Unfortunately, we can’t take every case

When Nicholas Nygaard and his wife returned home from a trip early to attend a family member’s funeral, he tried to reschedule his trip using Expedia. Then he found that Expedia had sold him tickets with the wrong dates. He asked our advocates for help in getting the dates corrected.

Nygaard thought he had an open-and-shut case. But we’re not going to advocate for him. His case is one of two we recently received in which we’ve decided not to involve ourselves.

As we note in our values, we’re about self-advocacy. We encourage our readers and others seeking our assistance to take steps on their own, such as using our executive contact information to approach company executives who are empowered to assist them. They can also post about their situations in our forum, which is staffed by volunteers who can give information to help consumers self-advocate their cases.

Our advocates will consider taking cases if self-advocacy has failed, or if the situation is an egregious failure of customer service — but not automatically. We will only advocate if the person requesting our help has a case — and if it’s one we think we have a shot at resolving successfully. We know from past experience, some of which we discovered the hard way, that our advocates just aren’t going to be successful at resolving certain types of cases.

Sadly for Nygaard, his situation falls into this category. When he requested our help, our advocate asked how much time had passed since booking the tickets. Had he discovered and reported the error to Expedia within 24 hours of booking the tickets, he could have canceled the reservations and rebooked without incurring a penalty. But Nygaard replied that he had been trying to resolve the issue for six weeks.

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Unfortunately, because the 24-hour window had passed, we were no longer in a position to assist him through direct advocacy. We suggested he post about his case in the forum.

Nygaard wasn’t happy to hear our response. He replied: “I have already emailed with the executives/representatives over the past two months and gotten nowhere. That is why I requested a case be handled by your group; I have already exhausted all other options. I fail to see how the forum, although a very beneficial thing in many situations, will help my case… Again, I am not trying to negate the value of the forum, but [I’m] struggling to see how this can possibly assist me.”

As our advocate explained to Nygaard, “Most of the problems in our ‘can’t resolve’ file aren’t that way because of a lack of resolve on our part, but because of the system. Simply put, the deck is stacked in the industry’s favor, and there is nothing we can do or say to change it.”

Nygaard hasn’t posted about his case as of this writing.

Philip Lavely also has a situation that we’re not going to advocate.

Lavely was scheduled to fly on WOW Air from Boston to Reykjavik, Iceland, but the airline had not provided him with the number of the gate from which his flight was departing. It did inform Lavely that the gate number would be provided at a specified time, and Lavely set his phone alarm to go off at that time. He then fell asleep. But because his phone battery ran out of power, the alarm did not go off and he slept for an additional hour.

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When he awoke, he realized he had overslept, looked up his gate location and rushed there – only to find himself prevented from boarding the flight because he was a “no-show.” Lavely was forced to buy a new ticket for the next day to continue his trip.

He asked our advocates to help him recover the cost of the new ticket. But because his situation resulted from his own error, we can’t assist him — he doesn’t have a case.

Before our advocacy team makes the decision to take any case, we ask for a paper trail and other documentation to determine whether a person asking for our help has a case – and if he does, whether it’s one our team can successfully advocate. If it isn’t, we may refer that person to our forum or suggest other steps that the person can take to self-advocate their case.

But our advocates themselves will not pursue cases involving consumer booking mistakes, such as Nygaard’s or Lavely’s, or overturning company policies set forth in terms and conditions. Those are situations for which we have no expectations of successful advocacy. We can only express our regrets, and offer our hope that the consumers involved will not find themselves in similar situations in the future.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org.

  • sirwired

    I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out why the WOW passenger that overslept thought he should get a refund (other than “pretty please, I really screwed up here”), and I’m coming up blank. I don’t know how the fact that WOW was going to provide him with the gate number is at all relevant.

  • Noah Kimmel

    It is good to read posts like this to remind people that this site does not “blindly” help everyone. Seeking cases where companies fail to follow their own guidelines or unique situations that need extra attention for a request to break those guidelines is appropriate.

    “I fell asleep and want someone else to deal with it” or “I dont like the definition of non-refundable”” or “I didn’t take the time to look over my confirmation” or “I declined insurance and now need it” or “The deal really was too good to be true” etc. rightly should be dismissed so that the legitimate cases can receive the attention and hopefully personal service they deserve.

    I also appreciate the self-advocacy approach as it allows knowledge sharing and best practices to spread, allowing a community effect vs. passing the buck. If more people followed these principles, companies might be more flexible in the future.

    But then again, my emotional support pig really needs to get me an upgrade to first class with no one next to me on a date change with a refund greater than the ticket value for my trouble…

  • LeeAnneClark

    My thoughts exactly.

  • Annie M

    Thank you for this article. It shows that everyone is not a candidate for assistance and you now have something to point at with people who make their own mistakes and expect you to work a miracle. This was long overdue.

  • AAGK

    Is it wrong that I feel like the WOW guy should have been rebooked on the next flight? We all make mistakes but I have never been charged as as no show when I was at the airport, Evan when I had to take the next flight bc I was late .

  • michael anthony

    Other than these 2 examples, I do find the cases you don’t win or get a resolution just as helpful. (The article mentions you take cases you think can be successfully resolved) . Those that you don’t resolve, when it’s so clear that the business is at fault, teach me more about how to do things better and whst companies to avoid.

  • sirwired

    Wow is a discount carrier, like Spirit or RyanAir… nope, no favors.

  • AAGK

    I love case dismissed too. There are a couple of Aeromexico ones that were really unfair but the airline would not budge.

  • joycexyz

    Well said…including the last paragraph!

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