What have I done for you lately?

Forget Bitcoin.

If you want a sure thing, invest in the consumer advocacy on this site.

Every day, thousands of readers get the help they need with quick answers, insider information or help from a real person. And, as we wrap up the first week of our winter fundraiser, there’s never been a better time to become an underwriter of this site.

Most readers only see one side of the advocacy — either the popular syndicated column or the blog you’re reading now. But there is so much more. Let me take you behind the scenes and tell you what this site did for you just last week.

It started with outreach in big media outlets, including the Washington Post and USA Today. The San Jose Mercury News ran my Travel Troubleshooter column about construction noise at a Sandals hotel. The Keene Sentinel published my Washington Post story about traveling in 2018. The Daily American featured my Problem Solved column about an email snafu.

I also made other media appearances, including live radio interviews on KRLD in Dallas and WCCO in Minneapolis.

That, combined with operating a high-traffic website, brought in cases — lots of cases. Bear in mind, these are not one-off questions sent to the site. These are readers who took the time to fill in this extensive form. We counted a total of 89 new cases last week, up 17 percent from a year ago. We had another 200+ emailed questions that were answered outside the form.

Roughly half of those problems were referred to our help forum. There’s a team of dedicated forum advocates answering questions from readers 24 hours a day. No, seriously. I’ve logged in at 3 a.m. and seen advocates there, answering questions. It’s really remarkable.

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The other half of the cases were sent directly to companies for mediation, but only after collecting a thorough paper trail of correspondence between the consumer and the company. This process can take days, weeks and sometimes even months.

At the moment, we have three response team members on duty 24 hours. Don’t believe me? Try submitting a form any time of the day. Someone will respond. One response team member is in the U.K., and he keeps the overnight fires burning. Another keeps early a.m. hours, and the third is a night owl. When I say we’re here for you all day, every day, I’m not kidding.

Last week also, our research department published new contact information for
La-Z-Boy, AMC Theaters, Frontier Communications and Publix — one company per day. Finding these executive contacts is close to impossible sometimes. But the risk of publishing them keeps us on edge. We’re routinely served with cease-and-desist letters threatening to sue us if we publish executive contact information online. Fortunately, we have a little thing called the First Amendment that protects us.

And then there’s the other behind-the-scenes work you may never see. A dozen stories were filed by our editorial contributors, each one covering one of our active cases. Writing about a consumer problem isn’t easy. There are pages upon pages of case notes to study and it all needs to be distilled into a readable format. The finished stories are sent to a team of editors, who review the article and fix typos and grammatical errors. Then those articles are emailed to a team of producers, who publish them in WordPress, our content management system. Another team of editors also churned out seven daily newsletters, which you can receive by signing up here.

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Ready to support the advocacy yet? Here’s how you can become an underwriter now.

And what about me? Well, I’m involved in everything. I read every case, every story, every company contacts post, and make sure it meets the high standards set by you for the advocacy we do.

I write constantly. Last week, I filed about 15 stories and put the finishing touches on a book proposal and a podcast proposal. I negotiated new premiums for our newest underwriters (you’ll love them!) and talked to newspaper editors across the country in an effort to place my syndicated column in more editorial outlets.

I love running this advocacy site. I wish we didn’t have to ask you for help with funding it. But the ads you see on the site aren’t enough and the income from my columns is barely sufficient to pay my bills. So twice a year, I hold fundraisers to help offset the costs.

For this winter fundraiser, we’ve set a goal of $30,000, which is enough to keep the lights on until the middle of 2018. As of this morning, we’ve raised $4,490. That’s a great start. Here’s how you can help by becoming an underwriter.

My advocates and I are working for you all the time. Please consider supporting this important work and keeping this site running through 2018. Every donation helps and is very much appreciated.

Thank you for your advocacy.

(Oh, and about my advice on Bitcoin — did you see the price of Bitcoin this morning? Even if you don’t become an underwriter, you might want to take my advice. That Bitcoin looks like an enormous bubble.)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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