writing it down.

“The only Grotto I know is at the Playboy Mansion,” I told him. “But this is 11 letters, and starts with I.”

“Okay,” he said. “You want to hang on?”

“Sure,” I said. He put me on hold for about two minutes—the same amount of time it usually takes me to get through to someone at Visa—and came back with the answer.

“You ready?” he said.

“What, you already got it?”

“The answer is ISLE OF CAPRI,” he said. “11 letters, starts with I.”


11 letters, starts with “I”.

“That’s incredible!” I exclaimed. “Are you like an idiot savant of puzzles?”

“You just happened to get someone who likes crosswords,” he said, modestly.

“I will call you every time I need a clue in the future!”

“Uh … okay!” he said, as brightly as he could.

How many times have you been at a restaurant, arguing with your friends about which President was the fattest, or whether Kevin Bacon has ever done a nude scene? Now you don’t need to pull out your smartphone and Google it, you can just call Visa and have them look it up for you.

Having a Visa worker do your bidding: much classier than an iPhone.

TEST #3: DAILY AFFIRMATIONS

“I suffer from low self-esteem,” I told Jamie, my new concierge. “My psychologist recommended that I give myself a daily affirmation. You know, something like, ‘I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.’”

“Okay,” said Jamie, not sure where this was heading.

“But that’s a lot of work, so I’m hoping you guys can do it for me. Just call and give me a daily affirmation.”

“You want us to call and tell you you’re a good person?”

“That’s right. I mean, if you think so. I’m not so sure myself.”

“If you can hold for one moment, I can check on this for you,” Jamie said.


Keep repeating this, and you can one day be Senator of Minnesota.

I bit my lip to keep from cracking up as she went to check with a supervisor. She came back with bad news. “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.”

“Could you at least attach a little positive note to the e-mail?” I begged. “Just like, ‘Thanks for being you?’”

“Let me check with a supervisor,” she said, a little less patiently this time.

I pushed hard on the affirmation, and she asked a supervisor three times before I relented. Apparently Visa Signature couldn’t do quite anything, but I have to admit she did eventually come through on her promise, sending me this via e-mail:

Visa Signature Concierge

Dear John Hargrave,

Thank you for using Visa Signature® Concierge. The information you

requested is provided below.

Motivational Message Service

Please Note: Please find below one option for a company that

is able to provide phone, texts, and emails reminding you of “what a good

person you are.”

Company: MedVoice Inc.
Contact: Renee Dotson
Phone: 800/720-1151
Cost: $89.25 per month for unlimited messages.

I decided to let Visa have this round, since they did technically satisfy my request, which was to find someone who could send me love notes. But now it was time for a real challenge.

I had applied for a Visa Chase Freedom card, just so I could test if their concierge service would fulfill my every desire. So far they had done an amazing job, but now I was about to cross the final frontier.


TEST #4: SPACE TRAVEL

“I’d like to book a trip to space,” I said.

There was a pause. “You want us to send you to space,” said Courtney, my new concierge/slave.

“That’s right.”


Cost: $200,000, plus a $15 fee for extra bags.

“Well, I have heard there are companies who can send you to space.”

“Money is no object,” I said, “but I am on a budget.”

“So you want details on pricing?”

“Pricing, the waitlist, when I could travel, everything,” I said. “Also, medical restrictions. I have a weak spleen.”

“I guess you don’t need restaurant recommendations to go with that trip,” she cracked. Humor! I fell in love with the Visa Signature concierge service at that moment.

“That’s a great point!” I said. “What do they serve on these flights? I want to know what I’m going to get to eat in space.”

“Probably that astronaut ice cream,” she said.

“YES! Tang!”

“We’ll get this for you by 2:00 pm tomorrow,” she said.

Their time quotes vary, depending on how difficult they think the request will be, and probably how many wage slaves are available to look up your request in the Philippines. But my requests were generally answered in less than 24 hours.


Possibly the coolest name of any company, ever.

