Debt and Caruso

People with credit cards are probably aware, and people without credit cards might be aware, that credit card companies, in their effort to entice you to spend more money, offer “points” for every dollar you spend. These points accumulate, and eventually you can use them to partially offset the cost of new purchases. Or, if you have enough points, to offset it entirely.

I was never good at using my points. During the 1990s, I had Sprint as my phone company, and Sprint bequeathed points for usage. I had an account that allowed unlimited calls to Europe (for a higher price than the regular account) because I called Europe frequently at that time, so I started accumulating a lot of points. You could redeem a small number for useless tchotchkes, but if you held onto them, the top prize was a round-trip airplane ticket to anywhere in North/South America or Europe.

This was during the time phone companies would call and offer you money to switch to them. You might get a call from someone offering you $50 to switch your service to AT&T, and then another call offering $50 to switch back to Sprint. You would lose your points, however, by doing this. I held out all through this time, sacrificing this money because I wanted that ticket. By the time I moved in 2001, I had long since stopped making frequent calls to Europe, and I had forgotten all about my points. When I closed the account, they vanished forever.

Fast forward to the present. I was unemployed from October 2008 to July 2010. During that time, I was one of those people you may have read about who used credit cards to buy groceries. This was going along fine until one day I got a letter in the mail telling me my credit limit had been lowered to an amount that effectively prevented me from ever using the card again.

I had accumulated a lot of points by this time, and I would see them listed on the bill when it came, but I never thought about how to go about using them. Then, when I was checking on Amazon for the publication date of Palestinian Rights: Affirmation and Denial for my post on Janet Abu-Lughod, and found a copy of her book From Urban Village to East Village: The Battle for New York’s Lower East Side for a whopping $4.81, I suddenly remembered those points!

Seeing that after this purchase I would still have points left, I went back to my “shopping cart” and added the Enrico Caruso: 21 Favorite Arias CD that’s been there for over a year. So both the book and the CD were free! And guess what? When you buy a CD from Amazon, you get MP3 versions of the songs as well. Luckily for me, I paid attention to the web page I landed on after the purchase, and saw the Download button.

So here, for your listening pleasure, is “Je Crois Entendre Encore” from Georges Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles. (Unfortunately, I can’t upload MP3s, so this is the YouTube version):

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