Battle of the Credit Card Concierge Services… Finding Toilet Paper Edition

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Target toilet paper aisle April 2020
Finally! A few rolls of toilet paper
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Premium credit cards have offered concierge service as a benefit for years. Even though I have multiple cards with $400+ annual fees, I’ve never really used this benefit. With coronavirus and hoarding, finding toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and other necessities have been difficult. After reading a recent article, I was inspired to see if these credit card concierge services were actually useful in my time of need.

Credit card benefits that aren’t used very much

Most of us focus on the welcome bonus, the ability to earn rewards, and a few select benefits. One of my favorite perks is having airport lounge access.

However, many credit cards are chock full of benefits that are never used. Heck, I bet most of us couldn’t name more than five benefits for most of our cards even though we spend hundreds of dollars (or even thousands) per year paying credit card annual fees.

For example, I wrote this article about hidden benefits of the American Express Platinum Card. Read it and see just how many benefits you aren’t using from a card that costs $550 per year now.

And I questioned whether the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is worth $450? After devaluing the Admirals Club Lounge Access, the value proposition is much worse now.

What Do Credit Card Concierge Services Do?

A credit card concierge normally operates like the concierge you’ll find at a luxury hotel. They act as a personal assistant to book reservations, locate special items, and find service providers who can meet your needs. Some of the services include:

  • Dining recommendations and reservations – a concierge can often get you a reservation at a restaurant that is “full” when you call.
  • Tickets and entertainment – they’re able to find hard-to-get tickets for the hottest shows.
  • Arranging transportation – booking a taxi, shuttle, limo, or other transportation so you can focus on bigger tasks.
  • Shopping and gifts – can assist with flower deliveries, personal shopping experiences, finding the perfect gift for your loved ones or clients.
  • Travel advice and reservations – a concierge can provide travel recommendations and reservations, plus they may have access to upgrades and special amenities that you couldn’t get on your own.
  • Other services – they can handle everyday requests like finding a dry cleaner, list of child-friendly restaurants, stroller rentals, or a magician for a birthday party.

Trouble Finding Toilet Paper At Local Stores

Although we normally get toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and paper towels through Amazon, our supply is quickly dwindling as we “shelter in place” according to government mandates. It seems that everyone is hoarding supplies due to the uncertainty of the virus and the supply lines can’t keep up with demand.

We’ve been to numerous local stores over the past couple of weeks and all I could find were empty shelves.

Costco is available in some markets but won’t deliver to my home address.

Costco toilet paper for sale April 2020
Toilet paper at Costco.com

I tried the industrial supply website that I’ve used for business in the past. Uline won’t let you order toilet paper unless you’ve ordered from them in the past. Plus, they limit you to one toilet paper item with shipping costs of $15 from Georgia to Tennessee. So, that’s not too appealing even if it was an option.

Uline toilet paper for sale
Toilet paper at Uline.com

I came across this article from Finder about using your credit card concierge to locate household supplies, and I was intrigued.

Benefits of Premium Credit Cards

I wanted to put my credit card concierges to the test. Each of these credit cards has a big annual fee of $450 or more, so they need to offer appealing benefits to justify their expense.

American Express Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Platinum Card Chase Sapphire Reserve Citi AAdvantage Executive Citi Prestige
Annual Fee $450 $550 $550 $450 $495
Rewards
  • 6x Marriott hotels
  • 3x U.S. dining & airlines
  • 2x other
  • 5x flights purchased from airlines
  • 5x flights and hotels through Amex Travel
  • 1x other
  • 3x dining and travel
  • 1x other
  • 2x American Airlines
  • 1x other
  • 5x travel & dining
  • 3x hotels & cruises
  • 1x other
Major perks
  • $300 annual statement credit for Marriott charges
  • Annual free night up to 50k points
  • Bonvoy Gold status
  • TSA Precheck or Global Entry reimbursement
  • Priority Pass Select
  • $200 airline fee credits
  • $200 Uber credits
  • $100 Saks credits
  • TSA Precheck or Global Entry reimbursement
  • Global Lounge Collection
  • Bonvoy Gold
  • Hilton Gold
  • 22 airline and hotel transfer partners
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Points are worth 50% more for travel
  • 3 airline and hotel transfer partners
  • TSA Precheck or Global Entry reimbursement
  • Lyft Pink
  • DoorDash
  • Admirals Club Lounge Access
  • TSA Precheck or Global Entry reimbursement
  • First checked bag free
  • Priority boarding
  • 10k EQMs after spending $40,000
  • No fee for Authorized Users
  • Authorized Users also get
  • $250 annual travel credit
  • Complimentary 4th night free
  • Priority Pass Select
  • 15 airline and hotel transfer partners

Can Credit Card Concierge Services Help You Find Toilet Paper (and Other Supplies)?

