This week’s newsletter marks the beginning — and the ending — of two important events. Let’s start with beginnings. That cross-country trip I’ve talked about for so long? Starts right now. I hope you’ll join us!

And this is the last day of my fall fundraiser, and the last opportunity to get your copy of 0-60 Travel Insurance, the definitive guide to buying and using travel insurance. After today, the manuscript disappears into a vault. What are you waiting for? Your donation will help keep consumer advocacy going on this site. I can’t do it without you. Here’s how to become an individual underwriter.

Speaking of advocacy, I have some incredible cases to share with you. Read my warning about stupid things customers do offline. Join the contentious debate on “low-cost” airlines that cost a lot. Help us determine if one woman’s diamond ring was a scam. And can this trip be saved?

Please visit our underwriter, TripInsurance.com, a travel insurance comparison website that provides savings of 40% or more on similar plans from other comparison sites. TripInsurance.com provides one of the easiest ways to buy travel insurance. With quotes sorted into good better and best coverage categories it is simple to compare travel insurance plans to find the right policy for your needs. Customer support is available 24/7 and claims can be filed online – right there on the site.

Are you missing the most fascinating debate on the Internet? Every morning, there’s a lively discussion online about travel and consumer advocacy. And unless you’re signed up for my free daily email newsletter, you’re missing it. It’s easy. At 9 a.m. sharp, you’ll get a link to the latest story. Stop by. Leave your opinion. Join the debate. Here’s how to sign up.

Travel

The Travel Troubleshooter: Am I stuck with this $378 phone bill?
Jeffrey Grim can’t make a connection in Brussels because of an error made by his online travel agency. In order to fix the problem, he racks up $378 in phone bills. Should the company cover his expenses?

Case dismissed: My father died — please refund my rental car
Sometimes, even death isn’t a good enough reason for a refund.

Ridiculous or not? “Low cost” airlines that cost more
When David Simon wanted to fly from Milwaukee to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he assumed “low cost” airline Southwest would offer the lowest fare.

Is this enough compensation? How much is that fat-finger mistake worth?
Gretchen Kenney thought the $232 a night rate at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club was pretty darned good, considering that Marriott’s own website showed the same two-bedroom unit at $589 a night.

Can this trip be saved? “I fail to understand the behavior of your shuttle bus driver”
Christine Glovier didn’t have an ideal travel experience when she flew from Philadelphia to Manchester, NH, on US Airways. But is an apology enough for what happened?

Please visit our underwriter, Cheapflights.com — Lets you search the best travel deals, then book your cheap airline tickets with one of its many partners. Check out Cheapflights.com.

Customer Service

5 Really Stupid Things Consumers Do Offline
Customers do the dumbest things.

Is this a scam? “ScoreSense preys on customers”
Richard Mitchell has a problem with a company called ScoreSense. A big problem.

The smarter consumer: How to fix a customer service problem now
The best way to fight bad service is right now, in real time.

What’s your problem? My diamond ring wasn’t forever
Libby Foster’s engagement ring is defective. After six years of trying to get it repaired, she just wants her money back. Why won’t Zales give her a refund?

Please visit our underwriter, AirportParkingReservations.com – #1 For guaranteed online airport parking reservations. Low rates on short stay and long term parking. Compare and save today!

Also

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Away is Home Please check out our family travel site, Away is Home and follow our year-long, cross-country adventure.

See you online! If you’re not following me on Facebook or Twitter, then you’re only catching half the conversation. Join me for a lively discussion about travel, customer service and anything else you might find interesting.

Our underwriters

These businesses have given their financial support to consumer journalism by underwriting this site. Please support them with your business.

Travel Insurance Review — Where you can get articles, reviews, and guides to help you find an insurance policy that will fit your individual travel needs. You can buy directly or use its comparison site to find a trusted and reputable travel insurance provider. Get more information..

Travel Insurance Services, which has been protecting travelers since 1973 by providing coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, baggage insurance, and more. Choose the right option for your next trip. Visit Travel Insurance Services.

FirstClassFlyer.com — Which helps you fly first class for the price of coach. Get more information.

Travel Hacking Cartel – Earn hundreds of thousands of Frequent Flyer Miles without getting on a plane. Find out more.

TripInsuranceStore.com — Steve, Deanna, Becky, Mary give you one-on-one advice at 1-888-407-3854 or visit us online. Contact them now.

International Airline Tickets — Find discount airfares to many destinations worldwide at AirlineConsolidator.com.

Skooba — Which offers award-winning tech/travel carrying cases and accessories. Discount code ELLIOTT20 gets you 20% off and free shipping on orders of $50 or more. Visit Skooba.

Chinatours.com — Offers affordable, private and fully customizable tours to China. If you are traveling to China with family members and friends, you should give them a try. Get details here.

Squaremouth.com — Voted the best travel insurance comparison site. Squaremouth is easy to use with powerful sort & research tools. 250+ travel insurance plans. Click here for more.

Luggage Pros – Buy luggage, bags, briefcases, travel accessories and more. Use coupon code ELLIOTT for free shipping on any order. Get more information here.

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(Photo: Lakeland Local/Flickr Creative Commons)