Why it’s good to have enemies

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By Christopher Elliott

When I complain about my critics, my father, a retired Presbyterian minister, responds with St. Luke’s words of wisdom. “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,” he reminds me, “for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

In other words, maybe it’s good to have enemies.

Perhaps vice president-elect Mike Pence knows what I mean after watching Hamilton last night.

But I’ve been thinking about those words from the Good Book lately. There’s an airline, which I won’t name because it craves the publicity, that hammers this site every time we mention it because it claims our stories contain “multiple errors.” When we offer to correct the alleged inaccuracies, we discover that our only mistake was in not recounting the story as the airline wanted us to.

Then the airline threatens to sue us, which it never does.

Enemies — self-declared, mutually agreed upon, or otherwise — are incredibly useful to our advocacy team, but also to you, the readers of this site. When someone says they hate us, they are actually helping us. For that, we should be grateful. (Related: I love a good mystery. You will too.)

For example:

The cheapskate companies that despise their own customers

Discount air carriers and roach motel chains tend to loathe our advocacy. But experience tells me that the louder they complain about us, the more troubled their relationship with their own customers. These companies might as well be saying: “We don’t treat our customers well. Go somewhere else!” It’s a clear warning sign, and one you should heed.

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The one-offs with bizarre, anti-consumer fees

Sometimes, companies that normally do right by their customers wander down the wrong path. For example, a few years ago I wrote about a vacation rental that charged renters a separate fee for electricity. But the charge wasn’t clearly disclosed. I wrote about it and the owners attacked me for weeks on social media, threatening to take me to court. Of course, they never did.

Looking back, I think these owners were reputable and ran a decent rental. They just had blinders about their utility fee and didn’t want to hear their customers’ complaints. There, too, the freak-out served a purpose: The more noise they made about how I had unfairly criticized their fee, the more people knew about their fee. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

The apologists who make enemies

I admit, I’m growing a little weary of the unoriginal posts from the loyalty program cheerleaders who call me ignorant and say my readers are losers. It’s become so predictable that even their own fans have begged them to stop criticizing the incredibly helpful advocacy offered by this site.

Their often incoherent rants, in which they foolishly question my three decades of advocacy expertise, are flashing lights to beware of the danger of their credit-card-churning, points-collecting, industry-shilling ways. Look, it’s a free country and they’re entitled to their unimaginative insults and their incorrect opinions. But their digital venom also serves to underscore the benefit of what we’re doing on this site.

The lone wolves who are just plain crazy

From time to time, an angry stalker will emerge from the woodwork and try to destroy this site. These trolls write anonymous emails to my clients, complaining about my work and urging them to terminate me.

I’m impressed with their ability to write fiction. What they forget is that on the internet, there is no such thing as anonymity. That’s right, I know who you are! (Also, demanding that my editors fire me makes them want to keep me even more, so thanks for that.) Stalkers like that are great, because they keep me on my toes, which is where you should be every day when you’re out there in Consumerland. Always vigilant. Always ready.

Thanks, crazies.

I thank the journalism gods for my enemies every day. They inform and strengthen my advocacy. They even define me by telling the world who I am not. But in the final analysis, their misguided actions and words say more about them, with their deep hatred for the average consumer and their disdain for justice, than it does about me.

Dad’s right. Sometimes, having enemies is necessary.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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