Saved by the angels of consumer advocacy

Sometimes even an advocate needs an advocate.

That’s the situation we found ourselves in about a week ago. We had a near-death experience. For a few hours, it appeared someone had erased everything on our server.

And when I say “everything” I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. The entire blog, the forums and company contacts.

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We found a working backup, but as you know, we lost a little data.

We needed a little rescuing.

The angels who helped us — and I don’t use that term lightly — deserve to be recognized. And I also want to tell you that there’s room for more helpers, and I hope you’ll consider joining them.

They are researchers like Libbie Griffin, who swooped in to research Aegean Airlines last week. Or Bethany Tully, who re-posted contacts for Dollar. And Sebastien Almon, who tracked down the executives at Condor Airlines.

These volunteers worked quietly and without any expectations. They just wanted to help us recover.

We still have a ways to go. We have about 50 companies that still have to be reposted. So if you know anything about WordPress and have an hour or two to spare, please consider joining these researchers. Send an email to our research director, Trent Bonsall, and he’ll get you hooked up.

But they are not the only angels.

On the writing side, we were in the middle of adding a brand-new editorial lineup when our server exploded. Our flagship feature, which appears on this site at 8 a.m. Eastern time every morning, had just begun its first cycle when disaster struck.

Two writers deserve a special call-out: Christy Wood and Heather Dratler. In the same week they launched new columns, they also pitched in to write the daily “Advocate This!” feature. As you probably know, Advocate This! is an essential feature that helps us vet our most difficult cases, either on the site or through the forums. Your advice helps us determine whether to help someone, and how we go about doing it.

Dratler and Wood both have day jobs, but they also believe in the advocacy mission of this site. They’ve dedicated a significant amount of time to writing these stories, and we’re beyond grateful for the help.

They could use a hand. If you want to make a difference, please join us as one of our volunteer writers. Contact Rick Gegenheimer for details.

Last, but not least, we have the forums. They suffered the biggest data loss — almost five months of posts. I don’t have the room to list all of our forum advocates here, but I’m incredibly proud of them. They quickly re-registered and didn’t miss a beat helping consumers who were posting their problems online.

There’s a double silver lining for our forums, actually. The data disaster wiped out several weeks worth of toxic threads that we would prefer to forget about, and we now will. But also, most of the users who came to the forums are transient, which is to say they register once, ask for help, and then leave. So the damage was minimal.

And, although he’ll probably resent me for doing this, I wanted to give Grant Ritchie, our senior lead advocate in the forums, a shout-out. His support for the forums never wavered, even when the site went down and it looked as if everything he and his team had worked for was lost. Thank you, Grant.

If you want to help in our forums, please send Grant an email. After he calms down, he will probably respond. Here’s his address.

I want to express my personal gratitude to everyone who has lent a hand with our comeback. Our recovery has been nothing short of remarkable this week. With your help, this site will be better than ever.

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