In case you didn’t notice, we had a busy, exciting — and in many cases, controversial — year. That’s the kind of year it was for advocacy, helping those who needed it, or as our own Christopher Elliott likes to say, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
A review of the most popular stories suggests that certain words will open the floodgates of visitors, but in retrospect, not all our visitors landed on the right site. (On Monday, we’ll have a post on the top comments of 2016, and you’ll see what I mean.) Certainly, the year’s most-visited stories raise some existential questions about what this site is, and what it is becoming.
Here are our most popular stories of 2016:
1) “I wish I’d never heard of Allegiant!” (Diane Perera, July 30, 29,235 unique pageviews)
2) There’s something in the water at the Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort (warning: graphic content) (Jessica Monsell, April 2, 17,816 unique pageviews)
3) I witnessed a murder — now I can’t fly on Spirit (Michelle Bell, November 22, 14,660 unique pageviews)
4) Ejected from my seat on Air Canada (Jennifer Finger, July 14, 14,902 unique pageviews)
5) AAvoid at all costs (Christopher Elliott, January 3, 14,790 unique pageviews)
6) A midair confrontation leaves a passenger speechless (Christopher Elliott, January 25, 13,861 unique pageviews)
7) There’s no smoke in my hotel room, so what’s this $250 charge? (Christopher Elliott, October 21, 13,439 unique pageviews)
8) Ridiculed by American Airlines flight crew, passengers for traveling with a breast pump (Jessica Monsell, September 6, 12,728 unique pageviews)
9) Signed, A nobody customer of Delta Air Lines (Jessica Monsell, June 29, 11,987 unique pageviews)
10) JetBlue passenger removed from flight after medical overshare with flight crew (Jessica Monsell, September 1, 11,672 unique pageviews)
I asked our editors what they made of our top 10 list. Chris’ immediate reaction was interesting. He noted that the diversity of bylines suggested that this site (indeed, this entire advocacy project) has evolved into a group effort in 2016. It may be his name on the site, but it belongs to all of us.
But what about the stories? We had some doozies on both sides of the desk this year. We saw some customer service failures that left us wondering how companies could treat their clientele so badly — and won some major victories for consumers.
But we also had to ask what some of those persons who requested our assistance were thinking, because we saw instances of entitlement, sarcasm and rudeness from customers that would have caused many companies to refuse to work with them to resolve their issues.
Some of the topics we discussed, such as emotional support and service animals, tipping at restaurants and travel insurance, resulted in a great deal of debate, including some less-than-complimentary feedback to our writers and advocates as well as those persons we assisted.
As I said before, there’s a separate post on your comments. Patience.
Until then, let me say this: Many blog comments, including several of the most upvoted, were written in a snarky, hostile tone, leading us to seriously consider removing our comments section. (A reminder: Commenting on our stories is a privilege, not a right, and all readers need to abide by our comments policy.)
An assortment of “in-house” matters generated a lot of energy, both positive and negative, for us. We said goodbye to some long-time volunteers, including one who now does identical consumer advocacy on her own, while welcoming many new advocates — sometimes after handling their cases.
Although we had considered becoming a 501(c)(3) organization, ultimately we decided to keep our current structure. And we abandoned the use of a multipage format for our blog stories after our readers complained.
We reflect with sadness on the fact that so many people requested, and ultimately required, our assistance. That’s an unfortunate sign of the badly frayed relationship between companies and consumers. And the results of the U.S. political elections and other events of 2016 suggest that our advocacy efforts will be as urgently needed, perhaps even more needed, in the years to come as they were this year.
But we close on a note of hope with the following New Year’s resolution: We promise to continue our consumer advocacy and work as hard as ever to promote honesty, fairness and respect between companies and customers.
See you in 2017!