Whatever happened to Kimberly Mathilda’s refund — and why you should care

By | September 20th, 2016

Whatever happened to Kimberly Mathilda’s refund? We’ll never know because Mathilda has gone into radio silence.

Why does someone who came to us for help, and who we’re trying to assist, stop talking to us? Was it something we said?

And that brings up another question: What is happening behind the scenes that motivates someone like Mathilda to fall silent?

Let me adjust my tin foil hat, my friends.

But before diving into my oh-so-fun conspiracy theories, let’s talk about the problem that brought Mathilda to our doorstep. She’d booked a flight from Aruba, where she lives, to Miami. The flight was canceled and she had to book another ticket.

A slam-dunk for a refund, right?

Well, not exactly. She circled back with Orbitz, the online travel agency she’d used to book the ticket, and although it promised a prompt refund, it never delivered.

We contacted Orbitz and it refunded part of the ticket. Mathilda also asked Orbitz for a refund on the hotel — a refund to which she says she’s entitled because she purchased Orbitz’ “travel protection.”

No problem, our advocates said. Some refunds take longer than others.

Here’s where things get a little fuzzy. The paper trail we received suggested that while Mathilda had purchased “protection” on Orbitz, she may have booked the hotel separately. But her trip should have still been protected, and Orbitz would have been able to help her honor the policy. Or so we assumed.

We never got an answer. Not from Orbitz, not from Mathilda.


Just static.

This was a mission half-accomplished. Her airline refunded the tickets but the hotel rooms were still missing in action.

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I’d like to think that Orbitz did the right thing. It helped her file a claim and she received a refund, and she just forgot to tell us. Yeah, that’s probably what happened.

Then again … what if something else happened?

I’m wearing my tin foil hat now.

What if she contacted Orbitz and it told her, “Hey, you’re outta luck. Your ‘protection’ doesn’t cover the hotel you booked.”

And then she said, “OK, I’ll let Chris and his team know.”

And then Orbitz said. “Whoa, not so fast! As a gesture of goodwill, we’ll offer you a credit. But first, you have to do something for us.”

And I think you all know what that would be. If what I suspected was happening actually happened: They asked her to not tell us about the resolution. Don’t want to get the media involved now, do we?

Is that what went down?

Nah. I’m probably just being paranoid.

But when a customer goes into radio silence like that, all we can do to fill in the blanks is use our imagination. And speaking for myself, I have a great imagination.

We routinely take companies to task for ignoring our queries. Consider this a friendly reminder to the customers who contact us, too. Ignoring our requests for information is unlikely to help your case in any meaningful way.

Once you ask our team for help, we’re in this together.

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  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I like the ‘virtual black hole’ instead of ‘radio silence’.

  • Regina Litman

    There’s that phrase again: “radio silence”. I think I can figure out what it means from the context (a key SAT test-taking strategy we were taught in high school), but where the heck does it come from? What key life experience have I missed out on that would have exposed me to it before I started seeing it a lot on this site? Being in the military? Watching “Star Trek”? Thanks for any direct replies you can give me in this space.

  • marie3656

    I understand why you feel it’s counter-productive for consumers to seek your help and then not share the result with you. And I suspect you feel very strongly about it because this is a recurring theme lately. But I think it’s important to see it from the consumer’s perspective, as well. If they are able to have a satisfactory resolution, shouldn’t they take it? I think they’re coming to you for help with a specific problem, not necessarily the goal of bringing more transparency to consumer advocacy in general.

    Chris, I believe you did just what your consumers are doing a few weeks ago. You had your rental disaster in Canada, but instead of full transparency and sharing the rental property address or sharing pictures, you opted to not share specific information because the owner was seemingly trying to work with you on the issues. Just as you claim in stories you write, that doesn’t help others who might not have Chris Elliott and risk of public embarrassment backing them up. I’m not criticizing your decision to do so by any means, but I do find the narratives very parallel. Just keep an open mind about what people’s motivations may be, and what the consumers real role and responsibility in the advocacy situation may be. If you feel strongly about it, perhaps adding your own clause that says “If we help you, we expect you to be transparent with the results” or something like that.

  • Dutchess

    All I have to say is, well done Chris. If they’ve had Mathilda sign a non-disclosure this is a good indication that these companies are afraid of you and your advocates!

  • Skeptic

    Let me help you with that. Here’s the scenario: someone you were talking to on the radio (I’ve never been in the military but have talked on shit-to-shore radiotelephones, used FMS/walkie-talkie type radios, and used ham shortwave and agency radios) stops responding to you. Or you get on your radio to try to contact someone and hear nothing but silence. When this happens, you don’t know if there’s something wrong with your equipment, with their equipment, or if there’s something wrong with them. Just silence — “radio silence” (or, more likely, static).

  • Kairho

    Also … radio silence implies a more concerning silence than simply, well, no noise. It implies that a conversation (or whatever) had been in progress and suddenly the other end is no longer speaking.

  • marathon man

    I have friends who, when you text or email to ask them something they cannot do or cannot be sure of doing yet, they go silent for a while. But when someone asks for advice or help and then you give it and they then go silent, that bugs the ^*(&@!( out of me! I get excited to try and help someone with something I may know. A wood working project with certain things you must buy or set up, a recipe, a fitness plan, a travel plan, etc. They ask, you give them ALL the details and then… nothin. Soo annoying! Why do people do that? And then what’s worse, is that weeks later you see them and they say something like, “oh yeah that, we ended up doing it this way and it didn’t work so all your advice didn’t help us” (even though the way they ended up doing it was NOT what you had suggested they do at all!)

    These people go down a notch or two in my list. And eventually they go off the list. If it’s someone who was already a long time friend, I just stay friends with them but pull back some, and also note in my head to never give them advice or ignore any requests for it that they may ask a group text or something.

    If someone asks for your help with something, all I ask –all I think Chris is asking for is a simple “yup, got it, thanks! That worked or it didn’t but thanks for at least trying!”

    I think in this site, the goal is to not only help a person, but also to share what happened so others can learn from it and try to avoid the same fate.

    If you rent a car and something goes wrong and you lose say $200 from the problem, you are upset. You may end up needing a Chris to help advocate to get some of it back. Whether he can or not, we all learn from this experience. Now, in a sense, I can read up on this and while I feel bad you lost $200, it just saved me that same amount of money because I learned from your experience. Do I owe you $200? Well, no, but when something happens to me, it continues. Someone else learns. And eventually, maybe it ‘s you who learned from the fate of yet another customer. So it’s a big circle. We all in some way or another, help one another. It’s kind of German-millennium-esque. Think about it.

    And if someone breaks the chain, well things can go on, but it would have been so much better if they did their part and responded too. If they don’t, it’s a bit selfish don’t you think?

  • marathon man

    yes but even with a ND, the person could still respond with: “The issue has been resolved.”

  • cscasi

    Nonetheless, Mathilda could have been good enough to let Chris know things had been resolved and if there was a non disclosure agreement signed as a result (therefore she oculd not discuss the outcome), she could have said that, thanked Chris for what he and his team had done up to then and it would have been enough said

  • joycexyz

    Why waste time and energy when the complainant drops out of sight? And the least that person could do is thank you for your efforts.

  • Richard Mengelkoch

    Have you heard of Google?

  • marie3656

    I totally agree that they should respond, but I think that Chris is equally upset at the lack of transparency. That’s what I think is more complicated — if it’s ok to accept a gag clause in order to be made whole. Ignoring emails from someone who helped is just not cool.

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