Fuju Liu/Shutterstock

Fuju Liu/Shutterstock

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□ WE’VE JUST ABOUT HAD IT WITH THE TSA

Let’s give the Transportation Security Administration one last chance. After the release of a Government Accountability Office report that revealed widespread TSA employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling, public sentiment is squarely on the side of a top-to-bottom overhaul that could privatize or dismantle the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems. Read the details in my USA Today column.

□ WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Are you taking an end-of-year “mileage run” or not?
Are you taking an end-of-the-year mileage run to get elite status for 2014? I can’t blame you — elites get VIP treatment by their airline. What’s not to love about that? But this year, with all the mileage program changes, some folks are sitting out this famous year-end ritual. What are you doing? Are the changes too much for you? Are you switching airlines? Or are you making one last run? As always, don’t forget include your full name, city and occupation.

Eating our way through Seattle
If you visit Seattle, bring a healthy appetite. You’ll need it, because excellent food, wine and desserts are not the Emerald City’s problem. But — and not to sound too ominous about this — if you’re not careful, they could become your problem. Check out our final dispatch from our Away is Home site West Coast tour. Here’s the full story.

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.

□ POSTS YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO MISS

The one big mistake every consumer makes
You’re a smart consumer. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. You look for bargains, you read the fine print, you know how to navigate your way around the branches of a phone tree. But aren’t you forgetting something? Yes, you probably are.

Q&A: How do you replace your lost or stolen passport?
I explain in my latest USA Today Q&A video. See it here.

They didn’t have the accessible room I reserved — what am I owed?
Some hotel amenities aren’t that important. Some are. Having an accessible room, which is required under some state and federal laws, is a biggie. So when John and Carolyn Falabella asked me to look into their hotel’s failure to offer them the room they reserved, I knew it could be serious. Should I mediate this case?

You’re a bad customer and you don’t even know it
Pull back the curtain on the service industry and you can hear them talking about us — often in unflattering terms. Being tagged as a terrible customer can be embarrassing. Consider the lousy tippers database, which outs customers who have the gall to pay the menu price for their meals, minus a gratuity. Being a bad tipper can have real consequences. Read the details.

Will the Travelocity-Expedia deal be good for travelers?
Depending on whom you talk to, Travelocity’s unexpected announcement last month that it has reached a strategic marketing agreement with longtime rival Expedia will either create a dominant new Internet travel agency, give consumers access to more hotel choices or raise prices. Which is it? Find out here.

Stranded in China without an airline ticket
Melissa Sigritz is forced to pay $2,450 to get back home after her airline leaves her stranded in China. Is she entitled to a refund? Get the answer here.

Hey Whirlpool, why are my refrigerator shelves cracking?
When Cynthia Barrett’s refrigerator shelves start to crack, she goes looking for answers from Whirlpool. She doesn’t like what she finds. Can this appliance be fixed?

□ MY PARTING SHOT

I’d like to thank everyone who made our West Coast trip possible, including all of our friends and sponsors of Away is Home. It was the trip of a lifetime, and we’ve only begun writing about the experience. We are beyond grateful.