Frequently asked questions about our advocacy

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about our advocacy. You can find more FAQs here.

What kind of advocacy do you do?
What kinds of cases do you consider getting involved in?
How much do you charge for your advocacy services?
How do you mediate a case?
What do you say to a company when you act as an advocate?
How do you make a living?
Do you mediate every dispute?
Are there any cases you don’t mediate?
Do you mediate business-to-business disputes?
Can I send you a complaint by regular mail?
I’m about to send an email to a company, asking it to address a complaint. Would you review it for me?
I wrote to you weeks ago asking for help. Why haven’t you responded?
I tried to call you. I keep getting voicemail.
I don’t need help, but I’ve sent you an email asking for advice. I haven’t heard anything yet. Are you ignoring me?
You asked me for a “paper trail” — what’s that?
Is there a time limit on cases you will accept?
I saw a story in the news about someone who could use your help. Can you offer your services?
What are your criteria for taking a case?
When do we reject a case?
I didn’t read the fine print before I purchased a product. Now I’m stuck with something I can’t use. Will you still advocate for me?
When is a case closed?
How do we determine whether we write about a case?

I’ve seen some of your stories, and I’m worried that I might come out looking bad. Can you give me any assurances that you’ll be on my side, if you write publish about my case?

What’s your angle when you write about a case? Do you take sides?

What kind of advocacy do you do?

We advocate for customers who have an intractable problem with a business, a role sometimes also referred to as the reader advocate, problem-solver or ombudsman. Basically, we try to help when no one else will.

What kinds of cases do you consider getting involved in?

Any dispute between a consumer and a business.

How much do you charge for your advocacy services?

We don’t charge for the advocacy work I do on behalf of consumers. But there is a cost. If you ask for help, we may write about your case and publish your full name, city and the details of your case.

How do you mediate a case?

When you contact us with a complaint, a response team reviews the case promptly. If it’s something we believe we can help with, we’ll get in touch with the company on your behalf. Other cases are referred to our open forums for a resolution. A small number of cases can’t be advocated.

What do you say to a company when you act as an advocate?

Typically, we politely request a review of your case. If we have a question about the circumstances of your problem, we’ll also ask for clarification. Most of the correspondence between a company and our team is private, which means we would not disclose it to anyone.

How do you make a living?

This site is supported by individual and corporate underwriters. If you’re interested in joining them, here’s how. However, there is no obligation to become a supporter if we help you.

Do you mediate every dispute?

No. Some cases are not solvable. But every complaint is given serious consideration.

Are there any cases you don’t mediate?

Yes. Here’s a partial list:

  • Airfares that go up after selecting a flight option (caching).
  • Airline seat comfort issues, including in-flight entertainment systems that don’t work.
  • Any case involving legal action against a company or customer.
  • Asking an company to honor an obvious price error.
  • Car rental damage cases.
  • Cases submitted on behalf of a third party.
  • Compensation for delays that resulted in lost vacation or work days.
  • Getting a refund for a nonrefundable airline ticket or hotel room.
  • Missing or expired loyalty points.
  • Recently lost or misplaced luggage.
  • Visa/passport problems that led to denied boarding.

Some exceptions apply, but generally, we’re unable to get involved in such disputes. If you email me about one of these cases, please don’t expect more than a form acknowledgment.

Do you mediate business-to-business disputes?

No.

Can I send you a complaint by regular mail?

Unfortunately, we can only accept cases submitted through this form. We’re unable to respond to letters or cases submitted in other ways, including phone calls or emails.

I’m about to send an email to a company, asking it to address a complaint. Would you review it for me?

Yes, our forum advocates would be happy to review your letter. Please post your letter there for feedback.

I wrote to you weeks ago asking for help. Why haven’t you responded?

Our team tries to acknowledge every email, with one or two exceptions. If you sent a large attachment, it may have gone to my spam filter. Please send your message again without the attachment.

I did. Still nothing.

Please omit any gratuitous profanity and don’t use ALL UPPERCASE text when emailing me.

I did, and you’re still not answering.

