Here’s to new beginnings

Christopher Elliott at the German Clock Museum. Photo by Aren Elliott.
Christopher Elliott at the German Clock Museum. Photo by Aren Elliott.
I’ve published this site since 1997, which is half an eternity on the Internet.

You’ve seen features come and go, from my first foray into travel commentary — as’s Crabby Traveler — to my adventures in mainstream media columnizing at The New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.

Elliott Advocacy is 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.

If you’ve followed this site, you know that the only constant is change. But today’s changes are so significant that they merit their own story.

I have several big announcements I’d like to share with you:

Hello, King Features. Eight years ago, I signed on as a syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. Together, we built the Travel Troubleshooter brand, distributing it to newspapers across the country. My contract ends on May 1, and I’m really excited to be moving to King Features Syndicate, which is owned by Hearst. The editorial and sales team at Hearst saw my advocacy for what it is – as an effort to help all consumers — and they want to help me realize my goal of assisting as many readers as possible. I’ll have details soon.

Good-bye, At the same time, I’m bidding a fond farewell to my friends at Four years ago, I approached Mint about becoming a contributor to its blog, since I was an enthusiastic user of its personal finance website. Their response: “You would write for us?” We’ve had a wonderful partnership ever since. But as many of you know, my view of “free” products has evolved in the recent past, and it recently became clear that I could no longer accept or endorse Mint’s claim that it was a “free” service.

Hello, team Elliott. Perhaps the biggest change you’ll notice will take place on this site. I’ve written more or less solo since the beginning, but in the next few weeks I’ll be taking steps toward becoming a group-written consumer advocacy blog. Technically, it will become the official advice site of Travelers United, the organization I co-founded. I’ll be moving my personal site, but will continue to play a leading role in publishing

Changes like this don’t happen without a reason, and when they do, I think it’s important to appreciate the lessons learned. And for you and me, there are several takeaways:

Be true to yourself. Consumer advocacy can be a lonely and thankless job. You get to write about companies’ mistakes, and even if you’re impartial and fair, feathers will inevitably get ruffled. If an editor instructs you to tone things down or be more positive, you really have to make up your mind about whose side you’re on. Such decisions have immediate financial consequences. But I would rather be honest and broke than compromised and rich.

Who’s on your team is important. In the last six months, I’ve come to rely on an outstanding group of volunteer resolutions specialists who have helped me field questions from readers. I simply can’t say enough nice things about them. They are professionals who care deeply about the plight of the consumer. But when your team is not dedicated to the same mission that you are — when it’s just a business or when they simply fail to support you — then it’s time to make a change. I love my current team. I have the best editors at National Geographic, the Washington Post, USA Today and King Features, and I truly adore my resolutions team supporting me and the consumers I’m trying to help.

Good readers make you great. In the last year, I’ve also learned the importance of having careful and compassionate readers. You’re the support network that makes all of this possible. You click on the ads that help me pay the bills, you patronize the underwriters that support the site. Also, you leave some pretty amazing, insightful comments. I love you all. But at the same time, I’ve learned that bad readers can drag a site down. I’ve reluctantly blocked, banned and blacklisted several trolls who sent a seemingly never-ending stream of unfair and provocative comments to me via my site and social media. You know what? This site has never been better.

So here’s to new beginnings. I’m sure you’ll like these improvements – I already do.

27 thoughts on “Here’s to new beginnings

  1. Congratulations on your progress. I think your tendancy toward either/or’s got you cornered. You should be comfortable enough to be honest, without having to choose between rich and poor.

  2. With Television Without Pity announcing last week that they were shutting down, and then I saw this headline, I thought the worst and saw my entire online life crumbling before my eyes! As I read on I realized it wasn’t so dire. Good luck to you!

    1. I hadn’t heard about Television Without Pity. A shame, as I used to read them every week. And they had one of the great names, too.

  3. I am constantly advised to post dishes on my blog that I wouldn’t feed my own family in order to attract more followers, but I steadfastly refuse. I love that you said you’d rather be honest and broke, than compromised and rich…I completely agree with that philosophy! Good for you, Christopher! Very happy for you and your move forward!

  4. Chris… We appreciate all you do for us.. Love following to see whats new, problems & resolutions. & watching the changes as they occur. We appreciate your honesty and all that you stand for… As I have said before.. You set GREAT examples for your children… Good luck as your new adventures unfold… We’ll be watching .

  5. Congratulations on your plans for the future. Keep up the good work, solving problems for some and instructing the rest of us how to avoid the same problem. Thank you.

  6. Congrats and keep on keepin’ on, Chris. Love the site and will be reading you…well, wherever you are. Cheers!

  7. Congratulations Chris. I look forward to reading you for a long time. You have provided us with a great source of travel information and a very educational forum.

    Now if you could come up with a word other than “free” to describe the programs that bother you, it would be a great benefit to all of us. Otherwise, the comments that come up whenever you discuss that issue sometimes border on reductio ad absurdum.

    Thanks again, and good luck.

  8. Congrats Chris! I still remember our lunch at Millennium Park in Chicago before the very first TBEX. 🙂 Onwards and upwards…good for you on making tough, but good choices all along.

  9. Congratulations. Very well deserved. You have been such a great help to thousands of consumers. And entertaining for us readers as well.

  10. I thought I would underscore my appreciation for a series of courageous decisions by renewing my “underwriting” for 2014. Hope others do the same, because I know you can’t be doing this for free!

  11. We love you Chris! So glad you’re always getting bigger and better; congratulations. Can’t imagine how to start my day without a quick look at your latest in my inbox.

  12. I’m curious why your expansion model is based on getting highly qualified people to volunteer — for free — to spend hours and hours doing the work that you get paid to do. This seems both unfair and unwise, as the people who are willing to do it for free may not be as qualified. Why aren’t you offering people some sort of token compensation or something?

    1. Travelers United, the organization I’m shifting some of my advocacy work toward, is a 501c3. I donate my time to it and am not compensated for it. I get paid for writing columns, and that will never be outsourced.

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