I’ve never told anyone these advocacy secrets

Here are some Elliott Advocacy secrets

The near-death experiences. The lawsuits we should have lost. The cases we won, even though we had no case.

I have stories to tell, and as our spring fundraiser gets under way, I’m going to tell them. The reason? I hope you’ll understand how fragile this site is — and how dependent it is on the support of readers like you. Simply put, I can’t do this without you.

Here’s how to become an underwriter now.

Left for dead

This is hard to talk about, but this site has been left for dead many times. Normally, it happens after there’s a change. For example, a few years ago, I decided to focus on what mattered — solving all types of consumer problems, not just travel problems.

I’d gathered a fine collection of travel columnists who loved writing about airlines, airline travel strategies, and frequent flier programs. When I told the team about our new direction, they abandoned the organization. Only one writer remained, and together we wrote every post on this site for many months.

That was a close one!

Our site has had near-death experiences for technical reasons, too. Hacks, denial-of-service attacks, malware — it’s all taken its toll. I remember having to shut the entire site down for a day while my developers rebuilt the server from scratch. I’ve never told anyone how close we came to losing everything.

The worst near-death experiences come from self-inflicted wounds. I’ve made a few major errors as a consumer reporter, mostly because I trusted others. I thought my reputation as an advocate was toast. I’m happy to say, I was wrong.

Lawsuits I should have lost

As you probably know, cease-and-desist letters from angry companies arrive in our inbox on a regular basis. I’ve also been sued. In one case, even though I thought I’d done nothing wrong, the company built a compelling case. Had it gone to court, I probably would have lost.

I normally don’t talk about pending litigation. To go into details would be embarrassing and might hurt my chances of prevailing in court. But I’m telling you now — I’ve almost lost the ranch a couple of times.

Consumer journalism is a high-wire act. It’s risky, and it’s easy to make a mistake. I wouldn’t recommend this profession to anyone. Become a sports writer or try politics, but leave the consumer advocacy alone unless you have nerves of steel and a backbone made of titanium. (I don’t, but I’m still here.)

So here’s my next secret: An unsympathetic judge could have shut me down many years ago, but that never happened. That’s one reason why I’ve formed an independent, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization — so that we’re protected from frivolous lawsuits or the actions of a single person. If I go down, the site stays up.

Your financial support will help build that organization. Here’s how to get involved now.

We shouldn’t have won these cases

And while I’m spilling the beans, here are a few more: Our advocacy team is incredibly lucky. Many of the complaints we receive should go directly to the “Case Dismissed” file. Of course, we don’t know that until we ask for the other side of the story. When we get all the facts, we may close the case. But the company a reader is complaining about doesn’t. Often, it fixes the problem anyway, as a “goodwill gesture.”

What percentage of our cases fall into the “never mind” category? On some days, it’s well over half. On others, it’s one or two.

In a perfectly just world, we shouldn’t be winning these cases. That’s when the commenters correctly note that we only prevailed because of the implied threat of writing a critical story.

I admit I wish I could change that. If someone comes to us with an unresolvable case, it should stay unresolved. But that’s not how it works. I’m lucky to have the power of the press behind me, but sometimes it helps too much.

Sometimes, I feel like that cockroach in the movie Wall-E — impossible to kill.

Come to think of it, isn’t that what you want in a consumer advocacy organization? A little escape artist, a lot of luck and a little too much success?

Now you know my secrets. By most measures, I shouldn’t still be here. But I am. We are. And now you can ensure we stay here by becoming an underwriter. I hope you’ll consider doing so now.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

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Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

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A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

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An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

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It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

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The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

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The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

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Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

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Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

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