Are you ready for the best year ever? I am.
2017 has been kind of awful for consumers. So awful that I’m afraid to even look back. Which is why 2018 can’t come soon enough.
I’m looking forward to serving you even better as an advocate, bringing you a greater variety of cases, more opportunities to get involved in the work we do here every day, keeping the discourse civil and only getting political when we have to.
In short, this site will be the best it’s ever been. Here’s what I mean:
A sharper focus on you
In the past year, my team of advocates and writers has narrowed its focus to doing what we do best: solving consumer problems and then presenting them to you in a lively, interesting and educational way. Based on our traffic numbers and blog comments, I’d say we’ve pulled it off. But we can do better. In 2018, I’d like to find new ways of engaging you with our stories using multimedia content and provocative polls. I want you to care as much about the content we’re creating as we do. The stories we tell will turn you into every company’s worst nightmare: an informed, enlightened and empowered consumer.
More case diversity
For years, this site has been known as a travel site, thanks in no small part to my nationally syndicated Travel Troubleshooter column. That started to change almost a decade ago, when I wrote my first book, Scammed, and began developing Problem Solved, my weekly Q&A column helping all kinds of consumers. That feature finally went into syndication in October. I expect a flood of new, nontravel cases in early 2018, and if you ask me, it’s about time. I believe this site’s fixation on travel hasn’t served readers whose problems transcend planes, trains and automobiles, and I’ll be happy to be advocating something beyond the wrong-name-on-tickets, shoulda-bought-travel-insurance, unjustly-accused-of-damaging-my-rental vortex of travel problems that we seem to answer every day.
More opportunities to get involved
One of the most unexpected trends in the last year is that you — the readers of this site — have come forward to financially support the advocacy on this site. While fundraisers aren’t easy (we’re about to start part two of our winter fundraiser, so I speak from experience), the last one exceeded every expectation. In 2018, I hope to build on that partnership. Why? I want to answer to you, the readers of this site, instead of to advertisers or affiliates. If we can pull this off, then I can see a path toward turning this into a lasting institution that helps consumers long after I’ve gotten off this train. I’ll share details this week.
A polite site
In 2016 and early 2017, we politely but firmly showed trolls the door. They were driving away the very people who needed our help and giving the site a reputation as a place where angry, loud voices controlled every blog comment discussion. Maybe you remember the endless revisions of our comments policy in an attempt to clamp down on the vitriol. But what you might not know is that I also took another unusual step by blocking all site traffic from several sites dedicated to loyalty programs. When they try to link to one of our pages, they now receive an error message. It worked. The trolls lefft.
In 2018, we’ll be redoubling our efforts at creating an open, engaging and friendly environment for readers. That includes the formation of a new Standards & Practices department that monitors the discourse and keeps every discussion on topic. I want us to be known as the polite site. I think that’s doable.
Steering clear of politics (as long as politics steers clear of us)
Do you know any consumer advocates who have given the Trump administration a full-throated endorsement? Neither do I. Maybe it’s because the administration is so busy dismantling consumer regulations, it hasn’t had time to look up and see the Americans being harmed by their actions.
I truly, truly dislike politics, but in 2018, my goal is to keep the discourse contained — to only discuss the role of government in the context of consumer protection. I’d like to leave those unwinnable red-state/blue-state arguments for Election Day, which can’t come soon enough. And also, to remember that we serve an international audience, with diverse viewpoints and beliefs. We help all of them, not just the ones with which we agree.
Advocating for you everywhere I go
As I noted last month, I have opportunities to advocate for you beyond this site. Testifying before Congress is just one of them. I’ve also given speeches to trade associations about improving customer service, and the exchange has led to real improvements. I remember mentioning a problem with the FAQ section of an airline site during a speech to a group of executives at a recent airline conference. In response, an exec opened the page and fixed the section, right then and there. That’s not the kind of progress you can make behind the screen on your own laptop computer. In 2018, I’ll be joining the fight to save important consumer protections. My promise to you is that I’ll fight the small battles — and the big ones — until I’m out of ammo.
So, are you ready? I am. I think 2018 is going to be amazing. I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me for this adventure.