Taking Stock: Keeping credit cards away from kids

Dear Mr. Berko:
Last November, my 9-year-old son began receiving applications to apply for an American Express credit card. And by January, Billy had received four solicitations. I was concerned so I wrote Kenneth Chenault the CEO, requesting an explanation and assurance that this would stop, explaining that Billy was only 9 and had no assets or reportable income. He has not responded. Do you think this is a serious problem, and if so, what should I do?
C.S., Cincinnati, and 11 other readers

Dear C.S.:
You good people are just pilgrims in a parade of peons and probably not American Express (AXP-$46) card holders. So neither the Great One (Mr. Kenneth Chenault) nor his assigns are compelled to respond to your puerile demonstration of concern. And yes, I think this is a serious problem, a very serious problem.

I’ve received 12 letters from folks between Washington state and New York state wondering why AXP is soliciting their minor children with credit card applications. Then I was gobsmacked when my 12-year-old grandson began receiving applications. So I also wrote Chenault for an explanation and solution. 

However, Chenault, who prefers to sit in his ivory tower on Vesey Street far above the unclean masses below, didn’t answer me, either. But I should not have expected a response for two reasons. 

One: I was once in the same room with Chenault, and he seemed to have a perpetual look on his face as if something were burning in the kitchen. Most folks including me stayed their distance. 

Two: In mid-June of 2006, I planned to be in New York City for a week and wrote the Great One requesting an interview. He lacked the courtesy to respond. 
But I’m told that Chenault is well liked by employees underneath him, that he is elegant, charismatic, supercilious and fiercely driven. Still, those unsolicited applications portend potentially serious complications that should scare the bejabbers out of you.

Because AXP sells its “people list” to other marketing organizations, you should be concerned about their flawed database that caused them to post solicitations to your minor child. You should be concerned that these damaged data may be costly and counterproductive to Billy’s future credit when he’s ready to buy a car, purchase a home, open a bank account or apply for a Visa, MasterCard or (heaven forbid) American Express card. You must be concerned that these corrupted data may alienate him from college scholarship considerations, impair his chances of securing a desired job, preclude admission to important business and social clubs and sully his future personal reputation. The cumulative collateral damages to his lifestyle are potentially frightening and must be addressed immediately. 

Credit history, like medical records, follows you throughout your life and probably to hell and back. And negotiating the bureaucracy to correct a credit report is like trying to cure cancer. So you need to know that when AXP sells its data list, Billy may receive advertisements and phone calls from sources that could impugn his moral character (if you get my drift) and that damage is incalculable. This is scary, frightening and very serious. 

Because Chenault really doesn’t give a flying freckle, I urge you to contact your U.S. senator, your congressperson and your state attorney general immediately. AXP is clearly at fault, and this clumsy marketing could create irreversible damage.

Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com. Visit Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
© 2011 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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