We’ll always have Paris and other useful advice

The terrorist attack in Paris was our number one story this week — specifically, Ned Levi’s useful advice on how to stay safe on your next international trip.

Ned’s account of using the State Department’s a Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) resonated with readers and we even got a shout-out from our friends at the State Department on Twitter.

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.

I can tell you that I’ll be using STEP the next time I step across the border with my family.

We specialize in useful advice on this site, but our advocates would prefer to help you before you run into trouble.

That’s why we’ve put an enormous amount of effort into our frequently asked questions section on air travel, an epic section that posted early this morning. Although it’s meant for infrequent air travelers, there’s something for everyone in it.

Among the questions our experts answered:

• How should I book my airline ticket?
• How do I find the lowest fare?
• How do I find the best economy class seat?

Now some of you reading are probably thinking, “Come on, everyone knows the answer to those questions!”

Well, maybe not everyone.

If that’s you, then you probably have a few choices. You can try to leave a snarky comment on this site about the gate lice that don’t deserve our advocacy. (Go on, try. Grant is waiting for you.) Or you can put your expertise to good use and join us in the help forums, where passengers turn for guidance, and where your industry knowledge will be appreciated.

If you’re as intelligent as you think you are, I’ll see you in the forums.

There are other ways to show off your industry knowledge, of course. Our research director, Trent Bonsall, has assembled the finest team of investigators. They can find any executive phone number and email address. This week, they did it with Dell, Extended Stay America, P&O Cruises and UPS, among others.

You want results? If you’re subscribed to our daily newsletter, you’ve already seen this testimonial from Jim Polga:

On a Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis to Hartford on Nov. 8th my bag was lost. It arrived the next day and was heavily damaged.

I’ve filed the appropriate form with the airline and have been told that within 4 weeks someone would look at this claim, and that there is no sense in sending photos at this time as there is no file in which to put them.

I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told that he does not accept phone calls. This seems to be an unusually long time to process claims — and a cavalier attitude on the airline’s part. Any thoughts?

We provided Jim with baggage claim tips, as well as contacts for Delta.

And guess what? It worked. He reports:

I e-mailed the Delta executives you had listed. Within 10 minutes I had a very pleasant phone call from Steven Hammock, a claims manager, who apologized and agreed to immediately send a check for baggage replacement. He was very professional and courteous. Thanks again.

No, thank you. We love helping consumers like Polga — and people like you. We are unashamedly in the customer’s corner every hour of every day.

If you want to pay it forward, please contact us and we’ll tell you how to join our research team.

3 thoughts on “We’ll always have Paris and other useful advice

  1. Speaking of the lowest fare, Chris’ column in my local paper seems to indicate that it might be unfair to buy your airfare from an airline’s website in another country because the airline is trying to geographically differentiate prices among different populations.

    While not something I was aware of, by that logic, if I buy gas at a more rural station, instead of in my suburb, or shop at the outlet store instead of my local department store, I am being unfair to the retailer. I don’t find the concern reasonable. If the airline is offering, to the public, a particular fare at a particular price, and I purchase the fare using my real name, correct information, etc., there is no inequity. Anyone arguing otherwise is, in my opinion, incorrect.

    1. You are comparing buying tickets from another country to buying gas somewhere else in the same country. Gas prices are a lot more different in various countries than airline tickets. I believe diesel in the UK might be around $9 a gallon. In any case, trying to “game” the system might cause you problems. Write your congressman if you feel it is an injustice.

  2. I believe in helping people who have been wronged. I also believe in steering people in the right direction if they have made a mistake or need some guidance. And if a mistake results in a penalty which is out of line with the error, I believe in resolving that too. However, I do not believe in shifting costs to other companies because someone has received a reasonable penalty with respect to the change, or someone who wants either something for nothing, a disproportionate compensation for something, or wants to blame a company for something that is in fact, at least half or all of the consumer’s fault.

    I also don’t believe in shaming companies when they do not deserve to be shamed.

    I see a lot of people who are helped by this column, and that is great. Undoubtedly many more, like me, use it as a learning experience, and that too is useful. However, I don’t like the headlines that seem to either stretch the truth or are screaming that a company did something “wrong” when in fact they didn’t.

    What I”m saying is that this is a “good” site, but it is a bit rough around the edges, and it could be a “better” site if there weren’t so much sensationalism.

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