Here is what happened when I called each of the premium credit cards I have.

American Express Bonvoy Brilliant

The Bonvoy Brilliant from American Express does not offer concierge services. For the same price tag, I might have to switch to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. It offers complimentary Hilton Diamond (vs. Marriott Gold), $500 in annual credits (vs. $300), and concierge access.

American Express Platinum Card

Although I was transferred to the Amex Platinum concierge very quickly, they were of no help. They said that they are unable to help with high-demand items like toilet paper and Clorox wipes. And they did not offer any alternatives to help me find them on my own.

Utterly disappointing for a card with the highest annual fee ($550) in the group.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase was, by far, the most helpful in my search for toilet paper and Clorox wipes. Although, the process to get to someone helpful took the longest.

The first call on Sunday was a failure. Due to coronavirus, the call center has reduced hours so it was closed when I called 2 pm on a Sunday.

When I called on Monday, the phone agent questioning me for several minutes before giving me a number (888-511-5326). This was the travel concierge, which is not what I needed, so I called the number on the back of my Chase Sapphire Reserve again.

The second person transferred me to the Visa Infinite concierge at 877-660-0905. The phone agent there listened to my request, then gave me a different number to call (312-800-4290).

Third time is the charm. I spoke with Mark, who needed to build a profile for me since it was my first time calling. After the profile was complete, he listened to my needs and was intent on helping me find some toilet paper.

Mark offered to go over suggestions on the phone, but I told him an email would be fine. Within 45 minutes, Mark had found a local store and then called me a few minutes later to be sure that I saw the email. Now that’s service! He even offered a second alternative in case the first didn’t work out. Yay for Mark for helping me find toilet paper!

Unfortunately, an email later in the afternoon informed me that he had struck out after calling 20 local stores on my behalf. On the bright side, though, he said that my local Kroger gets deliveries 3 times a week, so I should try visiting at 7 am when they open.

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

After Citi’s automated service tried getting me to use the touch-tone service, I was able to reach a live person. The phone agent was helpful and seemed hopeful that they’d be able to find something for me by Monday afternoon.

He said that he would reply by 3 pm Eastern with the results. I think a 24-hour turnaround time is very fair under these circumstances.

Citi Prestige

When I called the number on my Citi Prestige, Citibank’s phone number tried to get me to use the automated system. That wasn’t going to help, so I persisted until I reached a live person. She said that the concierge service for the AA Exec and Prestige were the same so I didn’t need to submit a duplicate request. (She was nice about it.)

I was told that most stores are not doing guaranteed inventory searches, so Citibank concierge wouldn’t be able to help much there.

She recommended that I try the following:

  • Look at online delivery sites
  • Go to local stores and ask about their stocking receipt dates. Then be there the next morning when they first open.
  • Amazon Prime, Amazon Fresh, and Amazon Now services
  • Shipt and Instacart
  • Instok.org – website that shows local store inventory

Based on the suggestions from the Citibank rep, I used the website Instok.org to search for local store inventory. Unfortunately, we got a false alarm at Walgreen’s.

Then, we took another bit of advice from the same rep. We visited our local favorite stores and asked about delivery dates. Target gets deliveries every day, so I went first thing this morning at 8 am. Sure enough, toilet paper and paper towels were there!!!

However, there were no Clorox Wipes. So the search continues.

Target toilet paper aisle Lee April 2020
Now that I found toilet paper, I can shave again!

Credit Card Concierge Results Comparison

There were mixed results across the banks I spoke with.

  • American Express was quick to get someone on the phone, but they wouldn’t search and didn’t offer any suggestions.
  • Chase took a long time to speak with someone. I was bounced around to three people before I was connected with Matt, who was very helpful. He emailed then called with the results because he knew that the items were in such high demand.
  • Citibank promised to send results within 24 hours, but I never received them. The second person I spoke with could have killed the query. But she offered valuable suggestions that helped me locate toilet paper at my nearby Target.
Credit Card Time on phone Results
American Express Bonvoy Brilliant 2 minutes
Does not offer concierge
American Express Platinum Card 5 minutes
Cannot help with high-demand items
Chase Sapphire Reserve 19 minute
Emailed and called within 1 hour with two locations for toilet paper
Citi AAdvantage Executive 7 minutes
Performed search but no response within 24 hours
Citi Prestige 10 minutes
Gave valuable suggestions for how to locate toilet paper

It is disappointing that American Express was not helpful at all. Historically, they are known for having great customer service and their lack of effort was unexpected.

