Why we say what we say

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Christopher Elliott

Staff Member
Aug 22, 2007
I'm posting this in an open forum because I want everyone to see this.

We've had several recent cases that were real eye-rollers. The customers were careless, didn't bother reading the fine print, or wanted a rule bent even though they probably didn't deserve it.

How do we address these weak cases without sounding like industry apologists?

Of course you can tell a consumer that you don't think they have a strong case. After all, that's what they're asking.

Do I have a case? Will you help me?

Ideally, the answer will be yes, and yes. Yes, you have a good case. Yes, we'll help.

But sometimes, the answer is no -- but yes.

No, you don't have a strong case. Yes, we'll help you anyway.

The point of contention so far has been how we deliver that "no."

Do we link to a company's policy? Do we try to explain why the policy exists? Do we even say that the policy is justified?

The answer: We make them aware of the policy. We can even try to explain the reason for the policy. But we are always their advocate. Even when we both know they probably don't deserve it. This site, this forum, is on their side.

Above all, we want to avoid any perception that we're siding with the company or that the company's likely rejection of their argument is justified. That's why I've said in previous posts on this forum that where possible, we try to avoid giving someone a flat "no."

This is really the hardest part of answering consumer questions in an open forum.

People are coming to us for help and we often feel as if we need to give them tough love by explaining or justifying a policy. But that is not our job as advocates. We're here to help consumers.

All of them.