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!