Did you address the email to me? Sometimes, readers copy me on emails, but don’t send them to me directly. I answer to Chris, Christopher, or even Elliott. Emails sent to “To Whom it May Concern” or simply “Hi” don’t always get a response, because I can’t be sure they’re meant for me. Also, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed with emails and can’t answer. Please don’t take it personally.

I tried to call you. I keep getting voicemail.

Please use the form. We need a written record of your grievance in order to mediate a case.

I don’t need help, but I’ve sent you an email asking for advice. I haven’t heard anything yet. Are you ignoring me?

We get a fair number of requests to help plan a vacation or offer advice on buying one product versus another. We wish we had the time to answer these in detail. But we can’t.

You asked me for a “paper trail” — what’s that?

In order to successfully mediate a case, I need to see written proof that you’ve given the company a chance to respond to your customer-service problem. A paper trail — your correspondence between the company and you — is evidence that you’ve given the system a chance to work. It’s difficult to help you without it.

Is there a time limit on cases you will accept?

Many companies do not keep reliable customer records for longer than a year, which makes it difficult or impossible to mediate a case.

I saw a story in the news about someone who could use your help. Can you offer your services?

We only help if we’re asked by a consumer. We have a pretty strict policy against injecting ourselves into a dispute, and especially one that has already generated some media attention. We’re not doing this to become famous, but to help people like you.

What are your criteria for taking a case?

Generally we look for the following in an case we can advocate:

  • A company hasn’t fulfilled its contractual obligation to provide a product or service.
  • All efforts to go through normal resolution channels have been exhausted.
  • Our advocacy team believes it can successfully mediate a resolution.
  • How do we determine if you have a case?

    We review the facts and circumstances of the situation you have described to us, along with supporting documentation you provide and the terms and conditions of the company with which you are requesting assistance.

    When do we reject a case?

    We may turn down cases containing the following elements:

    • Rudeness or sarcasm in communications with representatives of the company or Elliott.org.
    • Attitudes of unwarranted entitlement to assistance, including outrageous compensation requests.
    • Vague requests to “make things right.” You must ask for something specific.
    • “Playing the victim card” — i.e., bringing up too many negative conditions that are meant to evoke sympathy.

    I didn’t read the fine print before I purchased a product. Now I’m stuck with something I can’t use. Will you still advocate for me?

    Maybe. We’re on your side, even when we can’t successfully advocate your case. Even when a company’s denial of assistance to you suggests that it is acting within the letter of its terms and conditions, we will advocate for you if the result of the company’s actions seems overly harsh, given all the facts and circumstances of your case.

    When is a case closed?

    When we hear back from the company, we normally close a case. If we believe it gave us the wrong answer, we’ll go back and ask “Are you sure?” Our team typically has a cordial relationship with the companies it works with and we don’t enjoy arguing unless it’s absolutely necessary.

    Can you appeal a closed case?

    If you feel we’ve overlooked something, please let us know. But again, we don’t like to argue.

    How do we determine if we write about a case?

    If your case has a lot of educational value — which is to say, other people are likely to experience the same problem — we’ll write about it.

    I’ve seen some of your stories, and I’m worried that I might come out looking bad. Can you give me any assurances that you’ll be on my side, if you publish something about my case?

    We will strive to maintain a professional tone throughout our interactions with you and the company. But if your correspondence with the company or with us indicates an attitude that is not likely to yield a positive response, we will point this out as a means of educating our readers.

    What’s your angle when you write about a case? Do you take sides?

    We’re consumer advocates, so we are naturally biased toward the consumer. But we are not blindly aligned with the customer. In many of our cases, consumers are legitimately wronged and the businesses that do it deserve to be called out — which is something we do exceptionally well.

    However, in a small number of cases, consumers omit facts, lie, try to manipulate the system in an unethical way, don’t bother to read the fine print, or don’t take the time to understand the product they’re using. In those cases, our advocates and writers don’t hesitate to say: the customer is wrong.

    We do this not to embarrass a customer — although we readily concede that can be uncomfortable — but to educate our readers, who may be tempted to do the same. In the end, we want all of our readers to be smart about the products and services they purchase.

    Got a question you’d like us to answer in the FAQ? Please send us an email.

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