Frequently asked questions about this site

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions. If you have a personal question about Christopher Elliott, please refer to these FAQs.

Advocacy questions

What’s this site?
What do you do?
What kinds of cases do you consider getting involved in?
How much do you charge for your advocacy services?
How do you mediate a case?
What do you say to a company when you act as an advocate?
How do you make a living?
Do you mediate every dispute?
Are there any cases you don’t mediate?
Do you mediate business-to-business disputes?
Can I send you a complaint by regular mail?
I’m about to send an email to a company, asking it to address a complaint. Would you review it for me?
I wrote to you weeks ago asking for help. Why haven’t you responded?
I tried to call you. I keep getting voice mail.
I don’t need help, but I’ve sent you an email asking for advice. I haven’t heard anything yet. Are you ignoring me?
You asked me for a “paper trail” — what’s that?
Is there a time limit on cases you will accept?
I saw a story in the news about someone who could use your help. Why don’t you offer your services?

About this site

Do you publish sponsored posts?
What’s your comments policy?
Your comments policy isn’t that permissive. Your moderator team often deletes comments and has even banned a few users. So much for free speech!
You don’t seem to understand the difference between a personal attack and a well-reasoned critique of some of your misguided ideas. Need me to explain?
What does “OP” mean?
I recognize one of the stories on your site from another media outlet. Are you stealing stories?
I’m the subject of one of your stories. My case was resolved months ago. What’s the deal?
Is the customer always right?
I’m a professional photographer, and you’ve used my images on your site without permission. What gives?
I’m just about done reading your smug answers. You wrote a blog post that has cost me business, and I’m going to sue you. I’ll see you in court.


ADVOCACY QUESTIONS

What is this site?

Elliott is a site that advocates for you. Founded in 1997 by consumer advocate and journalist Christopher Elliott, its goal is to empower consumers to solve their service problems and to help those who can’t. If you’re having trouble with a business — any business — and you’ve reached a dead end, we’ll try to help. and we’ll investigate. Here are more details about the people behind Elliott.

What do you do?

I advocate for customers who have an intractable problem with a business, a role sometimes also referred to as the reader advocate, problem-solver or ombudsman. Basically, I try to help when no one else will.

What kinds of cases do you consider getting involved in?

Any dispute between a consumer and a business.

How much do you charge for your advocacy services?

I don’t charge for the advocacy work I do on behalf of consumers. But it isn’t free. If you ask for help, I may write about your case. Your full name and city will be published.

How do you mediate a case?

When you contact me with a complaint, I will review it as soon as possible. If it’s something I believe I can help with, I will get in touch with the company on your behalf. Please note: By contacting me you are giving me permission to be your advocate. I may use your correspondence with the company as background material, share it with the company at my discretion, or publish it.

What do you say to a company when you act as an advocate?

Typically, I politely request a review of your case. If I have a question about the circumstances of your problem, I’ll also ask. Most of the correspondence between a company and myself on behalf of a customer is private, which means I’m unlikely to share it with a reader.

How do you make a living?

This site is supported by individual and corporate underwriters. If you’re interested in joining them, here’s how. However, there is no obligation to become a supporter if I help you.

Do you mediate every dispute?

I wish I could. Some cases are not solvable. But I give every complaint serious consideration.

Are there any cases you don’t mediate?

Yes. Here’s my list:

  • Visa/passport problems that led to denied boarding.
  • Missing loyalty points.
  • Recently lost or misplaced luggage.
  • Compensation for delays that resulted in lost vacation or work days.
  • Airline seat comfort issues.
  • Asking an company to honor an obvious price error.
  • Getting a refund for a nonrefundable airline ticket or hotel room.
  • Airfares that go up after selecting a flight option (caching).
  • Any case that’s been referred to a company’s legal department.

Some exceptions apply, but generally, I’m unable to get involved in these disputes. If you email me about one of these cases, please don’t expect more than a form acknowledgment.

Do you mediate business-to-business disputes?

No.

Can I send you a complaint by regular mail?

Unfortunately, I can only accept cases by email. I’m unable to respond to letters.

I’m about to send an email to a company, asking it to address a complaint. Would you review it for me?

Because of the volume of email I receive, I can’t offer personal advice on how to write a complaint letter.