The next afternoon, I got my response via e-mail, outlining not one but TWO space travel companies (Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures), with medical restrictions (none that they could find), and meal options (peanuts or pretzels).

Another test passed. There was only one more thing to find out: could the Visa Signature concierge service investigate themselves?

TEST #5: WRITING THIS ARTICLE

“I’m a writer on deadline,” I told Bruce, my new concierge/manservant, “and I need to find out a little more about this Visa Signature concierge service. Are you familiar with this service?”

“I’ve heard of it, yes,” he said.

“Here’s what I need to know: is there anything you won’t do? Like, I assume you won’t help me find a contract killer, or overthrow a government. But what else? Where do you guys draw the line?”

There was a long pause. “May I place you on hold while I check on this for you?”

“You betcha.”

He came back a few minutes later, sounding a little bit shaken. “Okay, we can get you a list like that, but we’ll need about three days to put that together.”

“Oooh. That’s not going to work. I need to deliver this article tomorrow.”

“That’s the best we can do, sir.”

“That’s weird,” I said. “You shouldn’t have to research this one at all. Can’t you just read it from your training manual or something?”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“But my deadline really is tomorrow. I can’t finish the piece without it. I’m going to have to say Visa Signature concierge service couldn’t deliver the final thing I asked for.”

“We can deliver it,” he repeated patiently, “just not until Monday.”

“But the readers will never find out the answer,” I pressed.

“I apologize to your readers.” Bruce was polite to the end.

“All right,” I said. “They forgive you. Monday it is, then.”

All in all, I was incredibly impressed with the Visa Signature concierge service. It costs nothing beyond the annual card fee, and it’s helpful for so many occasions. There’s almost no limit to the things the concierges can do for you, except for… well, you know. Help you finish the end of your article.

Some things I guess you just have to do yourself.

(This post originally appeared on Credit Card Chaser)

Afterword from Tim: In the comments, several concierge service providers were kind enough to provide their thoughts, and one was kind enough to list some of the cannot-do’s. Here are a few:

1. We cannot get you an interview to work for a sports team.
2. We do not have special access to confidential government reports.
3. We do not have discounts for venues, restaurants, or services not included on the website http://www.visa.com/signature.
4. If a hotel is completely sold out and booked, we cannot reserve a room there; however we’d be glad to check other hotels nearby.
5. We cannot research your school paper, or do your job for you.
6. We can’t run personal errands or call your friends for you.
7. We can’t plan your wedding, but we can help you find a wedding planner.
8. As far as what’s considered unethical behavior, consider this an example: If child prostitution is legal somewhere, we won’t help you find one; however if you’re in Nevada and want to make an appointment for a rendezvous at the Bunny Ranch, we’d be glad to help you check rates and availability.
9. We don’t have access to your credit card account information or rewards program.

Please keep these not-so-unreasonable limitations in mind when you give us a call. We’ll hear from you soon.

Elsewhere on the Web – Odds and Ends:
Tim Ferriss on Angel Investing (video) – TechCrunch
How I answer the question “How should I monetize my blog?” (3-minute video)

Posted on: May 1, 2010.

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308 comments on “How to Make Visa Obey Your Every Desire: The Credit Card Concierge Experiment

    • Great post- I have been using my AMEX concierge like a VA on and off for the better part of three years now. They are wonderful- I am in Dallas, found out my girlfriend was having dinner w/a friend at a restaurant in Boston (1 hours notice) and wanted to send her flowers. (just to be a nice guy…)

      Called AMEX and they found a florist and had an arrangement (with lavander flowers, her favorite color) sent to the restaurant (by foot because of the short notice!) on her table waiting, total cost 40$. They made magic happen!

      Thanks-that earned me some big brownie points!

      Like

  1. I love this! I have this service with my card, but I’ve been too tentative to actually use it. I think I’ll see what kind of concert tickets they can come up with! Thanks Tim.

