The truth about publishing executive contacts? No one else is this crazy

By | December 22nd, 2016

Susan Kelly’s grateful emails are the kind any consumer advocate lives for.

“As a faithful reader of your column, I have learned many worthy travel-related tips,” she began. “I had been fairly lucky in my own travels and avoided many problems your column discusses.”

But her luck changed recently when her father suddenly fell ill and passed away.

“My daughters had just embarked on a three-week trip to Europe and had to return quickly,” she recalls. “Aer Lingus would not work with them at all, and it ended up costing me over $3,000 to get the girls home.”

What happened next is not just a reminder of the power of self-advocacy, but a warning to anyone who wants to try to help. This line of work is difficult and dangerous, and you have to be a little crazy to do it. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Kelly remembered my column, which constantly reminds readers that they can be the most effective advocates for their cases, as long as they use our super-helpful executive contacts, which we publish on this site.

“After several attempts with customer service and five months waiting for a resolution, I looked up the CEO’s contact information on your website and emailed them about the problem,” she says. “In less than 12 hours I received an email of apology and full refund to my credit card.”

Well, that looked easy. And it is — as long as you know where to find the contacts.

So what’s difficult? Glad you asked.

Publishing executive contacts can be a hazardous and often thankless occupation.

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Let’s talk about the “thankless” part for a moment. Finding, training and keeping a dedicated team of researchers has been almost impossible from the start. Few people like to do research, and fewer still are good at it. When you find people who are, they usually lose interest quickly. Face it, updating a phone number for a cruise line is no one’s idea of consumer advocacy.

But it’s so important, it can’t be overstated. Hundreds — no, thousands — of consumers access our company contact database every day. They get quick resolutions to their problems without any further assistance from our advocacy team.

That’s the problem — and the “hazardous” part. Companies don’t want their executive contacts listed. They’d prefer you call them (no paper trail), and they want to tell you “no” without actually having to put it in writing. When someone comes along and shows consumers a better way, corporate America often goes to great lengths to block the road.

This is exactly what happened to this site recently. On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, hackers forced their way onto our server and infected five company contact pages with malware. This wasn’t the first attack, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. But what makes this noteworthy is that it was so targeted. They wanted to take out certain pages.

We promptly removed the malware, but it took the search engines another 24 hours to acknowledge that the pages were clean. In the meantime, our site was blacklisted by the big engines, making us harder to find. For the operatives, it’s a meaningful victory.

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That’s why you don’t see other sites with detailed company contact information. Between the time I write this and the time it’s published, I’m sure I’ll receive at least one takedown order from a company.

Ever gotten one of those? They’re pretty intimidating, because they imply your life will be over if you don’t do exactly what they say, which is to remove the names, direct numbers and emails of executives.

Kelly is grateful that our advocacy team and this site have stood up to these operatives and taken advantage of our First Amendment right to publish.

“Many thanks to you for having these resources available on your site and teaching everyone how to get their travel problems resolved,” she says.

If you’d like to join our group as a researcher and problem-solver, please send me a note.

  • Lee

    If a company is publicly traded then any such contact info should be absolutely rightfully obtainable – in my opinion. Good for you. I always, personally, go straight to the top and don’t waste time I don’t have.

    Customer service reps are all well and good but they are, for the most part, in no position to go outside the box in solving a dispute or issue. Though, in fairness, every now and again, you do come upon some that are relentless in attempting (and, succeeding) in doing the right thing by the customer.

    As a consumer advocate, I learned long ago that direct, respectful, succinct communication with someone with the authority to satisfactorily resolve a genuine dispute/problem is the only way to approach it.

    It’s great you have made this information available for all of us – for that: thanks!

  • LDVinVA

    I totally agree with you – especially your first sentence!

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    As long as you are on WordPress unfortunately you are going to be open to these kinds of attacks. Plugins are wonderfully convenient but an awful lot of them have major security holes, as you’ve found out.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    You can also use the contacts to compliment employees. We recently received excellent service at a T-mobile store and emailed the head of customer service using this sites contact info. I’m sure they would appreciate getting positive feedback sometimes (and it may empower the helpful employees).

  • David___1

    Just about a year ago I was moving from one ISP / TV provider to another. The new provider screwed up the installation. The support tech who came to fix it was lied to by his own technical support people. He put me on the phone with them, they lied to me as well. I was on speaker phone, when he heard what they said he noted “you just caught them lying”. It was embarrassing for him, as a representative of the company, to be with me and go through the experience. So I opted out out the service, exercised the termination clause. I also emailed the CEO of the company. He forwarded me to one of their senior (an SVP, actually) service personnel. My experience with their senior staff was good. I couldn’t have done it without the company contacts. After that the billing was screwed up. I again reached out to the senior contact and they resolved it for me. They couldn’t retain me as a customer, but they did a good enough job that when my current ISP contract ends I’ll consider working with them again. All this happened because I follow this site and knew to find the company contact info. I knew to write a polite email, outlining what happened and what I was looking for as a resolution. And yeah, it works.

