I received an offer in the mail to "upgrade" my plain old Chase credit card to a Chase PRESTIGE credit card. Since I am passionate about reading all
junk mail direct mail offers, I opened the envelope and read with amusement about 18 valuable benefits if only I would cough up $79 annually to a company called The Reunion Group (Read the Chase case study.) In fine print at the bottom of the "congratulations" note is a line notifying the reader that
"The Reunion Group is the exclusive provider of Chase Prestige Card Services and assumes responsibility for the provision of, or failure to provide (emphasis mine), services. Chase and The Reunion Group are not affiliated."
Nowhere in the fine print is it made clear that this is $79 annually - in additional to Chase's annual fee. (1/8/07 UPDATE: Actually, there was a buckslip that contained 6 pt. type explaining that the fee is in addtional to Chase's annual fee - but it is not on the offer letter.) JP Morgan Chase - what are you thinking? You are JP Morgan Chase. You are a brand-brand, and you have associated yourself with something seems a bit off. Let's delve shall we?
I looked carefully at the "18 valuable benefits" and laughed so hard that it elicited a scolding from my sleeping husband. Tell me which of these benefits might be worth $79 per year: (word for word from the offer document)
1. Continuing charge privileges with the immediate credit you now enjoy at all 15.9 million Visa/Mastercard merchants worldwide. [Okay, the way I read that is they are pitching the ability I currently have to charge as a benefit. Wow, and I only need pay $79 annually?] Tell me more!
9. $2,500.00 emergency cash. If you're ever caught short of cash after losing your credit cards far from home, just call toll-free to get up to $2,500.00 wired to you anywhere in the U.S. (subject to available credit). [So you're telling me I could have a cash advance based on my available credit?] Did I just lose my credit cards and managed to hold onto my identification? Ever tried to pick up a wire without identification? This does not qualify as a benefit. Call your best friend or parents instead.
10. Emergency airline tickets, too. And to get you safely home, you can get pre-paid airline tickets for you to pick up at the nearest airport. (subject to available credit) [So I could charge new airline tickets in a pinch (assuming there's space on the missing credit card) and pick them up without identification?] What year was this offer created? Have you been near an airport without identification recently? How is this a benefit?
My favorite benefit, which frankly should have been number one:
18. Pack right. When you're preparing for a trip, call our toll-free number to find out the current and forecasted weather conditions in the city/town to which you're headed, most anywhere in the world. [Hey consumer - television, radio, newspaper and weather.com too slow? Call us, we'll read the weather to you!] That's solid gold marketing baby!
In the offer they repeatedly refer to this product as an "upgrade" (their quotes not mine.) The way to indicate that you have "upgraded" your card is to place a sticker on your card that says "Prestige." Speaking just for me - I say classy!
The marketing coup de grace is the P.S. line on the letter signed T. Timothy Quinlan, Director Prestige Services.
"P.S. We estimate that at most only about 15% of our cardholders will ever carry a Chase Prestige Credit Card. We hope you'll accept our invitation to join them."
Now I'm no copywriter, but I can think of five different ways to phrase that P.S. to make it seem more like an exclusive offer. Who approved the "at most only about 15%" line?
I did a little Internet research and found a similar offer from 2004 and concerns here (the price was only $49 then) and a comment on complaints.com about the "upgrade" offer. But enough snark - my real question is: How much money could Chase received from this partnership to risk any piece of the brand?
Two final Post Scripts from me:
In the continuing "should my company start a blog" debate, check out The Reunion Group's blogger profile here. I'm out of space to discuss them being on blogger since 2005 and showing a press release from 2001.
Below is the sticker I printed for myself (at no extra charge!) and will place on my work ID, driver's license and library card. Request one in your comment.