Should we tell people like Howard Uman to get lost?

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By Christopher Elliott

Yesterday’s update from the trenches of consumer advocacy sparked an interesting debate. Do we leave consumers who don’t have a case to fend for themselves?

I ask because some of you apparently believe we should. If consumers are unaware of a company policy or aren’t following the rules, we should tell them to get lost. Nicely, but firmly.

Beat it. We only help deserving consumers

I ask because people like Howard Uman would like to know, too. He recently had a disappointing flight experience on Frontier and reached out to us for help.

Ulman and his family were flying from Orlando to Washington on Feb. 1. The flight was delayed and finally canceled because of “mechanical” issues.

He wondered if Frontier could help him. It offered a new flight several days later.

“That was it,” he said. “Or, that’s all the agent wanted to do. I insisted he help us further, and he told me that Frontier does not have agreements with any other airlines, and couldn’t get us on another flight until Tuesday. Of course, that was unacceptable.”

You can read about your rights, such as they are, on Frontier’s contract of carriage.

Frontier agreed to rebook him on a flight to Philadelphia. It also provided coupons for snacks and dinner.

Southwest Airlines is dedicated to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to providing our employees with a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

“I had to rent a car from Philadelphia,” says Uman. That cost him $186, plus $8 and an extra day of parking at Dulles for $10.

Would Frontier cover those extra charges?

Now, the contract of carriage says absolutely not. But when Uman posted his question in our forum, we told him it’s certainly worth asking. After all, Frontier didn’t get him to his intended destination.

There are some of you who think we should have said, no way. Indeed, that by helping someone like Uman, we would be contributing to a culture of entitlement and making airfares more expensive for everyone else.

But that’s not how it happened. Our advocates furnished Uman with executive contacts at Frontier.

Our advocates held Uman’s hand throughout the process.

And yesterday, we got some good news. Frontier had authorized reimbursement in the amount of $204, exactly what he’d requested. (Here is our guide on how to solve your consumer problem).

Did he deserve it?

According to Frontier’s contract, no. Did he deserve our help? I think so.

I can’t imagine telling someone like Uman to take a hike. I can’t imagine saying, “Hey Howard, rules are rules, and if Frontier helps you, it will make everyone’s ticket prices go up.”

And I know there are people — good people — who disagree with what we’ve done. They think we shouldn’t be advocating for consumers, but advocating for a just resolution to every conflict. They make a valid point. Justice is important.

But are they right?

What's more important?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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