    Like

  2. uno what Erica? i was actually thinking that they would have had the nachos delivered….slightly below my expectation :)

    Like

  3. I called VISA concierge once and asked them to research the 10 best game fish in the world and where I could catch them. I had no reason to do this. I just felt like knowing. Here’s their response, which was amazing.

    Dear Brennan,

    Thank you for using the Visa Infinite Concierge Service. It has been our pleasure to handle your request. For your convenience, please find below specific information researched on your behalf.

    Game Fish and Ranges

    Please find below a list of the most-sought-after game fish with a description of the range for each. In order to research companies that offer fishing outings to target these species, we would need to know what your departure port would be, and which species you would prefer to target, and approximately when you planned on fishing.

    Atlantic Sail Fish – Located in southeastern coastal United States such as South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana; and into the Caribbean Sea. Atlantic Sail Fish is a popular game fish off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.

    Indo-Pacific Sail Fish – Located in the tropics and sub-tropical zones of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, they are popularly fished off of the West Coast of Central America.

    Sword Fish – Are a widespread game fish, found from the North Atlantic during the summer and fall, and more abundant near Florida in winter and spring. They are also located along most of the western coast of North and South America, as a particularly popular game fish off the coast of California.

    Blue Fin Tuna – Commonly fished in the Northern Atlantic Ocean off of the East Coast of the United States and Canada in summer, they are also found in Mediterranean.

    Marlin – Marlin fishing is considered by many game fishermen to be the pinnacle of offshore game fishing. Blue Marlin are found worldwide, but are most commonly fished off of the Eastern coast of the United States from Cape Cod in the summer south through the Caribbean. They are found as far south as Brazil. White Marlin are located only in the Atlantic Ocean, and are the smallest of the marlin species. They are renowned for their speed, leaping ability, their elegant beauty and the difficulty that anglers often encounter in baiting and hooking them.

    Mako Sharks – Are a popular sport fish off of the coast of Southern California. Their meat is considered the best table fare from the different shark species.

    Tarpon – Are a medium sized salt-water fish that lives in shallow coastal waters. They are most abundant in the Florida Keys, and are enjoyed by anglers as they can be caught on light tackle and even fly-lines, making for a fun fight.

    Hammerhead Shark – Are not commonly targeted specifically, but are often caught while fishing for other game-fish in the shallow coastal waters of Florida and the Caribbean Islands.

    Chinook Salmon, also known as King Salmon – Are found in the tidal waters and inland rivers of the North Pacific from San Francisco Bay in California to north of the Bering Strait in Alaska, as well as in the arctic waters of Canada and Russia.

    Northern Pike – Are a freshwater fish that lives in the lakes and rivers of the northern United States and most of Canada, particularly Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec (pike are rare in British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick). The Great Lakes are a prime spot for Northern Pike fishing.

    If you would like for us to make a reservation on your behalf, or if we can be of further assistance, please call us toll free at 888-853-4458. If you are calling from outside the United States, please call collect at 804-281-5751. If you prefer to send an email, we accept emails at visainfiniteconcierge@mondialusa.com. Visa Infinite Concierge is available to assist you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    Thank you for using the Visa Infinite Concierge Service.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Bunting

    Visa Infinite Concierge Service

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are some great tests. I would have died laughing with most these conversations. I love the “Chase Freedom”. What a clever way to phrase it. Lifestyle design being pushed by corporate now is a cool thing.

    Like

  5. Well that was amusing. Unfortunately I don’t think Australia has as good as a selection of credit cards because when I looked a few months back I couldn’t find any with these types of features unless you’re a huge spender. Probably a good thing though, I’d have too much fun with this.

    Like

  6. Hi Tim, great post again!
    Brief comment not related to this post:

    I missed your contest a few months ago but did want to tell you reading the 4HWW has changed my life. Since reading it, I’ve taken 6 months off work to spend time with my newborn at that time. I also took on snowboarding and I’ve writen a book on the environment called 144 ways to reduce your organization’s ecological footprint.

    I was on a path to a typical engineering career, now there are tons of things I want to do and very few are engineering related…I have no clue where I will be in 5 years from now and I love it that way!

    thanks Tim!

