A column about Amex touts

There should be a special circle of hell reserved for the guys who flog American Express credit cards. They are without doubt the most infuriating people working in Australia today, with the exception of everyone involved with Australian Idol.

We’ve all seen them at shopping centres and airports, all had our personal space invaded by them because they were positioned right where we couldn’t help but walk past them, and all been aggravated by their in-your-face, hyperaggressive sales pitch. Honestly, they make Big Kev look restrained.

I’m even starting to see them in my nightmares. There I am, having an ordinary, everyday traumatic dream – you know, one of those ones where all of your teeth fall out, or you have to give a speech in public and realise halfway through that you’re naked – and then suddenly a 20-year-old spiv in a flashy, cheap suit pops up to try and force me into signing my life away. I’m scared to go to sleep.

They simply will not take no for an answer. I was accosted by a smooth young AmEx dude with far too much product in his hair at a shopping mall last weekend, and tried to fend him off by saying “No, I don’t want a credit card.” Which you’d think would settle the matter, really.

But he was far too well-trained for that. He said “No no, come over here.” I demurred, saying I had too many already. He replied, reassuringly, “No, it’s ok, just come here and I’ll show you something.” Honestly, the guy would’ve been a huge success as a flasher.

Of course I was curious about what someone so blatantly flogging American Express credit cards could possibly show me that wasn’t an American Express credit card. So, fool that I am, I walked over to his stand. He immediately pulled out a picture of three American Express credit cards, and said “Which of these credit cards do you have?” I turned away in disgust, saying I was in a hurry, and he followed me. Eventually I had to lie by saying I’d already applied and been knocked back just to escape what had become a textbook hostage situation.

I hate having to lie to a high-pressure salesman. It makes you feel dirty, like you’re the one doing something wrong. When they’re the ones trying to bully you into signing a Faustian pact to fork over massive interest payments until the difficulty of paying your bills drives you into an early grave.

Boy, I’d love to see some of those guys at the pub after work trying to pick up women. I probably should’ve just taken a leaf out of the female playbook and slapped the guy.Memo to all AmEx reps: ‘No’ means ‘no’. Next time I go to a Westfield, I’m packing mace.

AmEx aren’t the only ones. Every November my letterbox is inundated with credit card deals I’ve been “pre-approved” for. So far I’ve received offers from HSBC, ANZ, Westpac and Citibank (twice). And of course my old pals at AmEx, just in case I’d been so traumatised by the shopping centre dude that I’d been lying under my bed, refusing to talk to anyone.

Presumably all these “pre-approved special offers” are supposed to make me feel all special inside, like I’m a high-roller or something. But actually they’re just incredibly creepy, because somehow lots of banks know my name and where I live. Although thankfully there are obvious limits to the violation of my privacy. They clearly haven’t been able to pry into my actual finances, or there’s absolutely no way they’d be offering me more credit cards.

But this Christmas, I’m getting smart. I’m going to cleverly avoid all of these credit card debt traps, and do things the old-fashioned way. I’m going to buy everyone’s Christmas presents on my David Jones charge card, using the convenient Christmas option that’s absolutely interest-free. Take that, AmEx. Well, at least, the David Jones thing is interest-free as long as you pay it off by February. after which it reverts to a very reasonable 21.9%. But I’ll definitely pay it off. I’ve promised myself. And I know I will because even if I can’t find the money, I’ll just get a cash advance on my brand new AmEx.