Living with credit, Protecting yourself, Shopping

Japanese teen takes Dad’s credit card on a $54,000 bender

Jay MacDonald

Do you remember your first drink? I remember mine. I was 16. My older brother and I had been enlisted to man the punch bowls at my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I forget whose idea it was but we entered upon a sibling pact: For each glass of nonalcoholic punch I served, my brother would slip me a cup of the good stuff. As they say, hilarity ensued.

It’s an entertaining memory, sure. But not nearly the whopper that one young Japanese lad of the same age and stealth can look forward to, many cherry blossom seasons from now.

According to Japanese media, said unnamed (but by now hugely famous) 16-year old, together with a friend, absconded with his father’s American Express Platinum card one fateful eve back in 2010 and embarked upon a “Hangover”-worthy bender through the ancient and unsuspecting city of Kyoto.

Forget rum punch; these guys reportedly tore through the city’s most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs, hammering back whiskey and $3,860 bottles of sparkling wine while basking in the chaste attentions of attractive hostesses who are paid to treat all male customers like Bond, James Bond. While there was no indication that the duo paid for sex, that may have been the only thing they failed to sign for.

By the time the vapors cleared, Dad’s credit card bill itself looked as if it had been drinking — to the tune of 5.5 million yen ($54,000). That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 times what the average Japanese cardholder spends in a year.

Who’s on the hook when a minor has a major time with Dad’s card?

Last week, Kyoto District Court Presiding Judge Hashidume decided to let the Ferris Bueller wannabe off scot-free, ordered his far-from-proud papa to pay $8,000 of the bill and held the gentlemen’s club owners and American Express jointly responsible for the rest. They should have had their suspicions aroused by the large, rapid-fire charges, the judge said.

Well, scot-free may be stretching it. It’s a good bet this party animal will be mowing lawns or its remunerative equivalent for the balance of his teen years. As for AmEx, its representative had no comment pending further litigation.

The moral of this adventure is, the next time you get a yen for a drink, be sure to bring your own yen.

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