There are things we won’t do.
Unfortunately, from time to time disappointed consumers contact us asking us to use our platform — and our clout — to do these things. When that happens, our answer is a polite “no.”
As consumer advocates, when we receive requests for help, we look to see if the companies in question have treated their customers fairly. That means that we review the companies’ terms and conditions and determine, based on the customers’ paper trails, whether the companies have adhered to their own policies. And even when they have, we will reach out to the companies if it appears that strict adherence to the letter of the policies has not resulted in good service and fair treatment of the customers.
But we don’t practice law or public relations. We don’t ask for resolutions that punish the companies for poor customer service; nor do we threaten the companies with bad publicity or legal action by way of “strong-arming” them into giving unhappy consumers what they want. And we don’t ask the companies to bend their rules for customers who are not entitled to exceptions.
Consider the case of Wendy Glavin, a “disabled” woman. (Disclosure: Glavin is a former writer for Elliott.org.) Glavin had a bad experience with American Airlines and wanted us to threaten the airline with a “nationally publicized” story of its treatment of her.
I traveled with my son to visit colleges. During the last leg of our return, from Philadelphia to New York, I was screamed out [sic] for having “a disability” and, “seating in the Emergency aisle.” When I told them that those were the only seats left on a fully booked flight, the stewardess called me names and said loudly, “You have a disability. You can’t sit here.”
I said, “I had no choice.” Next, the people behind us graciously offered to exchange seats. The stewardess yelled “The pilot wants to see you.”
I got up with great difficulty and walked to the pilot. … The pilot pointed at me and angrily said, “Go back to your seat … or I’ll have to remove you from the plane.”
My 17-year-old son was humiliated [and] extremely upset, and we were offered nothing during the flight. I asked if she could get a wheelchair to greet me. Her response was, “You should have done that ahead of time.”
I tried to get [the crew members’] names; they turned their name tags around. As we deplaned, I snapped a picture, and she yelled, “She’s taking pictures!” …
I’m at the point of going public with this. … This is a great national story. …
I am impressed by what you do and know together we will get a great outcome (without threats of a lawsuit, and educating the public.
We don’t go after “great outcomes.” We go after fair ones. And we don’t do it by “going public” or threatening to do so. Since we always warn customers not to make threats of any kind when self-advocating, including bad publicity or legal action, it would be hypocritical, not to mention ineffective, of us to engage in such behavior ourselves through our advocacy or our stories.
Yes, we publish stories on our website to educate consumers and companies on how to handle various customer service matters. But we don’t do it to publicize “great national stories.”
We’re also not travel agents.
We turned down a case from a news anchor who wanted us to help switch the name on an air ticket she purchased through Groupon. And in another case we aren’t advocating, we were contacted by a couple who had canceled a flight after their son died. They were offered another flight that they felt didn’t work for them because it was longer and the wife has deep vein thrombosis. They wanted our help in reinstating the original flight. As sad as their situation was, it’s not one we can help them with.
In both cases, travelers who self-booked their original flights asked us to act on their behalf. But assuming they deserved the resolutions they were asking for, it’s not our job to make or adjust travel reservations. We can only help consumers who have problems with customer service — not booking, canceling or rebooking trips. All we can do for them is advise them that they should have made their reservations through an actual travel agent or directly with the companies.
So we ask those of you who want our assistance to pause a moment before filling out our help request form and consider the resolution you are requesting.
If you have a straightforward case of paying for something and not getting it or receiving inappropriate treatment from a business, we may be able to help. But if you want us to threaten it with bad publicity or legal action or to adjust your travel arrangements, you’re out of luck.
That isn’t how we operate.