Please help me write your mission statement


I’ve often said that this is your site. I advocate for you, and people like you, every day. But what, exactly, am I fighting for? I’m planning to add a mission statement to this site to make sure everyone understands your causes. Here’s a first draft. Any thoughts?

Here’s what we’re fighting for:

Consumer empowerment. I believe that by working within the system, responsible consumers can ask for and receive a just and fair resolution to any service problem. When they don’t, the problem needs to be exposed, not in order to embarrass a company, but so that the system can be fixed.

Fair, honest prices. The rate you see should be the rate you pay. You have the right to know what’s included — and not included — when an offer is initially made. If there are any mandatory fees, they should be included right up front, as part of the price. Optional fees should be clearly shown at the start of the transaction. Anything else is lying.

Compassionate service. Although it’s unlikely we’ll ever return to the days when every seat on a plane was great and flight attendants were called “stewardesses,” the travel industry — particularly the airline industry — has fallen too far, too fast. Seats and rooms should include minimum amenities and comfort levels. If they don’t, they should be required to by law. Simply put, less than 34 inches of seat pitch in economy class is inhumane; less than 30 inches ought to be illegal.

Ending unfair contracts. Incomprehensible one-sided contracts drafted by expensive lawyers have no place in the consumer world. Terms and conditions must be written in plain English and they should apply equally to you and to the company. Also, a company shouldn’t be able to squirm out of a contract whenever it wants to.

Stopping unreasonable terms and fees. The airline industry excels at this practice, sometimes charging a $200 change “fee” on a $150 ticket. But it’s not alone. How about refusing to refund a cruise, even when there’s a waiting list and the company will resell the cabin? It’s time to call that what it is: a money grab.

Calling out irresponsible, impolite consumers. Rude, inconsiderate and entitled consumers poison the marketplace for all of us, driving up prices and making companies adopt consumer-hostile policies. They often refer to themselves as a company’s “best” customers, but make no mistake, these are the same passengers who lean their airline seat in front of you all the way into your personal space until your knees hurt and who whine because they aren’t being treated with enough deference by the crew. They should do us all a favor and stay home.

Freezing anti-competitive mergers. I haven’t covered a merger yet that created jobs, improved customer service, lowered prices or increased competition. If you can show me just one that did any of those things, then I might consider revising my position that mergers are bad for consumers.

Regulating loyalty programs. Frequent flier, frequent stayer — frequent anything — programs are addictive and expensive for the average consumer. What’s more, they encourage companies to quietly remove amenities and services from ordinary, non-elite customers. I believe loyalty programs should be more closely regulated and in some cases banned by law.

Killing junk fees. Whether it’s a mysterious “access” fee on your cell phone bill or a “convenience” fee on your ticket, I’m an opponent of meaningless junk fees that line the pockets of a company. I’m dedicated to shining a bright light on them, and where possible, exterminating them.

Ensuring security with dignity. No matter how you travel, you have the right to be screened in a dignified way that respects your constitutional rights. I’m deeply troubled by the false choice of a scan or a pat-down that the TSA offers us at the airport. The invasive searches must end and the scanners need to be decommissioned now.

Promoting labels that don’t lie. A product should say what it does and do what it says. In travel, that means when you buy a ticket on one airline, for example, you should actually fly on that airline. I think airline codesharing is a fundamentally anti-consumer practice. Companies shouldn’t be allowed to lie.

Exposing false advocates. Consumer advocacy is a lonely and at times thankless job, and the real consumer journalists know each other (yes, we have a secret handshake). I have a serious problem with people who call themselves “advocates” but who do little more than toe the corporate line, even when it’s clearly a lie.

Running travel “clubs” out of town. I haven’t found any travel clubs, which require you to pay thousands of dollars for expensive memberships in exchange for unrealistic discounts, that are legitimate. I’m dedicated to exposing these charlatans and preventing gullible travelers from falling for their come-ons.

Stopping scammy timeshares. It’s not so much the product that’s flawed, but how timeshares are marketed and sold that is often fraudulent. I’m done reading their clever contracts and having them tell me their verbal promises are irrelevant. The timeshare industry is sick and desperately needs help.

Update: Here’s the new page. Thank you for your help!

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • smattes

    you have outlined HOW you will accomplish your mission, but, still lack clear statement of mission…e.g. “Mission is to ensure consumers have a voice…..” or “Create a platform to ensure that…..” Something to that effect-a clear, one or two sentence approach….then, all the rest will follow.

  • LInda C. Snyder

    Not sure how this fits–but– when we have someone like you to advocate for us it is like many voices instead of one, lone voice in the wilderness that is often ignored. These large companies of many sorts need to know that people ARE listening and watching and attending. Your professional writings do this for us all.

  • BillCCC

    Well said. I don’t agree with you on certain items such as loyalty programs and codeshares but all in all it is a very comprehensive first draft.

    You are well known as someone who does care for for the security practices of the TSA. In addition to what you wrote perhaps you could also suggest how they can perform their task while at the same time meeting your requirements.

    Perhaps though it too long, there are multiple items concerning fees and prices that could perhaps be combined.

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to the finished product.

  • naoma

    I think your statement says it all. HOORAY. You are the best.

