Opening Remarks – May, 20 2005

Opening Remarks – May, 20 2005

What Was I Thinking?

Well, the truth seems to be that I wasn’t thinking. In the last issue of this magazine, I got so carried away with talking about the Freddies that I forgot to comment on what arguably is one of the single most important dates in our lives-the birth of mileage-based frequent flyer programs. That event is celebrated annually on May 1, and I did not mention anywhere that our prizes for loyalty are now 24 years of age. Am I the only one that cares? Hardly, but I guess I need to do a better job of calling this point in history to everyone’s attention each and every year. So, a happy belated birthday to frequent flyer programs.

Now that the Freddies are over, I came to work the other day with the intention of catching up on a growing mountain of work and no sooner had I started to cull through the stacks of mail then I soon got sidetracked and spent the rest of the morning playing the James Thurber character, Walter Mitty, a daydreamer who liked to imagine himself as a hero experiencing great adventures. And like Mitty himself, I have to admit that being a daydreamer in real life isn’t that easy.

In my case, it wasn’t about being a hero; rather it was about being behind the wheel of a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT. The GT is a totally new car based on Porsche racing design. As such, it carries all the familiar hallmarks of Porsche and their passion for performance. From a standing start, it reaches 124 mph in just 9.9 seconds and has a top speed of 205 mph. And at a list price of $440,000, it’s not for everyone. (OK, let me interupt my daydream to assure you that I don’t make the kind of money it would take to afford one of these cars.) But this car is listed as a personalized reward in the new Diners Club 2005 Club Rewards Catalog that just landed on my desk. Described as a “road-going supercar built for uncomprising performance and unlimited driving pleasure,” it was one of the few items in the catalog that did not have a point price (if you have to ask the price … you probably can’t afford it). But I was not going to be deterred from my Walter Mitty dream of flying though the mountain passes of Colorado in this highway version of the ultimate elite level.

So, I called up the Club Rewards service center and engaged in an animated conversation with a represenative on how many Club Rewards points it would take me to realize my new daydream. I would have to first select the car and whatever available accessories I would like-I chose the Basalt Black metallic exterior paint job, feeling that the Fayence Yellow was a little to show-off, and that there are too many Guards-Red painted cars on the road today. The Basalt Black paint job added a sense of stealth to my daydream, and who knows might be starring in the next Triple XXX Bond-type movie.

So after I wrangled with the final version of my daydream car, I awakened to reality when told that I would need roughly 45 million Club Rewards points to assume my Walter Mitty role in reality. I then fessed up that I did not have nearly that many points, and wondered if there were any plans to add every partner that program has to their Miles-To-Points program. Sadly, there were no plans for that, and I’m stuck in neutral knowing that while awards like this are truly the eye candy of the world of miles and points, at least I had a few moments of living the life of Walter Mitty.

Later, I did manage to get a Club Rewards executive on the phone, and while I did mention in passing the V10 605 hp Carrera featured in the new catalog, I found out about some equally engaging stories of redemption from their personalized rewards, which often exceed one million points (as in spending more than one million dollars with this particular card). Among them are: purchase of new home appliances-3.1 million points; a very long stay at the Westin Europa & Regina Hotel, Venice-2.4 million points; new furniture for a home-2.3 million points; an over-the-top exotic Tahiti Vacation-2.1 million points; building supplies for a new home-2.0 million points; a Canyon Ranch Spa Vacation-1.9 million points; a downpayment for new car-1.7 million points; and a high-end plasma HDTV-1.1 million points.

It’s easy to see how all these recent redemptions made members of that program happy (and likely to have been among those that voted this credit card to its eighth straight Freddie Award), but for this potential Porsche owner … the daydream lives on.

In closing, please read InsideEdition and our comments on the likely outcome of the current America West/US Airways talks, the challenges and advice for United Mileage Plus and Delta SkyMiles members and even a comment or two about Wyndham Hotels and why we think they may become the very next hotel chain to be acquired.

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