A wacky thing happened on the way to the forums

There are some days we wish we could take every case that we receive. The fact is, we can’t. And there are several reasons for that.

The obvious ones — engaging in illegal activities or cases in which the company clearly did exactly what it was contracted to do — usually are dismissed quickly. There are also cases in which the consumer isn’t happy with the solution, and our advocates can’t go any further to satisfy them.

But the biggest single reason we do not take every case is volume. We can’t advocate all of the cases we receive. It’s not that we wouldn’t like to. We would.

There isn’t enough time in the day or a staff of hundreds to do the work required.

Luckily, an alternative path to direct advocacy is firmly in place: our forums. We often speak of the success of our direct advocacy and the benefits of self-advocacy through the use of our contacts pages.

Not as frequently mentioned — but equally important — are our forums, especially the advocates and elliott.org staff members who diligently answer questions and, in a majority of cases, provide proven paths to resolution.

In fact, the only people who are more passionate about the cases in the forums than our advocates are the readers, writers and comment contributors. Our forum directors moderate these electronic discussions to make sure they don’t get out of hand. To most of us, that would be a job in itself. But if you ask our forum moderators and advocates, they’ll tell you, “That’s all in a day’s work.”

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So, in order to write this story, I asked them instead, “What’s not all in a day’s work? What cases or incidents stand out in your mind, and why?”

Remember I said earlier that cases involving illegal activity are quickly dismissed? One moderator gave me an example of a forum post that was not only about an illegal action but also brought the aforementioned passion to the surface in a big way.

Sometimes forum posters just get upset at what they were offered when they initially complained to the company. Then they take it to the next level. Like in the case of this traveler, who posted not only a negative review of her stay but also a production-style video on YouTube openly voicing her displeasure along with the threat of a lawsuit.

Our forum directors know the value of our advocates. And, like so many others, they occasionally write just to let the advocates know that what they’re doing is working. Posts like those keep encouraging the advocates to continue what they’re doing.

Finally, my experience at elliott.org has shown me the value of the advice the experts in our forums share so willingly and repeatedly. But no matter how many times the advocates repeat something, there are still those readers who don’t believe it will happen to them.

I knew there had to be a story about a consumer who didn’t take the time to verify everything before their trip. I wasn’t expecting anything as regrettable as the story of the family of five that missed the vacation of a lifetime because of a passport rule they failed to notice.

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If you’re having an issue, and you don’t know where to turn for advice, try our forums. Chances are better than not that your problem or issue has been seen before. Chances are even better that our advocates have pointed someone else with an issue similar to yours in the right direction. Either way, ask a question, and you’ll get an honest answer. And in today’s world, it’s good to know there’s at least one place left where that happens regularly.

Chip Hiebler

Chip enjoyed a successful career in the IT field. Now he's retired and splits his time between experiencing destinations and cultures beyond his home in Baltimore and generally having fun. He currently supports the mission of Elliott.org as the co-director of the research department.

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