    Like

  7. Hi John.

    This is an interesting tale of what you can do with that service. I did not really think about the items like this that exist out there. It is sort of like Yahoo! Answers, except that a satisfying answer is much more likely with this service.

    It is also pretty entertaining that they would help this much. It seems like a cool service that is probably underused(maybe slightly more used after this article).

    I think many of us are thinking of using the service or a similar one at some later point after seeing the things you tried.

    Like

  8. Fairly unimpressive. All 5 test of this experiment only tested one thing: Can Chase’s concierge service use Google to find information?

    Why not have them do something silly/crazy like have a pizza delivered to a random part of your house every day for a week? Or make them call and record a prank call to AMEX for you to listen to? Or bid on 100 random eBay auctions that’s less than $1/free shipping?

    #3 could have been fun, but they clearly failed on it. Further experimenting is in order I say.

    Like

  9. I’ve used VISA’s services before for booking flights and it was excellent. I did days of research for the cheapest flights from Winnipeg Canada to New York and they beat everything I found. They also convert your points to cash to go towards the ticket if you like.

    I will definitely look into this card.

    Hows the deadlifts comin’ Tim? POUND IT

    Like

  10. Credit card companies often offer a range of services on top of the card service. I have always been sceptical of them, but I guess this really proves that it’s worth investigating those extra freebies such as travel insurance!

    Like

  11. Haha interesting coincidence, I just got my new Visa card in the mail today. I’ll definitely be trying this out. I also just opened a Schwab High Yield Checking Account, perhaps the most beautiful checking account ever to exist (no affiliation, but I just about fell out of my chair when I found it). No annual fees/minimums, .5% interest rate (yes, on checking), free checks, refunds on all ATM fees anywhere in the world, warranty extension, the list goes on. They’ll even refund you the difference if you buy a product and find it for a lower price elsewhere within 90 days (up to $200/item, $1000/year). Again, this is a free checking account; how ridiculous is that?

    Anyway, card benefits are incredibly underutilized, especially be young people like me who are never taught about this kind of thing. Thanks for the great post.

    Like

  12. Interesting idea but this is just information that you can find yourself on the internet. Now, if they actually delivered the cheese to you, that would be a great service!

    Like

  13. Brilliant … bumped into you yesterday via a mashable article which is best summed up as don’t let the b’tards grind you down!

    You’re probably already aware but if you want inspiring check out notes from the universe by mike dooley … tut … they always make me smile

    tune me into your newsletter if you have one … i’ll be back !

    Like

  14. This is better than google’s questions and answers service. By the way, what ever happened to that service? – Where you pay a certain amount of money to get an expert to answer whatever crazy question is out there?

    Like

  15. This looks really fun, but do they charge you extra just for using the service? Seems like there would be a whole lot of prank calling going on.

    Like

  16. Thanks for putting this up Tim.

    I don’t have a credit card personally. At the end of the day the concierge service is definitely just another way to entice a lot of people to consume… although there are some potential benefits from it if used wisely.

    Thanks John for writing it, keep up the great work :)

    Like

  17. That is just awesome. I am going to research where I can get a cheap VA, cause we don’t have these cards here in the Netherlands.

    I’m not sure where to go on holiday with my girlfriend, think they can make a pretty cool list!

    Wonder if it is possible to do this on a low budget, as I am still a student. Anybody can ask their VA about it?

    Like

  18. While the weird stuff is entertaining, I wonder how much depth they will tolerate for more normal stuff. Detailed job searches? Find me some php code to automate a particular task?

    I have a feeling that they’re about to get an influx of users that they may not be able to handle.

    Like

  19. sigh:

    We’re happy to help you with your online credit card application. This chat may be monitored or recorded to ensure quality service. Your security and privacy are important to us. To help ensure you remain protected, please don’t share any sensitive information such as your Social Security Number or account number(s) during chat session.

    Angela is assisting another customer. Please wait while we connect you with the next available Chase Credit Card Specialist.

