Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Is anybody happy?

It might as well be Applegate in a revival of Damn Yankees asking the question, with a wiseguy up in the balcony with a clever comeback. (“Nope!”)

Nobody is happy. Nobody will every be completely happy.

That’s today’s lesson about consumer advocacy, my friends. Two reader emails, each received within a week of each other and possibly even written about the same story, illustrate my point.

Here’s the first, which is about this Travel Troubleshooter piece:

While I enjoy the educational aspects of your travel column, I am tired of reading the gripes from travelers who could have prevented their travel problems.

For example, a recent honeymoon in Costa Rica complaint could have been prevented if travel insurance, which was offered by the vacation company, was purchased by the travelers. But no, instead they want to go the cheap route and forgo a safety net, then lament when their flight is cancelled and the resort doesn’t “give” them an extra day.

The traveler should have purchased vacation insurance beforehand instead of whining about a lost day after the fact. Or, should have gone after Delta to compensate for added expenses.

Businesses can’t keep “giving” consumers freebies. If they do, the business will be out of business. And consumers need to take responsibility for their decisions. I wonder if the honeymoon complainer has life insurance or simply expects someone else to foot the bill for that, too.

Ouch. So I should really run this advocacy by the book — no exceptions?

Then I got this one:

I admire your writing, your Web site and your knowledge of the business – and the style of writing I find on your emails. As a PR counselor, I’m offering you some unsolicited advice, and doing so because I want to help you. So here goes, and please don’t be offended.

In all the years I’ve known you/your work, I’ve enjoyed your casual and friendly writing style, and commitment to helping travelers and telling both sides of the story. However, in your syndicated news columns, your style is different and some of my colleagues who follow you also have noticed this too.

What is different? When a traveler is in the wrong, or screwed up something, of course we appreciate that you explain what went wrong on both sides. But your tone sometimes comes across as sort of arrogant – blaming the traveler for mistakes. Sorry, I don’t know how else to say this, and I DON’T consider you to be arrogant, and I don’t want others to have that impression!

If you could state the same facts, but in a slightly different way, the read could be entirely different. For example: “You should have booked this differently and….” could be “Unfortunately, you booked this incorrectly and the XX is right in refusing you a refund. To avoid this happening again, you might consider….”

Arrogant? Moi?

OK, so I shouldn’t do this by the book, then? And telling travelers they’ve done something wrong is obnoxious?

If you read the comments on my site, you’ll notice that feedback like this is offered with some regularity. The difference is that these emails were sent to me directly only a few days apart.

I agree with both of them. And I disagree.

I believe that rules are rules and yeah, I can sometimes come across as a little abrasive. At the same time, company policies are often terribly misguided and customer-hostile. Also, how can you tell someone they’re wrong without sounding just a little sanctimonious?

What’s illuminating about these missives is what it means to the rest of us who are out there fighting the good fight against corporate America and its unfortunate business practices. The line between “must” and “should” is a fine one, as I pointed out in a post earlier today. So is the line, apparently, between good advice and journalistic arrogance.

Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place!

(Photo: Timbo Don/Flickr Creative Commons)

Underwritten by

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.

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.

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.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

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.

Underwritten by

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.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

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

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

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

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.

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. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

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.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by 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

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 to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

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,, 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.

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.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.