In Park City, a lesson about getting what you asked for

Be careful what you ask for.

I should know. I’m in Park City, Utah, and everyone here was asking for snow. Praying for it, actually.

Well, yesterday morning, Mother Nature answered. Sheets of frozen precipitate greeted us, blowing horizontally. We huddled indoors at the Grand Summit Lodge, waiting for the storm to pass. My kids and I, all avid skiers, warmed ourselves by the fireplace clutching cups of steaming tea.

I love Park City, but I’m a bluebird kind of guy. We also learned a little lesson about getting what you want. Whether just an honest answer, an impartial review of a case or even a change in leadership, we should always think twice before asking for anything.

Honestly, now?

This week on my site, I published a story about readers who ask me for help and later regret it. Some of them assume incorrectly that my advocacy team will always take their side, no matter how wrong they are. That’s not true, unfortunately.

Often, they ask us to be “honest” with them about their case. (As if we’d be anything but honest.) When you do that, you have to be prepared for an honest answer — and not always the one you want to hear.

How often have I done that, too? I’ve lost count. I show an editor a story and ask, “What do you think of it?” and then I get the document back filled with red marks. Ouch, that was the sound of my writer ego being injured.

Perhaps Harper Lee said it best in To Kill a Mockingbird. Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer.

An unbiased review

It doesn’t always get to the story level, of course. I receive hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of emails a week, that end with, “Do I have a case?” And again, if I don’t reflexively answer “yes” I’m accused of high treason.

“What kind of advocate are you?” they demand.

If you want to see that in action, just go to our help forums and read a few of the threads. Watch them flip from asking to accusing in just a few short sentences. If my advocates and verified users have the audacity to tell people they’re out of luck — that their warranties are up, they didn’t follow the terms and conditions or the rules may have been broken — they erupt in anger.

The presidency and the Park City Paradox

On a bigger scale, wasn’t the 2016 presidential election a “be-careful-what-you-ask-for” moment? A minority of Americans living in the right states voted for “change” — and they got much more than they bargained for.

We now have scandals, special counsels and plummeting stock markets. Did anyone vote for that?

I’m not a political guy, but stay with me for a minute. If I’d told you that the Deregulator-in-Chief would be unwinding many necessary consumer protections in 2018 and trying to undo agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would you have still voted the way you did? Maybe you should hold that answer until the Department of Transportation rescinds the full-fare advertising rule and you can no longer tell how much your airline ticket will cost.

I don’t know anyone who asked for this. If you do, please ask them to email me and tell me how they like it. I’ll be here.

Let’s be careful what we ask for.

Have you ever asked for something that you later regretted? Tell me about it. Here’s how to contact me.

This week’s stories

Here are this week’s advocacy columns. Please like, comment and share these stories with your friends.

Travelers are rethinking rental cars. Here’s why. (Washington Post)

Screen addiction is destroying travel. Here’s how to stop it (USA Today)

Hertz charged me an extra $72. Can I get a refund? (Miami Herald)

Powder Mountain, Snowbasin stir memories of Olympics past — and a few thrills (Away is Home)

Have a terrific week!

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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 weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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