    You are now chatting with ‘Gloria’

    Gloria: Hi, thank you for visiting the Chase website to apply for a credit card! My name is Gloria. How may I help you today?
    You: hi, i read about the chase freedom
    You: card
    You: via tim ferriss
    You: is the concierge service free?
    You: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/05/01/credit-card-concierge/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+timferriss+(The+Blog+of+Author+Tim+Ferriss)&utm_content=Google+Reader
    Gloria: Great question. Give a moment to see if any information is available.
    Gloria: It is available on the Sapphire card. I am not able to see any information on the Freedom card.
    You: ?
    You: so how did tim get the service?
    Gloria: I honestly don’t know.
    Gloria: Do you have the Freedom card?
    You: no
    You: please take a look at the article to see if that might help
    Gloria: There is Travel Assistance Service.
    You: i dont think that’s it.
    You: he explicitly says “Visa Chase Freedom concierge service”
    Gloria: I don’t see concierge service.
    You: “I recently signed up for The Visa Chase Freedom card, for one reason: it has a concierge service.”
    Gloria: Then the service is being offer through VISA
    Gloria: Visa is providing the service.
    Gloria: Hello?
    You: so where
    You: do i get the card
    Gloria: Currently on our website the Chase Freedom card that is offered is a MasterCard. Upon approval of the card, you can request that it be traded to a Visa.
    You: any easier way?
    Gloria: Unfortunately, no.
    You: wow
    You: i was all excited to get one of these
    You: and now, it sounds like a pain to get one
    You: thx anyways
    Gloria: I am sorry about that.
    You: goodbye
    Gloria: Have a great day.
    Thank you for chatting with us. Please click the “Close” button on the top right of the chat window to tell us how we did today.

    Like

  20. I first experience the Concierge Service of my Amex Centurion Card in 1999, after unfortunately totaling my vehicle on (wait for it) a kangaroo, in the middle of the Australian Outback.

    They arranged pick up, replacement vehicle and liaised with the insurers etc. Very impressed and they didn’t seem fazed in the slightest by the obscure nature of my call at 4am.

    Skippy regrettably did not make it……

    Like

  21. That was hilarious!

    And VERY cool on AmEx Platinum. I have a Platinum card but had no idea that you could use them for those kinds of services. I’ve mainly used it for the travel benefits (international flight stuff, airport lounges).

    I’m going to investigate this immediately.

    And if that’s the case, you don’t even need to use the FancyHands you tweeted about, eh? Unless you want someone to call for you, I guess. :)

    Like

  22. I was thinking kind of the same thing that a lot of you were saying here…that many of the tasks were maybe to easy to find. But still how many credit card companies do you that do at least that for you, besides taking 20% interest rates on your money?

    So if they are willing to do some google searching for you when you feel like having some fun with them, don’t hate them! (I don’t work for any credit card companies and I am not trying to defend them, I am just saying “hey” who couldn’t use them if you needed them)

    Like

  23. Great! I hate to apply for new credit cards (it lowers your credit score for some time!). But after reading this post I realized that my wife and I don’t have the visa signature credit card. So, I decided to make an exception and apply for one through Chase. I just love these ideas on how to outsource my life! Thanks!

    Like

    • For anyone who reads this comment… applying for a credit card only lowers your score by a couple of points. my wife tracked her credit scores before and after she applied for a cc and I think it dropped 2 points on 2 of the credit companies, and 3 points on the 3rd. The better reason to not apply for a credit card is if you are planning on opening a big line of credit soon, like a mortgage or a car loan.

      Like

  24. Any idea if you can use this concierge service (or Amex Platinum Concierge) to prepare a suggested itinerary when vacationing?

    I’m heading out to SFO / Sonoma County this week and this could really save me a lot of time on Yelp!.

