More on the Pursuit of Unhappiness

Last year I wrote about discovering that American Airlines had a better club hidden inside the airport club which I had previously thought was the only club there was. My excitement at entry to “the next level” faded when I began to wonder “Is there a better club inside the club that is inside the club, and why haven’t they let me in?”.

There is apparently such a next next level, and Stanley Bing has summited at this “Concierge Key” status. In a lovely bit of drollery, he describes this airline rewards program for the most elite of elite American Airlines fliers. As far as he can tell, the only reason to want to get in is that it’s hard to get in:

I’d have to say that the Concierge Key Club is just a somewhat cynical trick played by American Airlines to seduce individuals who are shallow and foolish enough to be impressed by membership in a Club whose only benefit seems to be that other people don’t belong to it. Not that I want to be ejected, mind you. I mean, when you get right down to it, the fact remains that I am Concierge Key, and most of you are not. That’s something, I guess.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

9 thoughts on “More on the Pursuit of Unhappiness”

  1. This is reminiscent of the American Express “black card”. They issue it to very rich people by invitation only, and it’s a huge status symbol, but as a product, it’s insanely expensive and not remotely worth it.

  2. “a better club hidden inside the club”

    There is no level of club that you will ever know about that does not have a better club hidden inside of it.

      1. Mr. Neal, it deeply pains us to inform you that your membership to hidden club has been revoked. Please return your key, badge, and ceremonial robes by the end of the week.

    1. I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member, and would deny me access to a still more exclusive club within it.

  3. There’s apparently a level of rich frequent first-class flyer, beyond any card, where they will hold the plane for you. But for my taste, the best travel status symbol was the gold pass issued to members of the board of Indian Railways under the Raj, which entitled them to unlimited lifetime first-class travel on the 28,000 mile network.

  4. But there’s a limit to all of this, since a real nabob wouldn’t be flying on a plane with other passengers. He’d own the plane and employ its pilot.

  5. Of course that “club within a club” stuff is true as a motivator. Why do you think Scientology has multi levels that cost increasing amounts of money to get into, or there are multiple levels of Masonry, or fraternies, or Skull and Bones, or the Bohemian Grove, or Augusta National, or countless other examples?

    Exclusivity is its own reward. It’s basic human nature.

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