Here’s why you should leave your victim card at the door

Don't play the victim card here, please.

What color is your victim card?

I ask because everyone has one, whether they admit it or not. Sometimes they drop by this site and ask for help from my advocacy team, hoping to redeem some of their hard-earned points or invoke their “elite” victim status.

Does the victim card work?

Sometimes it works, but usually it doesn’t.

Increasingly, I’ve started to think of complaints as a kind of currency. It started off with the card deck analogy — also known as the Elliott deck of misfortune — but it’s evolved into something familiar to those of us who work in the travel industry.

Complaints are a lot like loyalty programs, come to think of it.

No, this isn’t what you expect. I’m not going to turn this post into yet another devastatingly effective critique of airline and hotel loyalty programs and those who promote and participate in them, although I certainly could.

Instead, I’d like to talk about the victim card and explain why you should almost never flash it or try to spend those frequent victim points you’ve collected. I’m here to tell you to let them expire unused.

It helps to understand how the victim card works. Everyone has a sob story to tell — a dead relative (hey, we all die eventually), a streak of bad luck or personal tragedy. Some of the folks who come to us for help know they have a platinum card, but they keep it to themselves. Others are barely silvers, but they act as if the world owes them something.

Here’s how I see it. And for this particular story, I’m going to stay away from specific examples, but I think we can all come up with one or two from the recent past, if not from our own personal experience.

The infrequent complainers

A fair number of the cases are in this category. They’re people who don’t even know they qualify for a victim card. They have a problem with a business but they hope to resolve it based on facts and fairness. They can’t imagine invoking a personal problem in order to receive preferential treatment. These infrequents are pretty amazing, because they’ll refuse to play their cards even when they probably should. Companies should consider themselves fortunate to have them as customers.

The silver level: life or death

Silver-level complainers know their place at the bottom of the food chain and are usually reluctant to show the card or redeem their victim points. They typically only do it in the direst of emergencies: In the travel world, that would be the sudden death in the family, which forces them to buy a last-minute plane ticket, or a tragic terminal cancer diagnosis that makes them cancel a vacation. Silvers are good people, too, but their backs are against the wall. They need the money to pay hospital or funeral bills.

The gold level: making a case

Golds know that complaining can be profitable, and while they’re not overly eager to spend the currency of tragedy, they know that a compelling story can sometimes result in a refund or do-over. Normally, their emails start with, “I’m not the type to complain …” which of course means, they are the type to complain and their emails are long and contain lots of adjectives. The golds are often rewarded with what they want. Think squeaky wheel.

The platinum level: the laundry list

Platinums are absolute pros at complaining — at least they like to think of themselves as that. They string together a series of small misfortunes and send it directly to the CEO (with a copy to me) knowing that they’ll probably get a quick resolution to an inconsequential complaint. For the platinum cardholders, professional victimhood has its perks, and they feel entitled to them. They’re likely to say they missed a day of work because they had to wait for an appliance repair, and that they expect to be fully compensated for it. They may even demand a brand-new appliance to make up for the trouble. (Hey, I’ve seen it all.)

Don’t even get me started on the super-elites, whose level of victimhood isn’t even officially recognized as a level. They turn every molehill into a mountain and are the reason for so many restrictive corporate policies today on everything from refunds to warranties. These entitled elites give the true victims a bad name, and what makes it worse is that they don’t care.

Everyone has a victim card of some sort

Everyone’s a victim of something. Everyone has victim points to spend. But it’s how you spend them that matters.

The longer I listen to consumers complain, the more I’m convinced that playing the victim card is almost always a terrible idea. The representatives listening to you have heard it all, and they’ve developed a special ability to sort the expert complainers from those who are profoundly uncomfortable with disclosing the details of their personal tragedy.

Instead of pulling together a laundry list when something goes wrong, it’s better to just think of your victim card as expired. Permanently. In virtually every instance, your complaint will go further if you stick to the facts than if you’d wave the card in front of an employee.

If your card has expired, do what you’d do with your frequent flier miles. Let it go. The card, like the miles, wasn’t worth anything to begin with.

What color is your victim card?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is 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  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is 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  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

Elliott Advocacy is 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. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com 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  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is 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  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is 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, SinglesCruise.com, 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.

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

Send this to a friend