    Like

  25. Really fun post. Testing the limits of outsourcing (especially free outsourcing) is a ton of fun. AJ Combs has some of the beststories of that stuff as you guys know. It’s easy to forget that the Visa guys will do almost anything you don’t feel like doing but needs to be done. Or my favorite is the stuff people say is impossible. I’m flying home from Omhah today for the Berkshire Hathaway meeting. Last year I was told every hotel was booked and after trying 5 places and an hour of frustration, I called Visa and by 2pm the next day they had three great options…and the meeting was amazing. It’s the little pain in the ass things that you don’t even think of that can be the nicest to outsource. Thanks for the refresher!

    Scott

    Like

  26. Wow that is literally amazing. Im gona sign up for 1 of these Concierge Service Cards.

    I’ll get my current Virtual Assistant to do it ;)

    Great article as usually Tim

    Like

  27. Tim

    I think you can push the envelope next time. What about asking if they can find a date for say an older person you know?Or can they have someone come over and scratch you pets belly for you. The envelope can only grow.

    Have to look and see it they offer this in Canada.
    Thanks
    Kurzon

    Like

  28. Hahahaha… this is what Fancy Hands got back to me with:

    Here are 15 ideas:

    -You need a cake baked/frosted in the form of Obama.

    -You need a private human cannonball show for a birthday party.

    -You want to know the benefits of having a platinum Discover card. (My personal favorite ;))

    -You need to find a first person shooter computer game involving aliens and whiskey.

    -You need a top 5 or 10 list on the ultimate meaning of life.

    -I am stumped on a physics solution to the twin paradox.

    -You need a purple come-over wig.

    -You want to find a company that will let your pet go skydiving with you. Later today.

    -It’s 3AM, you just woke up with a crazy dream. You need to find a dream translator. Pronto.

    -You need a fan the size of a car.

    -You want to find a service where you can ride in a submarine. With windows if possible.

    -You are going to be King Arthur at a costume party. You need the closest thing to Excalibur.

    -You need to find the breakfast cereal with the highest amount of nutrition.

    -You want to find a Patrick Stewart signed poster.

    -You want to find out where to purchase a gigantic GMO fruit or vegetable.

    Like

  29. @Max: It’s a Visa Signature service. So any Visa Signature card will have it.

    I use the Schwab Visa signature card. Gives 2% cash back on everything directly into your Schwab brokerage account (which you can then easily transfer to any other bank account.) No foreign transaction fees (which is HUGE if you travel a lot!)

    I have the Chase Freedom Visa signature card too, but don’t use it any more because the Schwab card offers a far better deal.

    -Erica

    Like

  30. If everyone decides to prank the company and see how many hoops you can make the concierge jump through, the service will end up being discontinued. It’s also a kind of small and disrespectful wat to have fun at someone else’s expense and time. I found the 4HWW to be a very useful book and the follow-up postings were great, but Tim, I’ve recently found your posts to be unfocused, unhelpful and not such a great use of my time……and wasting time is not the goal of your book. May I suggest you reread some of your recent posts and think this through. I’d like to start getting useful information again.

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  31. Just a quick note to all who think this is bad behavior.

    I agree that doing this continually could be, not to mention a waste of your own time, but…

    I think the purpose of life is to enjoy it. The concierge people are getting paid, and I’m sure those tasks are more interesting and amusing than most, so who’s hurt here?

    I don’t think there are any victims as long as you’re not rude about things. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

    Tim

    Like

    • Dear Tim,

      I admired your book. However, I really don’t like the idea of fooling the concierge around. If it was just a test run, it’s fine. They are trying to help you and there have been incidents about people calling the concierge for help during disaster like Hurricane Katrina and recent earthquake in Japan. If you were the one stuck in the wreckage and had to wait on the line just to reach the concierge after a long prank? Some people are oversea or do not know the emergency number. They called the concierge and of course they try their best to help. Seriously, it’s not funny to prank them.

      Like

  32. I am AMAZED by this article…. Social Media is enabling the power back to the people…. If you are not in the customer service business, you going to be out of business in the not to distant future…

    I will pay ALOT more to receive better service, from happy people… Life is too short!

