What to do before 2017 ends

Well, we made it! This is my last post of 2017.

I want to sign off with a personal note of appreciation for being a part of the advocacy we do here every day. And also, to share a few thoughts about what I’m doing before the year ends.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your questions, comments, criticisms, praise, moral and financial support, have carried my advocacy team and me through the year.

You’ve sent me the best story ideas a journalist could hope for in 2017. You’ve placed the most challenging cases in front of me that a consumer advocate could want. Your insightful comments have challenged me to write better columns, to ask tougher questions. Your supportive emails, often sent during the darkest times, have sustained me. And your financial contributions have helped me pay the bills for this site.

I can’t say “thank you” enough. It is no exaggeration that without you, this organization, this advocacy, and indeed, the person I am today, would not exist.

I also wanted to share a few thoughts about what I’ve done as the end of the year approaches. At the moment, I’m in an Airbnb in Colorado Springs, Colo., with my three kids.

As you probably know, we have no permanent home and are always on the road. Our place is a modest, Depression-era home that backs up against one of the many open spaces in Colorado Springs. I’ve been taking my kids on long walks to the Mesa Reservoir and reviewing the past year, which has been a difficult one for us. We’re optimistic that 2018 will be much better for our entire family.

I’ve worked for clients who use “family first” as a throwaway line or an excuse for underformance. But the more time I spend with my kids and the more I talk to them, the more I realize that family literally is the most important thing in the world. So if you’re reading this now on New Year’s Eve, please close the laptop, power down that phone, and be with your family.

In a way, I have always felt like our community of readers, commenters and forum participants, are like a family. We spend a lot of time together, we look out for each other and we argue with each other. And like most families, we’re a little dysfunctional. If you want someone to blame for that you can point the finger at the guy whose name is on the door.

I feel as if I’m part of small, extended family of consumer advocates, too. These include Travelers United, an organization I helped start; FlyersRights.org, a group that fights for many of the same causes I do; the Poynter Institute, which trains journalists to be even better; and ProPublica, which produces some of the finest investigative journalism in the the world.

Late yesterday, I renewed my financial support for these fine organizations. I can’t afford not to. When these fellow advocates succeed, so does this organization. Their causes are our causes. And while I certainly hope you’ll consider becoming a financial supporter of this site as we resume our winter fundraiser on Jan. 2, I think you should also consider helping these organizations.

Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and complaint-free New Year. And if it isn’t? Well, you know where to find me.

What do travelers really want this year?

To know what travelers want in 2015, just listen to what they said in 2014.
Read more “What do travelers really want this year?”

What does “making it better for everyone” really mean?

It’s that time of year when everyone makes a resolution. Here’s ours.
Read more “What does “making it better for everyone” really mean?”

Your New Year’s resolution: Trust no one

Tom Wang/Shutterstock
Tom Wang/Shutterstock
With the irrational holiday shopping season now in your rear-view mirror, this is a good time to consider how you feel about the companies to which you’ve just given half your life savings.

Maybe you don’t trust them. Maybe you don’t believe anything their executives say.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

I was reminded of how little customers trust companies when I participated in a recent panel discussion at a public relations conference in Miami. The panel host, from the PR agency Edelman, had released a survey that suggested only 15 percent of American consumers trust the words that come from an executive’s mouth. Only half trust business as an institution.

Other polls, I was not surprised to learn, put the trust figures in the single digits.
Read more “Your New Year’s resolution: Trust no one”

Your New Year’s travel resolution? Don’t be a jerk

Here’s a New Year’s resolution we can probably all agree on: Don’t be a jerk when you’re on the road.

There’s something about travel — whether you’re flying, driving or sailing — that brings out the jerk in all of us. Like the guy in seat 26B just in front of me right now on a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles, who is probably a nice guy on the ground. But put him on a plane, and shortly after takeoff, he jams his seat into my knees without so much as an apology.

Read more “Your New Year’s travel resolution? Don’t be a jerk”