It’s time to awaken your inner consumer advocate

This is the cruise ship Shannon Tait’s mother was supposed to sail on. It was her bucket list cruise. Literally.

She’d been diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, and Tait figured she’d have a year or two for one final adventure to the Last Frontier.

She did not. She died in hospice care before she could set sail.
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Discover the news that shapes this site – here’s how

If you’re a news junkie, I have some good news for you: I’ve launched three new magazines on Flipboard, the popular news app for smartphones.
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Are consumer advocates about to go extinct?

Henry Sheng makes me feel like a failure.
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5 things customers say during the holidays – and what they really mean

Iona/Shutterstock
Iona/Shutterstock
It’s that time of year when you follow the herd to the mall and gorge on the displays.

That’s right, I’m talking about the irrational holiday shopping season. Think I’m overstating this? The authoritative National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts a 3.9 percent rise in holiday sales this year, meaning that collectively, Americans will buy $602 billion worth of gifts before the end of this year.

The average holiday shopper will drop $737 on gifts, décor and greeting cards, according to the NRF. That’s some serious gorging!

This year, I’m not going to tell you to avoid the frenzy. (What kind of Scrooge would I be?) Instead, as a service to consumers, let me help you understand what the other members of the swarm actually mean when they talk amongst themselves.
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American customers have it bad – but here’s how it can be better

Eurobanks/Shutterstock
Eurobanks/Shutterstock
Did you know that when it comes to customer satisfaction, the United States falls short of the top 10, behind Russia, Poland and Chile? That the worst industry for service is social media? Or that the worst time to contact customer support is after 6 p.m.?

Well, now you do. The findings come courtesy of Zendesk’s latest report on customer satisfaction, which measures service across 6,000 companies and 125 countries to determine the best and worst countries, industries, and even time of day for customer support.
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The biggest mistake I ever made as a consumer

Wild at Art/Shutterstock
Wild at Art/Shutterstock

Somewhere in the attic of my old house in Key Largo, Fla., a reminder of my biggest consumer mistake ever is collecting dust. I’ve never told anyone about it. Until now.

It’s a profoundly embarrassing tale of negligence and naivete — my own negligence and naivete. By revealing it today, I hope that I can persuade you to share your stories, and allow others to learn from them.

Here goes.

In 2003, shortly after our first son was born, my family lived happily in remote South Florida outpost known for amazing scuba diving and recreational fishing. But since I used the second bedroom as an office, our small home was starting to feel a little crowded. A neighbor suggested we build an addition to our house instead of moving, which seemed like a great idea.
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