    And speaking of what works, I used the bad experience above to get a better deal from the ISP / cable company I planned to leave. I called, asked for a “retention specialist”. They had a better deal than was publicly available, offered me more for less money. And how did I know to ask for a “retention specialist”? This site taught me that. I’ve read that a retention specialist often has the job of harassing customers to get them to stay. In this case I used that to my advantage.

    So yeah, what happens here matters. Company A above could have screwed me, but didn’t because of what I’ve learned here. And I got a better deal from company B for the same reason. I’ve quoted this in other postings and will use again here. When I was younger there were ads for a clothing retailer, the owner and person on the ads was Sy Syms. And in every commercial he said this: “an educated consumer is our best customer”. So Chris and company, keep up the good work. Because an educated consumer is an empowered consumer.

  • PsyGuy

    I can’t identify enough with the “cease and desist” or take down orders you get from corporate lawyers, I can easily understand how they would be intimidating to a blogger or a small time advocate, they make it sound like you’ll at the very least be financially ruined or worse imply you’ll rot in some gulag somewhere. I’ve seen corporate legal refer to contact emails as “trade secrets” or their email naming policy as “proprietary” IP.

  • PsyGuy

    Some employees will get a promotion or bonus based entirely on a positive note from a customer.

  • greg watson

    Having company contacts definitely helped me with a situation with Alaska Air, which was resolved. I was also able to contact re a situation, which they said they could do nothing about it because the hotel would not accept a cancellation 8 months before the reserved date. Whether that was true or not, it was great to have the contacts !

  • Steve Rabin

    Chris–thanks for hanging in there. It is definitely appreciated. We need strong consumer advocacy.

  • JohntheKiwi

    I like the idea of using executive contacts to compliment good service.
    I like better the idea of having a “Takedown order” section of this site, and publish all of ’em.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “If a company is publicly traded then any such contact info should be absolutely rightfully obtainable – in my opinion.”

    Um, why? I guess I could, in theory, see an argument for why the contacts should be made available to shareholders, but a non-shareholder has no more claim on a public company than a private one (i.e. none).

  • Rebecca

    I try to give compliments, because lots of people only complain. At a grocery store, and employee told me that each quarter, anyone that received handwritten compliments got a paid half day off with pizza party. Even those little things make a difference. She was very grateful.

  • Great post! Thanks for sharing it.

  • “They’d prefer you call them (no paper trail)”

    A typical ploy of the TV and phone providers over the years.

    You ask them to confirm what has been agreed via an email, and the sales rep tells you that he’s not able to do that from his computer.

    Then the additional billing charges start rolling in.

    I recently wanted to change my email address in my internet service account – they’re a cable TV provider – so I logged in but couldn’t anywhere to accomplish that simple task.

    So I emailed customer service and they asked me to call them. Yeh, right, they’re going to try and up-sell me, but as a cable cutter that ain’t gonna happen!

    Suddenly the email address I wanted to change is just fine. ;-)

    The bottom line is that there are too many big companies that lack integrity.

  • Nigel Appleby

    Several years before the use of email was so widespread I had an issue with a company and 2 attempts to resolve by regular mail failed, I sent a letter by registered mail to the CEO which quickly resolved the issue. I also enclosed copies of the earlier letters. The name of CEO’s are fairly easy to find and an introduction saying that you couldn’t find the name of anyone else helps.
    I would use registered mail again if email failed.

  • joycexyz

    It seems to me that the worst companies do their darndest to keep their contacts secret, for obvious reasons. We consumers are so grateful to you for digging out the info and putting up with the threats and abuse.

  • Jason Hanna

    If everyone starts at the top, then what’s the point in having a bottom? CEOs would just be CSAs.

    Start at the bottom and I wholeheartedly agree that the contact info for execs should be available.. If needed. Starting there is the complete wrong way to go about it.

    I will also call back an article from 6 months ago or so where in a throwaway comment it was mentioned that an executive’s PERSONAL information had been posted. Researchers need to be quite careful that doesn’t happen again. Emailing/calling an exec at work is fair game. At home is not.

  • SierraRose 49

    “On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, hackers forced their way onto our server and infected five company contact pages with malware.” Interesting to know WHAT five companies got infected, but I guess it might not be a good idea to publish that information. The malware infectors might come back with nastier malware. Just wonder if the 5 companies were related in some way – like all the brands owned by a rental car company or airline. Oh well – at least everything is fixed now. Thank you!

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