How to get yourself blacklisted by a consumer advocate

Someone got herself blacklisted by this consumer advocate last week.

She knows who she is. She knows what she did. And she knows I’m done talking to her — for good.

Blacklisting may have a somewhat vague meaning in the world of business, from a car rental company’s “do not rent” list to a cell phone provider’s blacklist of stolen handsets. But for me, “blacklist” means something specific. It means that for whatever reason, I’ve chosen not to receive messages from you. You’re permanently silenced.

I’m telling you about it because I suspect many companies are like me. They have a threshold when it comes to interacting with consumers. Cross it and you’re on a blacklist. I’d like to help you avoid it.

She kept hounding me until I hit the “mute” button

In the most recent blacklisting case, the cause was simple: A publicist emailed me about a benign comment I’d made about her client in a story. I thanked her and politely told her we’d have to agree to disagree on the sentiment I was expressing.

She would have none of it.

Over the period of several hours, she shot me a barrage of increasingly desperate messages, trying to vindicate her client. The volume of mail became unbearable after a short while, and she was wasting valuable advocacy time, so I pushed the “mute” button.

Technically, I blocked her emails in Gmail.

Lesson learned: Don’t waste people’s time when you’re asking for help. Get to the point and if you receive a hard “no,” then be on your way. Otherwise, you’ll get on the blacklist … or blocklist.

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Threats, threats, threats — and then she’s added to the blacklist

Besides harassment, there’s another form of behavior that’s guaranteed to land you on a blacklist: threats.

A few weeks ago, I penned a story about a woman who had failed to read the terms on an opaque travel site. She’d filled out our help form, which gives me the right to publish her name and other details of her case.

You can probably guess where this is going.

Not only had she failed to read the fine print on the travel site, she’d also neglected to read the details on my help form. So, of course, she was shocked to see her name in print.

First, she demanded I delete the entire story. I refused, politely pointing out that she’d filled out the form. Then she scaled down her request to just removing her last name. No, that’s not happening either, I said.

Finally, she threatened to take me down. She said she’d contact all of my media outlets and tell them how terrible I was. She suggested that if that didn’t work, she’d see me in court.

I blocked her.

There’s no point in continuing that kind of conversation.

Lesson learned: Don’t make threats unless you are prepared to follow through. Better yet, don’t threaten — do.

The King of Credit Card Internet Trolls shows how to get yourself blacklisted by a consumer advocate

There’s one more way to get yourself blacklisted. You can troll. I mean hard.

I’m thinking about one particular troll who I’ve known for years. He started as a third-rate airline blogger and one day discovered points-earning credit cards. His site, inelegantly modeled after Fox News, is filled with hateful ad hominem attacks against anyone who disagrees with his ill-considered Libertarian views on government regulation.

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This blogger has repeatedly baited me with invitations to engage in the comments of his blog or to speak at mileage-hacking conventions. Yet, whenever I extend my hand in friendship, it’s bitten by a thousand bile-filled disciples who have been programmed to despise my egalitarian approach to problem-solving. That’s no accident. Someone is giving these lemmings their marching orders.

I’m done with it. Not only is this blogger blacklisted, but I’ve also blocked all traffic from his site and the blog network he writes for. His toxins have infected a number of otherwise reasonable bloggers. I want nothing to do with them.

Lesson learned: Everyone has his limits, even the guy who is supposed to be helping everyone. Be careful that you don’t push someone’s button too often. Otherwise you could end up on permanent “mute.”

To be clear, my personal blacklist is short. For readers who don’t harass, threaten or troll, my patience is as long as a summer day. But you should know where the line is, and now I’ve told you.

Companies also have a line, and at some point, they’ll ignore you. Difference between them and me? They’ll never tell you that you’ve been blacklisted.

Editor’s note: Talk about a coincidence! On the day this post appeared, our forums developed a glitch after a software update. Quite a few of our regular contributors can’t post as a result. Rest assured, you’re not blacklisted.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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