Banned but not forgotten — true stories from the Elliott blacklist

People often tell me that the favorite part of this site is the comments section. The posts are so polite, helpful and informative, they say.

On an internet filled with vitriol and hate, how do you do it?

Well, a few weeks ago, I shared some of the comments that have been unceremoniously deleted from this site. I work with an incredible team of blog moderators who make sure the chatter stays clean and cordial.

But removing comments isn’t always enough. Sometimes our team members must also ban the commenter (or, in our words, “suspend” the account’s posting privileges).

Let me share an example or two of blacklistings with you (without attribution; I don’t want to embarrass anyone). Outright commenter bans are extremely rare here, but this isn’t a pointless navel-gazing exercise. I believe there are important lessons for consumers who want to be heard by intransigent corporations.

Here’s a comment that appeared under a story about the nature of our advocacy.

I’ve pretty much stopped commenting, and actually only occasionally read anything here anymore, because I’m tired of being regarded by the host as an unethical jackass or something because I know how to use loyalty programs to my advantage, rather than complaining and/or accepting the absurd (in my experience) biases of this site.

It’s just not a site meant for me, I guess. Of course recently I was too busy at Rio enjoying the Olympics thanks to the free air tickets (for government taxes only) I redeemed for the purpose.

There are two reasons for disabling an account like this. First, he says he’s stopped commenting, and our always-helpful blog moderators want to make sure he’s able to do that.

But I also I ran a quick search on this commenter, and it turns out he’s been popping up since 2007 under various handles to either attack this site’s authors when they have the audacity to propose sensible new consumer regulations or to mindlessly defend “free” airline loyalty programs, even when they do something that hurts their loyal customers.

Internally, we lovingly refer to these commenters as free-market airline apologists. And don’t get me wrong — I love being challenged by facts in the comments, but his responses tended to be angry, entitled and personal.

So you can probably imagine how he responded to our blog moderators’ email, notifying him that his comment had been deleted and that his posting privileges were revoked:

“No problem,” he wrote. “I’ve grown tired of the arrogant nature of the host and the insulting and condescending way he treats his readers.”

If countering misguided diatribes with politeness and logic is insulting and condescending, then I guess I’m guilty as charged.

Here’s another exchange that resulted in a ban: It happened during a lively debate at the end of this post on summer travel, which, the more our moderation team thought about it, had nothing to do with summer travel.

Instead, it veered into politics. One commenter in particular was shouting down the others, referring to Hillary Clinton as the “Queen Apparent” and extolling Donald Trump for telling the truth. Our moderators pleaded with her to stick to the subject, but instead, she called us out for removing her increasingly shrill political rants. It wasn’t her first offense and we eventually had to close the comments.

That earned her a spot on the blacklist.

If you’re a Trump supporter, don’t feel bad. We’ve fended off our fair share of Clinton disciples here, too. The only difference between them and this particular commenter is that the Hillary supporters listened to our moderators when they politely asked them to stay on topic.

Some of the most interesting blacklistings happen because of something that’s said off camera.

Here’s an email our IT department received from a bewildered reader who noticed he could no longer post comments. He wanted us to take a look at his account and help him understand what was happening.

But the commenter was playing dumb. Whenever he tried to post, our commenting platform clearly informed him that he’d been blacklisted. He knew he’d been banned. So what was happening?

A lot, it turns out. The commenter had a long history of questioning sources and original posters, which is fine. I adore my skeptics. They keep me honest. But one day I searched his handle and saw he was a frequent poster on several loyalty program blogs and forums.

Then I saw my name pop up in one of his posts. It was a private email I’d sent to him after he’d questioned a source. In it, I patiently tried to explain that I had indeed used a credible source. He’d reposted our exchange without permission and framed it in such a way that it would almost certainly be ridiculed by the rest of the commenters — and it was.

That led me to believe that his comments were not meant to further the discussion or to help consumers, but to attack and discredit the advocacy of this site. And while he’s certainly free to do that elsewhere, we’re under no obligation to offer him a platform here.

His “account not working” query wasn’t meant as a question. He wanted us to waste more of my valuable time defending our decision to ban him and then share the exchange with his friends on a loyalty program website. Denied.

So why am I writing about this? Because I think companies deal with their trolls in the same way.

Call a company names and you’re unlikely to get what you want from it. Fail to follow basic instructions and then fill its in box with hateful diatribes and it will stop listening. Share personal information with all your friends in social media, and you really shouldn’t expect them to show you anything other than the door.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend