There is one question that you should NEVER ask

Most people* are good and they want to help. They want to keep you safe. You need to help them help you.  You don’t need to ask them lots of questions, but rather ask them the right questions.  There is, however, one question you should never ask anyone, except your angels.  That question is “Is this safe?” Let me tell you why.

You are looking for the answer to the question “Is it safe?”, but ultimately only you can answer that for yourself. When you ask that question to someone else you are effectively putting the burden of your safety on them. If you are talking to a person what they hear is “If I die, it will be your fault.” If you are talking to a mom and pop restaurant owner you are saying “I’m might give you a bad yelp review” and if you are talking to an airline you are saying “I’m going to sue for as much as possible.

That individual that you are trying to burden probably has enough problems of their own without you adding to it, so don’t do it. They are either doing their job or running their business and just trying to get by like the rest of us. You need to help them help you. You also need to decide what is more important, your satisfaction or your safety?

Corporations are not people

That mega-corporation with lots of money who you plan to sue if things go wrong? You know, they one with their policies published on their website? They don’t care. They really don’t care. The individuals that work there might care, but the corporations do not, because they are a CORPORATION. That’s the point. All they care about is SURVIVING, whether privately held or publicly traded; that is why they exist.

How does a corporation survive? You think it’s profit? … Well sort of, but not entirely. In the US, it’s actually about COMPETITION, CAPITALISM, and FREE MARKETS. I wrote a BASIC program to illustrate:

10 Make more profit to be able to put than the competitor out of business
15 REM profit is important, but not the end game
20 More profit means more shareholder value and higher stock price 
25 REM and the rich get richer
30 goto 10

Did you read their corporate policy? No employee has the authority to change that, so don’t ask them to. If you really complain enough they will tell you to buy from another company. Are they discriminating against you because of the allergy? No, they don’t want to serve you because you are asking them to make an exception to the written policy. Is this legal? YES, IT IS. …

Food contamination is based on the facility where it is produced and NOT the brand. The labeling on the package is specific to the factory. The same item from two different factory locations could have different allergen risks. You could reside in an area where your local store carries the same item from different factories, maybe not at the same time, but might switch unexpectedly from safe to unsafe temporarily or permanently.

Why? Profit, of course. This is why YOU HAVE TO READ THE LABELS ON EVERY PACKAGE EVERY TIME. No exceptions.

You want the airline to make an emergency landing? It’s NOT going to happen anymore. That’s why the policies have changed recently.

You can’t afford to sue them.

Unless you have the basis of material financial damage (ie. loss of the breadwinner or extra travel expenses) you don’t have a case, and if you are out a few thousand $ for changes in travel plans it will cost you more in legal fees to sue them than you will get. There are three things you need to get compensation.

They don’t care if your kid dies “because of your own negligence.” And if that happens that’s exactly what they will accuse you of. You read their policy on their website, right?

The employees are under pressure to get the plane back in the air quickly. If the airplane is not flying then it’s not making money. I’d also guess the airlines have had plenty of complaints from non-allergic passengers that WE somehow inconvenience them. I’d sure like to know what happens when there is an unplanned emergency landing. How many complaints do they get when that happens? What is the true cost in $$$$$$ to the airline? Could be huge. And what about any potential lawsuit? … Did you read they corporate policy on their website? They don’t care about a lawsuit. They have more lawyers than you.

All the profit from a flight comes from premium seats. They fill the economy seats just to cover their operating costs. So when you have a dozen or more highly paid business execs, the airlines most profitable customers, diverted due to an emergency landing, making them miss their ‘important’ meetings who do you think they listen to? Us, the 1-2% needy allergic people, or the people that pay 2x to 10x what we pay in order to not mingle with the ‘riff-raff’? … I am not criticizing the PEOPLE working there, I’m going after the corporation. They don’t care about the customer. They really don’t. They care about the shareholders.

Take the Erin Brockovich story. All about the collective damage, nothing about the one individual that has an unfortunate accident.  Don’t set yourself up to be that accident, you will be better off by not having the accident in the first place. When dealing with corporations I put my safety above their customer service.

People are People

Now that we’ve got the corporations behind us let’s talk about the people. Years ago I was helping someone refinance their mortgage. I appealed to the broker by telling him I was helping was a widowed, retired school teacher. The broker cut me short and told me “everyone has a sob story, this is what I can do for you today.” He basically told me to stop wasting his time. If you want people to help you:

1) get their attention
2) tell them exactly what you need
3) let them do their job
4) don’t waste their time

Start with the high-level questions and only if necessary get into the details. Despite the severity of my allergy, it is actually easy to manage because my requirements are so specific.  I sympathize with those that have more complex issues to manage. But you can get people to do their best if you help them help you.

– Visit the company website to see if they have a policy on the issue you need addressed. Employees will not be able to override corporate policy, so don’t show up and expect them to. It’s all about liability and if they break the rules they can be fired.

Contact the company before you arrive to determine what they can answer in advance versus when you arrive. If they tell you they can’t accommodate then look for another solution.

– When you arrive: 1) make sure you are talking to the person responsible for answering your questions. For example, at a restaurant that would be the waiter, the cook, and the manager/owner.  Don’t bother the host/hostess or the busboy. They aren’t allowed to answer these questions even if they want to because they don’t handle your food, it’s a liability issue.


Sometimes you need to lead off with a really clear statement:

I realize you can’t absolutely guarantee me a 100% risk free environment, and I accept that risk every moment of every day, but I need to know …

I only fly airlines that do not SERVE peanuts themselves.

I am here to do XXX. Having an allergic reaction right now would prevent that, so I’m not taking any chances.

I am deathly allergic to peanuts and I read your menu and it looks like you have no peanuts in the kitchen. Can you confirm that?

This is what Living with PA ANA feels like when I’m outside my safe bubble:


* – those that are not, based on what I read on facebook, seem to be flight attendants, gate crew, ticket counter and customer service on United Airlines/USAir. These companies seem to be deliberately putting rude/insensitive people in these positions in order to discourage us from flying with them. If you can’t answer the question “Why?” then go up and read the post again.

This to me is sad, because United was the first airline to go 100% peanut free. Everyone loves Delta and Southwest lately because they have great customer service, but, you realize you are entering an enclosed environment where peanuts have been recently. Is that really safe? … Only you can answer that question.

You can read the whole thing for free if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited. Here’s the book:


2 thoughts on “There is one question that you should NEVER ask

  1. Haha I love that BASIC program! It is true that minimizing risk and determining true safety thresholds is incumbent upon us and not the companies.


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