During the "Business Card" scene in American Psycho all three cards appear to have the same phone number.

I realize they all work in the same department and all have the same position but wouldn't this defeat the purpose of having a business card?

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If someone handed me their card, I would expect that it would contain their individual phone number, not just the number of the office / company.

  • 6
    I wouldn't expect that. Most business cards will have the number of the secretary. Direct lines are not given out for high ranking executives.
    – Chenmunka
    Dec 23, 2015 at 15:56
  • @Chenmunka But it seemed like they each had their own secretaries.. at least the one depicted was next to Bateman's office
    – Ghost Koi
    Dec 23, 2015 at 15:59
  • @GhostKoi with executives in large companies, even when you get connected to their "office" it's usually a secretary. In some large companies there isn't a way for someone outside the building to call an exec's desk, even friends and family go through the secretary. It all depends on the company culture.
    – KutuluMike
    Dec 23, 2015 at 17:08
  • @MikeEdenfield in my experience friends and family tend to have an exec's personal mobile number so its not an issue. Source: the personal mobile sat next next to my work mobile sat next to my desk phone.
    – MD-Tech
    Dec 24, 2015 at 10:15
  • 1
    That is a nice business card though, Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it.
    – SeanR
    Dec 24, 2015 at 11:25

4 Answers 4


The number on the card is almost certainly the switchboard / operator / company directory number for the company they work at. When you call that number, you are then asked where you want your call directed. (Possibly by a person, possibly by an automated number).

In some cases, business cards might also include an extension number for you to dial directly, but not always.

In this case, it's possible that the company doesn't want clients direct-dialing their executives. Perhaps the executives are out of the office a lot, or perhaps the company wants to maintain some control over who gets access the their officer-level employees (in case one leaves, or is on vacation, or whatever).

So the business cards only have enough information on them for a client to get in touch with the company's operator and tell them who they want to speak to, and the operator handles it from there.

  • 1
    This. The OP has to keep in mind that the film is set during the 80's, before the advent of everyone having cell phones, or even pagers. Back then you called the company, not the person.
    – Omegacron
    Dec 24, 2015 at 15:10

While everybody else's answer may be correct in the context of reality, you're missing the point of the scene, if not the entire movie.

He works at the same company as everybody else, has the same position, shares the same lifestyle, the same interests and hobbies, has the same clothes, the same routines and hangouts, they share the same women, have similarly expensive apartments...

His entire "mask of sanity" is based on possessing all of the same things his peers have.

Why wouldn't he have the same number as everybody else? Bateman doesn't actually have an identity of his own. His existence revolves around emulating his peers to fanatical ends. The phone number is just another thing they all have in common, a serial number that fails to differentiate any of these characters from one another.

  • 2
    just because we can consider the scene on it's technical merits doesn't mean we're incapable of also considering the scene on its artistic ones.
    – KutuluMike
    Dec 23, 2015 at 19:37
  • 1
    interesting pov, but then the whole point of the business card scene is that he wants the 'same' things but better than others (font, etc), so i'm sure he'd have his own phone number if he could... making the 'office rules' thing seem more plausible as an 'in-universe' explanation for this (meaning: not thrown into question by the unreliable narrator) Dec 23, 2015 at 22:51

Some other answers make the point that Bateman's company would likely have operated a switchboard; in which case someone calling the company would connect with an operator who would forward them to the appropriate party. While this may be the case for actual institutions, I don't think it applies to this scene. Rather, I think this was a complete technical oversight in the movie (unless Johnny's answer is correct which is a pretty interesting possibility).

Consider the conversation between Bryce and Paul Allen:

Bryce: Listen, Paul. Squash.

Paul Allen passes Bryce his card business card.

Paul Allen: Call me.

It is clear from this exchange that Paul Allen gives Bryce his card so that Bryce could have his phone number to call him later about playing squash. There is no reason that Paul Allen would have needed to give Bryce his card if he and Bryce had the same phone number, but as we see on both of their cards, they do. Assuming this wasn't done intentionally for symbolic reasons, this can be nothing other than an oversight.

  • 1
    I always interpreted it as Paul Allen wanting to show off how much better his business cards were than everyone else's cards. I also agree with Johnny's answer that the number was a symbolic representation that everything of theirs is the same...like the business cards. I mean, Bateman has a near panic attack on how he thinks that Allen's business card is so much better than his and we as the viewers see basically the same card ;) Apr 19, 2017 at 4:00
  • Hah! Interesting, I never considered the fact that Paul Allen was just doing it to show off. Man, the more I ponder about this movie the better it gets.
    – DIMMSum
    Apr 20, 2017 at 18:23
  • Oh, this movie is so great in that it can be interpreted in so many different ways! I love the business card scene! It's actually very funny to me ;) Apr 20, 2017 at 18:33

In the UK, banks and large financial institutions need to comply with the Financial Conduct Authority's rules regarding counterparty call recording, basically making sure that all calls relating to deals and conversations with the company's legal representatives are recorded for compliance and audit purposes. This is usually accomplished by having a single line in and out of the company through which 'official' calls are routed to clients.

Many large companies (UK and US) have a single switchboard so that they can monitor who is making and receiving calls to their clients. A department with responsility for multi-billion dollar mergers would certainly want this ability.

  • I can call my spouse directly, at her desk in a large international banking concern in the City of London. If I actually knew/cared I could ring the director too [just by the simple expedient of asking my partner the number]. These numbers are not on business cards, but they are dialable.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 23, 2015 at 17:28
  • @Tetsujin - Yes, but if you used her direct-dial to make a counterparty transaction, there's a reasonable chance she'd go to jail, never work in finance ever again and face a huge fine.
    – user7812
    Dec 23, 2015 at 17:37
  • best I've ever done is invite her to a party - I've not even any clue what a counterparty transaction is [nor does my spellcheck] ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 23, 2015 at 17:39

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