I appreciate Citibank being frank with me that their search might not be fruitful. Although that would have been disappointing, I liked how the phone agent walked me through some additional options and resources that helped me locate toilet paper on my own.

Chase was the most helpful. They took their time and didn’t rush me off the phone. Not only did they email results quickly, they called to make sure that I saw the email. How awesome is that? This is the kind of service that I expect from a premium credit card to warrant its huge annual fee.

The Bald Thoughts

I’m super excited about being able to find toilet paper at my local stores. It’s amazing what the little victories can do to brighten your mood. Plus, I know this will make my wife incredibly happy. Happy wife, happy life.

What has been your most unconventional use of a credit card concierge? And what resources have you tried to find toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and other household items that are scarce right now? Let us know in the comments below.


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12 COMMENTS

  1. Fun post but obviously this isn’t a good example of the effectiveness of these programs. They really aren’t designed for a pandemic panic shortage situation. The last time I tried the concierge service on my premium cards was a couple of years ago when I tried to get tickets to the Formula 1 race in Mexico City. I thought it would be an easy win for such services as the tickets are handled by Ticketmaster but require a local person or agent to buy them and only through “will call”. I used Chase and Citi (AA Exec) both worked on this and could not make it happen. They tried hard but in the end, couldn’t get tickets to a large sporting event that wasn’t sold out. I lost a bit of faith in them after that. I figured that they would have some local contacts in various places around the world that could help but in the end they just seem like fancy internet googlers

    • Hey Dan, thanks for sharing. It was a fun experiment. I was impressed with Chase’s follow through and ability & desire to help, even if the process was cumbersome to actually speak to someone. And I appreciated Citi’s sharing of resources and strategies. Although this was an out of the ordinary request, Amex disappointed with their lack of effort.

      Like you, I’ve never used concierge services in the past. Bummer that they couldn’t help you get tickets to the race. That is frustrating since that seems like it should have been a slam dunk for them.

  2. Did you think about whether this was the right thing to do in a pandemic before you set out? Maybe the best use of time for the front line workers at grocery stores isn’t answering the phone for your fools errand. What if that one trip to the TP aisle was the one that spread covid to one more person?

    I really hope in the future you think beyond getting blog clicks, and think deeper about your potential impact on society when you’re bored.

    • Allen, I wasn’t just bored. I was legitimately looking for toilet paper for my family. Have been looking for weeks and only came across empty shelves in-store and nothing available on Amazon and other online stores. Calling ahead actually REDUCED risk and exposure because I wasn’t going store-to-store in person. Using the phone and these services is the better way to go when you can’t find it online.

    • Allen, I disagree — calling reduces shopper headcount by one person. Much better idea than going in store. What’s with the hate on someone writing about it online?

      • Thanks, Raymond. Even if 10 people called in a row, the store associate would already know that the TP was out. So it’s not like he’s running around the store searching. And, like you said, less people in the store at once is better for everyone involved.

  3. Concierge services can be super helpful. Some of my experiences with AmEx Platinum:
    -Connecting flight cancelled, stuck in Chicago during a blizzard. Concierge called the travel agents’ number with United, getting me through while my wife was still on hold with the normal number next to me. While the United rep worked United options, the concierge found other options, eventually getting us on a bus to Milwaukee where we could still catch a (delayed) flight rebooked on AA. United rep came on and wanted us to fly to Houston and wait 36 hours. After the concierge spoke for us, United paid for the AA tickets. AmEx then credited us $250 each for the delay, which covered the bus tickets and some meals. This all happened before we got to the front of the United re-booking kiosk line.
    -While making a series of narrow-body flights, my neck started hurting. I called the concierge during a layover to see if there was a decent masseuse in Rapid City, SD, with availability last-minute on a Sunday afternoon. When I landed I had an email with the top three, including a refundable reservation made for me at the first one based on my flight’s arrival time plus drive time. When I picked up my rental car, Hertz had printed turn-by-turn directions and tucked them in with the receipt at my concierge’s request.
    -I dropped in on some friends in DC who were going to a festival at Mt. Vernon an hour later, so our visit would be cut short. Tickets sold out weeks before. Concierge said that was no problem. Fun evening.

    • So many awesome examples of concierge use. I need to be better about using the concierge to try to make life easier. I’m paying these annual fees, so should be working to get my money’s worth.

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