Maybe I should stop making New Year’s resolutions.
When I reviewed our post from a year ago, in which I pledged to “make it better” for everyone, that was my first thought.
Well, we kinda made things better. And we kinda didn’t.
Like all those who make resolutions, my advocacy team and I had the very best of intentions: to create an independent site that helped all consumers, not just travelers.
But at the same time we were speeding down the wrong path. We affiliated ourselves with a blog network that specializes in loyalty programs and travel hacking (what were we thinking?). We made a series of misguided decisions about content (quantity, not quality) and picked the wrong commenting platform (earn points for being good! Learn Russian!).
Oh, and then there was the hack, the data loss. Who did that? Did you ever read Murder On The Orient Express? Maybe the question should be: Who didn’t do it?
So I stand here at the end of 2015, humbled by these spectacular failures. Still, curiously, we’re much closer to our destination than anyone would have thought possible.
We’re independent and self-sufficient. We’re helping all consumers, as promised. We fixed the troll-infested comments section. We’re finally on the right track. And I promise, we’ll stay on track this time.
What do we want for next year? Oh, just a few things. I can’t believe I’m actually doing this again …
Leverage our platform for positive change.
I feel very lucky. This remains one of the most-read and most influential advocacy sites on the Internet, despite all of our wrong turns. I credit a forgiving readership (*) and talented contributors for its longevity. But instead of mercilessly attacking corporate avarice and intransigence every day, why not use some of that bandwidth to highlight the positive? Why not praise the companies that offer their customers a fair product at a reasonable price, too? That’s a worthy goal, and it’s what we’re doing (Andrew Der, take a bow).
Pick winnable fights.
There are a handful of causes where we can make a difference, and where nonstop coverage might change corporate America. Hotel resort fees, car rental “sign here” scams, travel clubs and airline mergers are just a few of them. Where government regulation and litigation failed, maybe this site can succeed at ending bad corporate behavior.
Stop seeing the world in terms of “winners” and “losers.”
I think we’ve bought into a false reality, which says that if a company acts in a compassionate way by extending a warranty or offering a refund, there are other customers who “lose.” Specifically, the losers are the rule-abiding customers who are left with non-working products or who must pay higher prices. But it’s a worldview with no basis in reality, and we have to reject it. I’ll put it into terms everyone here can understand: It’s possible to offer an amazing first-class cabin, but still have an economy class section with ample legroom, personal space, amenities and service, and turn a profit.
Fix more, comment less.
We comment. We can’t help ourselves when there’s so much injustice and greed in front of us every day. But it can be taken too far. (Imagine how foolish we’d look with the words “expert” or “thought leader” in this site’s tagline.) In 2016, I want this site to help more people and to leave the pontificating to the people who have nothing better to do. The only opinion that matters to us anyway is that of the consumer who gets our help. The rest is just meaningless Internet chatter.
I have a few personal goals, too. I want to write a book that will permanently tip the scales in your favor, as a consumer.
I want to spend more time with my kids.
And yes, I promise to use the “mute” button more often. Look, the haters are out there, and they can’t help themselves. This site is an easy target, mostly because it serves many inexperienced consumers. Responding to recreational arguers and trolls doesn’t just encourage them, it also distracts us from our important mission — to help you.
(* About those forgiving readers: They are amazing and I know they are still here, even if they are commenting under a different handle. Thank you for your patience and loyalty.)