  • Phyllis Stoller

    I ran a travel club for women for 17 years, the precursor to my company. We only charged $35 a year but were able to provide advice as well as well priced women’s tours. So not all travel clubs should be grouped together as bad. I like your list.

    Think about providing reasonable,easy to understand instructions about effective complaining. Example: fax your complaint to the entity and keep a fax log to force your point if they do not respond. Keep a copy of the whole live chat. Etc.

  • deemery

    Try this: This website exists to call attention to practices in the travel industry that harm consumers, by documenting bad policies by travel-related companies and by calling attention to and trying to mitigate specific situations that consumers have experienced.


    Something like what deemery wrote is good. I think you want a statement for your mission statement, not something this long.

  • jim6555

    No one is ever forced to join a loyalty program. If a passenger/consumer doesn’t like an airline’s program, he or she can always quit the program or take their business elsewhere. It would be great if this started happening. The airlines would have to change the way that they run their loyalty programs to attract more passengers. I do agree with Chris about codeshares. There has to be full disclosure to the passenger as to which carrier is flying the segment, better instruction about how and where to check in, and the ability for the passenger to reserve and change seats on the airline providing the transportation would be on the same level as transportation purchased on the ticket issuing airline.

    I am impressed by all of the work that Chris has put into this project and am also looking forward to the final version.

  • omgstfualready

    I am unsure this is a mission statement so much as a business proposal.

    Each section as written needs massaging or rethinking, or combined. For example, unfair contracts; a contract can be unfair, but your description regarding having clear language is the real point. If the language is clear, then the lopsided transaction is transparent and a consumer may make a bad decision anyway.

    Is interfering with free markets the mission? Many of these points appear to promote that but as a reader of this site I do not believe that is your goal or position. For example, whether you call a fee ‘junk’ or ‘unreasonable’ should also be allowed to be charged. However, requiring clear and plain language disclosure of all charges, and their purpose, will allow free markets to naturally weed this out as consumers reject such charges.

    The mutual fund world is awash with a push for clear language disclosure of cost to the consumer. Banking has also undergone this as well to allow for true comparison shopping. Fees are still charged, consumers are allowed to make bad decisions, but they lose the excuse of not knowing. Travel is ripe for this change as well. Charge as you please but unscrupulous behavior should soon be evident and Darwinism will take hold.

    Thank you for an enjoyable and insightful website.

  • Ward Chartier

    @smattes is 100% right about mission statements. What you have written is more of a constitution and a “how to”. A few questions to ask yourself. Why do you feel you need a mission statement? Do you need a mission statement? What will you do with your completed mission statement? What will having a mission statement inspire you to do that you don’t already do? Is the mission statement for you, for your readers, both? My feeling is that this website and how you conduct it already has good focus.

  • MarkKelling

    I agree with every point except the code shares and the frequent traveler programs.

    I don’t know where people are shopping for airfare that they don’t see the code share airlines clearly pointed out at booking time. Since most airlines offer more options on how to get from point A to B than just a single one, it is usually easy to not choose the clearly identified code share flight. If your airline of choice does’t fly where you want to go except through a code share option, then pick another airline or book multiple segments on each individual airline. Or use a travel agent to work through the difficulties.

    On the frequent traveler programs (notice I never call them “loyalty”): so what if the guy who flew 100,000 miles and spent $25,000 every year to do it gets treated a little better than the guy who only spends $200 to fly 2,000 miles one every couple years. Or the guy who spends 200 nights a year at a specific brand hotel gets upgraded to the suite with a butler while the guy who bought the cheapest room from an opaque site gets stuck looking out over the dumpster. Why wouldn’t businesses treat their high profit return customers better? As long as the benefits and requirements to get those benefits are clearly spelled out and are not done in a discriminatory manner so that everyone who meets the requirements has an equal chance to receive those benefits, I say let it be. The real issue here is those customers who finally meet the requirements of the lowest entry level group of the programs begin to think they are not being given what was promised and should be treated like they are super special, but you cover those under your impolite customer point.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree. I find it a very difficult proposition to tell grown folks that I-know-better-than-you, and even though both you and the travel provider are happy with the program, I’m going to make it unlawful. Full and adequate disclosure should be the regulatory goal.

    That being said, the mission statement is way to long. A mission statement should reflect the values and/or ultimate goal of the entity. I.e. Who we are, and what are we trying to accomplish.

  • AJPeabody

    Your laundry list “statement” goes against the principles of complaining that you repeatedly espouse. A mission statement needs to be brief and understandable to all. My first suggestion was going to be along the lines of “To promote honesty, clarity, and fairness and mutual respect in all commercial dealings” sort of along the lines of the Boy Scout’s oath. It’s not just travel you deal with, after all, unless refrigerator shelves count a s travel.

    But then I realized you would be reinventing the wheel.

    The mission of Chris Elliott’ work is to promote the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

  • Fisher1949

    Elliott sold out to the travel industry and USA Today so don’t expect anything better than the same pablum that the Frommer and Seaney push on people.

    Chris used to represent the traveling public, fought against TSA overreach and took the airlines to task.

    Now, not so much.

  • Jbrjbr3797Joe Reynolds


    This may be grocery shopping, travel, hotels, or online
    shopping or whatever, it is consuming.

    It is good to have an arbitrator to treat both customers and
    companies fairly. Continue the good