    I can not get over this article…. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Brian0

    Like

  33. Just sent out 8 requests via email through their website.

    I clicked the email us link, highlighted the “I need help” tab and asked away.
    Looking forward to seeing the results. I like the email feature because I can be very
    detailed and thorough which I feel will bring back more accurate results. At the same time, I left a few questions open-ended to see how creative they can be.

    I would imagine having it written down is a lot easier for the assistants to refer to as well. Also, it took me so little time to type in a question that it seemed like the efficient way to go.

    Any thoughts on this Tim.

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  34. Tim,

    A great piece of humor but even more helpful. We are traveling right now for 3 years, and a good concierge is vital.

    My husband is a serial surfer…I wonder if we can call and ask for the best surf spots?

    Thanks for your inspiration. Rhonda Swan ~UnstoppableFamily

    Like

  35. Hey Michael, the blog is called “Experiments in Lifestyle Design”…not “Blog for Michael”…go troll somewhere else.

    Like

  36. So is there a direct way to sign up for this card? The only option seems to be sign up for the mastercard version and try and hope you can be traded to visa and then get into the visa signature service.

    Like

  37. Here’s an update on my requests:

    All of my requests were answered and in my inbox within 2 hours.

    I’ve found that their online answers are not that personable and usually just involve links to websites they found through research. However, the information was pretty accurate and it was nice to see a second opinion.

    The tickets I asked for were really expensive, more than usual. Then again, that’s why they are able to offer this service for free. I am going to focus on the phone service next and hopefully get even more out of that.

    Thanks for the article Tim.

    Like

  38. Wow Tim. One more home run on improving our lifestyle with useful, efficient, and cost effective time savers. Currently in Chicago for a conference and spent an hour last week looking for modern yoga studios with massage in downtown.

    The concierge service took 3 min of my time and with the exact same result.

    There is an added benefit to these services as they have access to the credit card that provides you that benefit so that they can not only find the place but make the transaction happen as well.

    Flowers to Mom? $35? Charged to the card? 3 min the first time, less the second.

    Lifestyle improving by the minute… Thank you, Kent

    Like

  39. I’ve had the Amex black card for years. It’s travel and concierge services are second-to-none IMO, and they’ve saved my life while traveling (kinda sorta) many times. There’s basically nothing they won’t do if it’s legal, including getting you a table at an otherwise fully booked restaurant (and have the chef come out for a personal visit), a room at a booked hotel, great last-minute seats at concerts/events, and so on. The card fee is $3000 a year–well worth the personal service they deliver.

    It’s great to see other cards delivering similar services.

    Like

  40. Hmm, reminds me of the tips Ramit Sethi talks about in his book about credit cards (and the companies).

    Great post, sounds like on of those articles written in a GQ magazine, etc., aka a very well written article.

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  41. Very funny and this made my day. It usually takes a lot of time to get any service from credit card providers. I wonder if you can ring the concierge and ask them to check on your balance, card expiry, unauthorised use etc.

    Like

  42. Scott Miller …while AMEX Black may be pretty awesome, $250/mo. for card services is a little outta my price range. I guess if it’s a business expense, it could possible by justified. I’d need to see a cost/benefit ratio breakout. : )

    Like

  43. Tim,
    anyone without a credit card should be able to get most of what you obtained by simply calling their friendly public librarian. at no cost.

    Like

  44. So this is why I couldn’t get through,
    and why card providers are so expensive?

    You tied up lucid support reps who could have actually
    been helping people?

    Are you an only child?

    Like

  45. That’s absolutely hilarious!! There is no way you were the only one messing around with them too, seeing how far they would go for you. After this blog post gets read by TONS of people, I’m sure the number of Concierge experiments will increase.

    Will be interesting to hear what happens!

    Like

  46. That is the most halarious article from you that I know. The only critique that I can think of is the missing audio from you calls.

    As a follow up, you should ask your readers for their most challaging concierge service questions. I know its quit a hassle to go to all the answers, but I am sure VISA is going to help you out.

