Go ahead, be wowed by the crowd

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Go on, follow everyone to the beach this week. Turns out that avoiding the crowds — which the world’s so-called travel “experts” recommend this time of year — isn’t just a yawner of a cliche. It can be flat-out wrong, too. Read the details in my USA Today column.


Admit it, you love TripAdvisor and Yelp!
If you’re like me, you used to be a skeptic about user-generated reviews on sites like Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor. But you also consult them from time to time — and you’ve found a good recommendation for a hotel or restaurant. Haven’t you? I’d like to hear your story about good recommendations from one of these sites. Please send me an email. As always, don’t forget include your full name, city and occupation.

Greetings from Mendocino, Calif.
We’re here a few more days before heading north — look for full coverage soon on our family travel blog. In the meantime, we have a full report on our misadventures in San Diego, the video you missed from our Hoover Dam encounter — you won’t want to miss this one — and here’s why I met up with my friends from Hertz while I was in Southern California. I also have a wrap-up of our San Diego trip right here.

Wanna become the world’s smartest traveler?
I know you do. Then do this now: Pre-order my new book, How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). It’ll help you navigate the ins and outs of the travel industry and save lots of time and money. Details are right here. By the way, if you’re heading out somewhere on a trip and need help with something, I’d be happy to email you a draft of a chapter, whether you order the book or not.

Let’s talk!
The stories you see in this newsletter are just a starting point. I hope you’ll take a minute to leave a comment, whether you agree or disagree with something I’ve written. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google. I’m listening. And of course, I’m also here if you need me. Here’s my email address.


Should You Hire a Consumer Advocate?
Here’s a familiar come-on: If you have an intractable problem with a business, you can “utilize our years of experience fighting fraud” to get a fast refund. But there’s a catch. Find out what it is in my Mint.com column.

VIDEO: Should you buy travel insurance?
Here’s the latest in my latest USA Today video series. By the way, the Christopher Elliott show is taking a break until I can find a fast broadband connect to live-stream. Stay tuned.

Tipping lies cruise lines like to tell
If you thought tipping was out of control in the United States, try heading out to sea. That’s where Jane Greene discovered the tipping economy isn’t just alive and well, it apparently sustains the crew of major cruise ships. That’s a particularly interesting revelation in light of the U.S. government’s plans to regulate the cruise industry. Read the details.

Blocking this airline mega-merger is good for travelers
The Justice Department’s surprise lawsuit to block the proposed $11 billion consolidation of American Airlines and US Airways appears to doom the latest airline mega-merger, at least in its current form. But for airline passengers, the prospect of two stand-alone airlines is mostly good news. Read the details in the Washington Post.

Do I deserve a refund for this LivingSocial deal?
Teri Rustmann’s Living Social voucher for a Caribbean vacation isn’t worth the money it’s printed on — or so he thinks. Why won’t the company refund it? Find out.

A Territory Ahead gift certificate left behind
When Ed Probst tries to redeem an 11-year-old gift certificate, the company stonewalls him. How do you get a business to honor a debt from 2001? Here’s the answer.


The next leg of our trip takes us up to Oregon, Washington and possibly as far north as Canada. And I have to tell you, each stop is more fascinating than the next. (As a bonus, I’m also collecting a lot of great information for my columns!) See you on the road, my friends.

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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • JewelEyed

    I find great recommendations on Yelp all the time. It’s like reviews anywhere else on the web, including Amazon and other shopping sites. If you’re clever, you can figure out who has an agenda, who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, who is an entitled jerk, and who is probably spot on.

  • bodega3

    Yelp is a very, very misleading place to read reviews. They charge a business an upfront fee to move negative comments. I stopped using them and stopped posting on them.

  • Grant Ritchie

    My experience with Yelp has been rather the reverse. In six years and sixty reviews, including ten of one or two stars, I’ve only ever had one moved (or filtered), and that was when I referred to a business as “assholes” (which they were).

  • bodega3

    It costs approx. $300 to have a review moved. Many businesses won’t pay that extortion fee.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Bodega,
    I couldn’t believe what you said about that $300 fee, so I did a little digging. Damned if it’s not true, or at least it was true. The story is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yelp,_Inc. For whatever it’s worth, Yelp claims they no longer do that, but who knows? I can’t speak to the experience of businesses. I’m just a reader and writer of Yelp reviews, and my dealings with them have been uniformly positive.

  • bodega3

    Yeah, I was surprised, too. I found out about this at the end of April 2013 when I was at the place where I get my hair cut. There was a bad review about a hairdresser that had worked there, but no longer did. The owner called Yelp while I was there and she is the one who told everyone in the room that Yelp wanted $300 to move, not remove the review. That answered my question on why was my negative review moved to the last page of a Yelp review I made for a local company that gave us really bad service. I will NEVER participate with them again, nor use their reviews knowing they control them.