Why copying us is sometimes enough to solve a problem

I never write about people like Rich Colwell. That’s because it looks as if he fixed his case all by himself. But he’s gone out of his way to tell me that’s wrong — and I’m happy to report that fact.

What happened? Well, a few days ago, Colwell received a message from United Airlines that his confirmed reservations in business class had been canceled because “the United reservation staff made a mistake.”

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to poke fun at people who want to fly business class. Coach is torture. Business class affords you a humane amount of legroom and a little individual attention from the flight crew. It’s economy class, circa 1968.

“Although I have never traveled in anything other than economy class and am willing to do so, we upgraded on this trip for the first time for the benefit of my wife’s health,” he says.

Colwell contacted United and eventually, got everything straightened out. But he used a trick I’ve heard of a time or two. I’ll tell you about it in a second.

First, though, a few details about his complaint. He and his brother had planned a special trip to England with their wives. Unfortunately, both of their spouses had recently been diagnosed with cancer. His brother’s wife passed away, but they pressed on with their plans to travel to the U.K.

“My wife’s cancer has been in remission, but she can not fly without discomfort all the way to Europe anymore,” he explains. “Using United frequent flier miles that my brother and I had accumulated for the past few years in anticipation of the trip, we had our travel agent book round trip business class tickets.”

So far, so good.

But then United removed their booking, explaining that one of its employees who handled the initial reservation had erred.

“We had booked the tour and the trip on the assumption that had been validated by the successful reservation a month ago that my wife could travel roundtrip in business class,” he says. “My agent called and spoke to the United reservation staff, but they would not honor the reservation and prior agreement. It seems inappropriate to me that this should be the outcome from a mistake by United reservation staff.”

Seemed that way to us, too.

Our advocacy team asked Colwell for his paper trail, but before he could send it, he reported that United had resolved his problem.

How? Turns out he’d send an appeal to one of United’s customer service executives. But that’s not all. Colwell copied me on the email.

“I suspect seeing your name as a “CC’ may have helped with their rapid response,” he says. “Thanks for what you have done for us and for the other travelers you assist.”

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about the CC trick, and I’ve been asked if I think it’s OK to just copy me on an email.

Why, of course!

Look, the goal here is to get the company to do the right thing. I don’t care as much how it happens — as long as it’s legal — I just care that it happens.

So to anyone who wants a little advantage when they contact a company, and thinks that copying me on their complaint will help, I say: Go for it! I’m always happy to be of service.

Did copying Chris on the email to United make a difference?

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