    Like

  47. This service seems unique, but I think it could violate one of the major concepts (at least in my mind) of the 4hww/lifestyle design: Eliminating distractions.

    It seems like many of the situations that this service was used for in the article, could probably be discovered online in 20-40 seconds. Where as using this service you have to call the number, probably enter in a code to ensure you are visa card holder, explain what information you are requesting, and make sure they understand it. Not to mention anytime spent on hold.

    Plus, when they do respond and call you back at 2pm the next day, it could distract you from an important task you are working on, thus breaking a rule of the 4hww.

    Although this service does Automate to some extent, I think the distraction and time it takes away from other tasks probably isn’t worth it.

    I’d be interested to see if this can be used for any services that would be more useful to a 4hww-er, like booking a flight, finding the best local restuarant if your in a foreign country, places to get spanish lessons, etc.

    Like

  48. Well what do you know, after reading this I looked closely at my AirTran VISA and it is a VISA Signature card, so I am already in! I too was unaware of this perk.

    Far from being “bad behavior,” I think John Hargrave’s article serves a serious purpose: Just how courteous and helpful is the VISA Signature Concierge (VSC) team willing to be? Quite a LOT, as he has reported. Also as a dry run, VSC’s fine reply to Brennan’s question about game fishing is an excellent testimonial to the quality of VSC’s research and work. Excellent tests of the system. Conclusion: Clearly VSC is serious about this service and its quality.

    With that established, I wouldn’t bog them down with a bunch of requests I have no interest in just as a goof. Kudos to Kent for sharing some “real” uses and success with this service. I’d like to read some more “real” uses of the service.

    John Hargrave (and Tim), thanks again for this post.

    Like

  49. Thanks to all who enjoyed the article (and to Tim for reposting it!) To follow up:

    1) I have since learned that it is the Chase Freedom SIGNATURE Visa Card that has the concierge service. Apparently there are other Chase Freedom cards that do not have the service. So ask for the Signature.

    2) I did eventually get a call back from a nervous Visa PR person about what they WON’T allow. She said that their concierges can’t do anything “illegal or unethical.” I asked who defines unethical, and she said if the concierge felt uncomfortable doing it, they’d pass it to a supervisor, who would make the final determination.

    So I guess the moral is, if you want Visa to help you smuggle Cuban cigars into the U.S., try to find the most unethical concierge you can!

    Like

  50. Nooooooooooooo! i want to know whats on the list!!
    please post it, i know you have it.

    one of the best articles i’ve read in a long time. thank you.
    J

    Like

  51. This is great! After 15 years in IT, I’m likely to go back to university and need a part-time job. Maybe I can become one of their concierges! It sounds totally entertaining.

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  52. I love this. I’ve had the card for ages but never really pushed the boundaries in terms of requests – actually, I never made any! I’ve now used the visa concierge service three times this week in relation to some travel arrangements and impressed each time with the responses. Now for the Nacho cheese…

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  53. Speaking as a person who provides the concierge service to Visa cardholders – I am glad you enjoy the service. Thank you for keeping us employed and there are limits to what we can do … so we don’t “obey” your every command. Lastly, we can find hard to find items but it does not mean you will not have to PAY for them.

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  54. I’m not really that impressed with this… Like other people have said, that’s all information you could most likely find online. I’ve read way funnier articles about similar subjects, this just didn’t make me laugh at all.

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  55. I’ve been reading Prank the Monkey material for years….Did he not tell us that he had NOT been knighted, but rather actually changed his name to “Sir?”

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  56. Tim, I like your book and almost every of your post. But this one: Sorry mate,this article is useless. Puzzle solver ??? As I said, nobody needs it, waste of time. I am pretty sure, your next post will be interesting again.
    Regards from Germany,
    Markus

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  57. Is there a follow up to this story? I mean what did they say the following Monday? It’s a great article and I’m looking forward to getting my Visa Chase card but you kinda stopped short….Please….I would like to know how it ends…

    Like