Why you should never, ever, ever give up

Don’t give up.

Failure is everywhere. Particularly now, in the middle of the summer doldrums, you may feel a little like this:

“I give up,” Mary Theresa wrote to me after trying unsuccessfully to change the name on her airline tickets, which she’d booked with her frequent flier miles.

Her airline refused to help, demanding a confiscatory fee to place the points back in her account. Ticket name changes are not allowed. (But help is on the way; I’ll explain in a minute.)

You can’t give up. Because just when it seems like your consumer problem is hopeless, something happens that gives you hope.

If you’ve watched the Michael Moore movie Where To Invade Next, maybe you remember the end of the film, where Moore is standing at the Berlin Wall. Who would have thought that the wall would come down, he muses. Who would have thought gay marriage would one day be legal?

These were all things we thought would never take place, yet they did.

And so now, faced with a loss of momentum and morale, here’s a necessary reminder that all is not lost. Don’t give up.

As a consumer advocate, despair is an emotion I know too well.

There’s Elaina Savino who we tried, but failed, to help with a ticket change for her boyfriend. There’s David Bayer, whose expired Hyatt points were irretrievable. And there’s Siying Deng, whose grievance against Carnival is out of our control or influence.

In almost every case, there comes a moment where you’re not sure which way it’s going to go.

“Have you heard back from a company?” I ask. Sometimes the answer is “yes,” but too often, it’s “no.”

This is never going to get fixed, the consumer grouses.

I understand. It sure feels that way sometimes.

Then I remind them of the three “Ps” of advocacy: be polite, patient — and persistent. They laugh.

But I’ve seen seemingly intractable problems like Theresa’s get fixed, and I try to remind them that especially during the darkest times, you gotta have hope.

I’ve seen the impossible become possible. I’ve seen cases where the company dug in its heels, denied it was responsible, threatened to sue, made a commotion on social media — and then quietly settled the case with a customer. I’ve seen companies flat-out say “no,” only to turn around and say “yes” weeks or months later.

Never give up.

Back to the issue of frequent flier programs. Of course, Theresa should have been able to fix the names on her tickets without paying a ridiculous fee. But rules are rules, right?

Actually, loyalty programs operate above the law. At least they have. Until now.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a senior government regulator. For the better part of the last three decades, loyalty programs were completely unregulated, he admitted. An airline could do whatever it pleased with its frequent fliers. It could even declare in the fine print of its own terms that the miles you were awarded weren’t even yours.

All that could soon change. There’s a sense that Theresa’s program and others like it are not fair to consumers, and that sensible regulation might be the only solution. We’re still in the early stages, but I’m confident it will happen. And when it does, it will be good for everyone — not just the elites with the precious-metal cards.

Everyone.

Go ahead, call me a populist or add your favorite “ism” to your personal attack in the comments. After all, I’ve already invoked Michael Moore, so I must be one of those liberal activists, right?

Oh, who cares? You’ll benefit from my advocacy, too.

You’re welcome.

So to Theresa and everyone else who feels like you can’t fight the system, I’m here to tell you that you can. I see small victories every day. I’ve seen big victories. I believe our biggest victories lie ahead.

Just wait. You’ll see.

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