I wrote to you weeks ago asking for help. Why haven’t you responded?

I try to acknowledge every email I receive, with one or two exceptions. If you sent a large attachment, it may have gone to my spam filter. Please send your message again without the attachment.

I did. Still nothing.

I generally can’t reply to emails with gratuitous profanity or written in ALL UPPERCASE. Try toning things down just a little, please.

I did, and you’re still not answering.

Did you address the email to me? Sometimes, readers copy me on emails, but don’t send them to me directly. I answer to Chris, Christopher, or even Elliott. Emails sent to “To Whom it May Concern” or simply “Hi” don’t always get a response, because I can’t be sure they’re meant for me. Also, sometimes I’m just overwhelmed with emails and can’t answer. Please don’t take it personally.

I tried to call you. I keep getting voice mail.

Please email me. I need a written record of your grievance in order to mediate a case.

I don’t need help, but I’ve sent you an email asking for advice. I haven’t heard anything yet. Are you ignoring me?

I get a fair number of requests to help plan a vacation or offer advice on buying one product versus another. I wish I had the time to answer those in detail. But I can’t.

You asked me for a “paper trail” — what’s that?

In order to successfully mediate a case, I need to see written proof that you’ve given the company a chance to respond to your customer-service problem. A paper trail — your emails between the company and you — is evidence that you’ve given the system a chance to work. It’s difficult to help you without it.

Is there a time limit on cases you will accept?

Many companies do not keep reliable customer records for longer than a year, which makes it difficult or impossible to mediate a case.

I saw a story in the news about someone who could use your help. Why don’t you offer your services?

I only help if I’m asked by a victim. I have a pretty strict policy against injecting myself into a dispute, and especially one that has already generated some media attention. I’m not doing this to become famous, but to help people like you.

ABOUT THIS SITE

Do you publish sponsored posts?

No. I don’t post advertorials, native advertising or sponsored posts. (Think about it: On a consumer advocacy site? Seriously?) When I mention underwriters on social media or in my newsletter, I always comply with relevant Federal Trade Commission requirements.

What’s your comments policy?

Here it is.

Ahem, your comments policy isn’t that permissive. Your moderator team often deletes comments and has even banned a few users. So much for free speech!

I have a staff of volunteer moderators who ensure a level of civility is maintained in the comments. As for free speech, this is a personal website. I’m under no obligation to publish every comment.

You don’t seem to understand the difference between a personal attack and a well-reasoned critique of some of your misguided ideas. Need me to explain?

Not really. I consider any post or comment that invites ridicule, scorn or encourages trolls to show up on my site to be the attack it was intended as. If you’ve made that kind of rhetorical assault on your blog or any other public platform, please don’t let it happen again. If you do, you will regret it.

What does “OP” mean?

Original poster. In discussions, it refers to the person with the grievance.

I’m the subject of one of your stories. My case was resolved months ago. What’s the deal?

I average a one-year backlog of cases. That means if your case is resolved today, it might not be published until next year. I’d love to post something sooner, but my frequency is limited by the publications that run my stories in syndication.

I recognize one of the stories on your site from another media outlet. Are you stealing stories?

Nope. Many of the articles you see here are syndicated. That means I write them for a newspaper or online syndicate and give them permission to publish the columns. I also retain the right to publish the articles on this site.

Is the customer always right?

No. But the most common reason for turning down a case isn’t the rightness — or wrongness — of a customer, but insufficient documentation. Keep those receipts and contracts, folks. Get everything in writing.

I’m a professional photographer, and you’ve used my images on your site without permission. What gives?

All images on my site are derived from Flickr under the Creative Commons license. I also have an agreement to use images from Shutterstock. If you believe I’ve used one of your images without permission, please .

I’m just about done reading your smug answers. You wrote a blog post that has cost me business, and I’m going to sue you. I’ll see you in court.

Why, thank you. I used to have an editor who said if you aren’t being threatened with a lawsuit, you’re not doing your job.

Before you file your complaint, why don’t you let me put you in touch with a long list of others who have either threatened to sue me or have done so? If, after that, you still feel like wasting your money on an expensive lawyer, be my guest. I’ll even write a blog post about it.