• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:40am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 4:20am

Nightmare airport ride darkens Black card reputation


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

We are still receiving complaints from holders of the American Express Centurion Card - the so-called Black card. Centurion Travel Services (CTS) appears to be a particular source of frustration.

One reader "absolutely concurs" with the problem of CTS waiting times. She writes: "Whilst one sort of puts up with it on day-to-day matters, when it comes to emergencies, it is a real problem."

She describes how she had arranged with CTS to take her family of six to the airport for a 9am flight. "The van was late as it 'got lost'. We tried to call CTS - of course we did not get an answer. Finally, the van found us and we were so late for the flight that we thought we must notify CTS so that they could call ahead to the airlines for us - or do something … We were on hold for the entire trip from our house in Clearwater Bay to the airport and never got to speak to anyone at CTS. We tried calling their concierge service, who said someone would call us back in five minutes. That call never happened. We only made our flight because it was delayed."

The cardholder also says that Amex's service has declined considerably over the years. A recent trip to Singapore was cancelled since she didn't want to expose her children to the smog and e-mailed CTS about its cancellation policy.

"Not only did they get my name wrong in their response, their response was 'CTS doesn't have a special policy for smog - so the approach you must take is to decide whether to go or not, and then read the cancellation policy on the air ticket," she writes.

"Not the kind of response you would expect for the price that they charge, or from any competent travel agency!"

Amex's response to this was: "American Express takes each and every comment from our card members seriously. We have already had conversations with this card member, and will continue to reach out to the card member to see if we can be of further assistance."


Officers' idle pursuit

We see with no little interest that in the past 17 months since the idling engine ordinance has been in effect, the Environmental Protection Department has issued no fewer than 25 fixed-penalty tickets.

Although untrained in this field, Lai See feels that it could accomplish this in one morning, let alone 17 months. But it appears that the intention of the department is not to whack engine idlers but to educate them and transition them to greener driving practices such as turning of their engines when stationary.

Thus EPD officers have, like missionaries, been stepping out into idling black spots to spread their message with kindness and leaflets. The department has also distributed leaflets and posters, staged outdoor roving exhibitions, broadcast reminders over television and radio stations, and displayed messages on parking meters, banners and bus shelters.

According to its records, it has timed 1,880 vehicles. Most drivers apparently turned off their engines within the three-minute limit but a surprisingly low number of 25 did not.

How long before the department discovers that the fastest way to "educate" drivers to turn off their engines is to fine them, and to stop this ordinance from becoming even more of a laughing stock than it already is.


Real Asian beauties

According to one investment bank, China Minsheng Bank's reverse repo rate has soared on account of its efforts to try to disguise the extent to which it is exceeding its loans-deposit ratio by the end of the quarter. Since it's been some time since we were conversant with reverse repo rates, we checked out Investopedia to bring ourselves up to speed. But we were slightly disconcerted to be greeted by a pop-up advertisement which said: "Searching for reverse repo? Meet Real Asian Beauties." Does this explain their popularity at Minsheng?


HSBC offer meets real test

Banking with HSBC does occasionally have its upside. Take the rugby tour of Australia by the British and Irish Lions. HSBC sent a note to its customers stating that as the "principal partner" on the tour, it is offering customers and a friend a complimentary brunch after each test match. To gain access you only have to present your HSBC credit or debit card. However, as one wag writes, given the problems over its ATM card and China UnionPay, the question is, "Will the card work?"


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This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
Yesterday you mentioned that the police are putting camouflaged officers in the hillside behind the Repulse Bay apartment block where a cat burglar struck over the weekend (a bigger exercise in futility, wasted tax-payers' money and stupidity I cannot imagine unless to appease "the rich" ... as if the burglar would be so stupid as as to raid the same block twice in a row) .
I think what we really need are camouflaged EPD officers on the streets , a 10 x increase in the fine for idling, and a "book them without mercy" policy.
Yes , I could catch over 25 illegal idlers in one morning with ease as a layman or if I was an EPD officer under camouflage ( I once went out one lunchtime as an exercise and caught over 30 just near my office in one hour, but strangely I could not find an EPD officer to give the report to )
oh i feel so bad for these black card users... sounds like a rough life... this is truly newsworthy... howard what is your beef with a card you can't afford?
John Adams
I suggest your reader uses the real CTS : China Travel Services.
Same service as AE black card but at much lower prices ( and they work sundays and public holidays)
Just yesterday, Howard noted how the police force quickly swung into action for the burglaries on some rich folks. Here, Howard has done something in the similar vein for privileged AmEx Black cardholders to air their complaints.
You're right.

The bit about cancelling a trip to Singapore because of the smog there and expecting a refund was a close second, but I personally liked the bit where this poor Clearwater Bay victim stayed on hold with CTS during the ride to the airport in the hope that they could 'could call ahead to the airlines for us - or do something' the most.

We are dealing with a customer who apparently has such an amount of self-centrism and such a large sense of entitlement that she expects the entire airport to get mobilised or the whole plane with all the other passengers timely inside to be kept waiting when they face traffic trouble. This is a type of customer that will never be satisfied anyway.
obviously she never heard about online checkin
"The van was late as it 'got lost'. would that be an illegal goods vehicle airport transport without insurance cover or a 7 seater Private Car also plying for hire ?


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