Having recently frequented several food establishments in northern Maine, I can attest that, as one waiter laughingly told me, “We take every card, as long as it isn’t an AmEx.”
There’s a reason why American Express isn’t accepted at most retail locations. Thomas J. Powers, Jr., a bon vivant, raconteur, journeyman credit union executive and on-again, off-again finance sector thought leader, shared this explanation: “American Express is to the credit card industry as Ronald Reagan was to the lower and middle classes. Both cater to the high-end, luxury side of the market, believing that, by incentivizing the best establishments, money will trickle down to the masses.”
Powers went on to say that, while Amex will reward the uber prestigious Four Seasons Restaurant in New York by only hitting them with a three percent surcharge on payments, they’ll absolutely decimate the ‘Walk This Way’ in Bar Harbor, Maine, slapping that eatery with a whopping seven percent surcharge on meals (prompting Walk This Way’s Tony to laugh out loud when I asked if he’d accept my AmEx).
Back in the day, American Express was THE card for retail transactions near and far. In fact, the late, fedora-clad Karl Malden immortalized the brand’s breadth and depth with the tagline, ‘American Express: don’t leave home without it.’
Now, though, American Express is the kiss of death for most fly-over, middle-of-the-road retailers (who avoid it like the plague).
In fact, one might say the X in American Express stands for AmeXecutioner of any restaurant’s profits.
Were he still alive, I’d haul out Malden’s sorry, fedora-clad ass and have him update the brand’s tagline as follows: ‘American Express. Leave the damn thing home!’
Special tip of the hat to credit guru and uber journeyman, Thomas J. Powers, Jr., for providing insight.