Apparently being a consumer advocate involves begging


When I saw the post from Chris Elliott today my first reaction was that someone must’ve hacked his accounts. Surely he cannot be out begging for his readers to donate cash so that he can continue his work, right? Seems I was wrong and he actually is.

In a post titled, "You’re going to want to see this," Elliott lays out why his services are so valuable to the traveling public (sortof) and why he’s asking for money. It turns out he’s actually the most important part of your travel experience. Or something like that. Among the bits in the post:

Consumer advocacy sites like this one are not self-sustaining. Without your help, they will end.

And

You know the saying, “Without a travel agent, you’re on your own.” It’s true for consumer advocates, too.

Can you really afford that?

And

People say, “Follow your passion, and the money will come.” But they’ve never published a consumer advocacy site.

Let’s just say advertisers don’t love my site. There are a lot of people who really want me to stop publishing. Why? Because I’m the only thing standing between them having their way with their customers.

He’s aiming to raise $10,000 in February and is almost half-way there. I mean, I get that writing a blog takes a lot of time and energy. But the outright "please give me money because you need me" thing is weird. And the egomaniacal bit about how everyone needs him is just awful.

Then again, I guess he isn’t shilling credit cards.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

32 Comments

  1. The bloggers on this site and other sites trying to get card referrals pathetic too. Especially the bloggers that posts about lower bonuses that earns them money or the bloggers that says chase BA card is so great. Yea. Rriiighhtt

  2. Perhaps you’re being a little too tough here (tough love?). Public Broadcasting has been doing this for years by implying that other broadcast media don’t provide quality broadcasting. Not comparing Chris with NPR but he has a point (same as Consumer Reports).

    1. Maybe I am being too hard, Stuart, but I really don’t think so. He’s certainly nowhere near the level of NPR or even Consumer Reports. The world absolutely needs consumer advocates, in nearly every industry. But Chris’s view that he is the only one who can help, that he is the only one who provides value is a view I find hard to stomach, particularly when as often as he offers up good information he offers bad.

      More than anything, however, I find the open begging for money to support his efforts to be ugly. Claiming that he cannot get advertisers because he’s working for consumers seems quite a specious claim to me.

  3. I am not a big fan of Elliot’s work. Not because I don’t think consumer advocacy isn’t needed, but I just don’t like his approach. It’s not balanced enough, and his articles are repetitive to the extreme.

    That said, I don’t think there is much wrong with him asking for financial contributions. I won’t contribute, but if ya don’t ask, ya don’t get.

    And it’s certainly better than those Boarding Area bloggers who literally use every possible topic and article to find an angle to push credit cards. I’d rather give cash to Elliot than sign up for a credit through one of their links and encourage this game any further.

  4. He is not the smartet tool out there too. Remember how he shelled the Palau 300 during the Korean Air fiasco?

  5. If he’s providing a service (including entertaining or enlightening reading on his blog), it’s not clear why he shouldn’t try the reader-supported model, similar to public radio or television.

    I don’t know anything about the guy or his site (other than the fact that he rubs some travel bloggers — notably Gary Leff — the wrong way) and I imagine that with a public appeal for funds one might also expect a degree of transparency he may or may not have.

    But if people are willing to support him, why not?

    1. I don’t have much problem with supporting people providing a reasonable service. I have a problem with people so delusional of their own grandeur that they are convinced the world NEEDS them out there doing the things they do and that they’re the only person who can do it.

      I have no problem with him saying that shilling for CC companies on his site doesn’t work in his repertoire. I just don’t think that this approach is particularly dignified. Certainly not the way it is phrased in this particular post.

  6. The problem is not being a consumer advocate……..the problem is not being a GOOD consumer advocate.

  7. His previous appeal contained the line
    ” I could go the way of those ethically-challenged mileage blogs and sites, and I could start slipping scammy affiliate links into my stories and talking up a product I don’t believe in, pocketing the generous commission check every month.”

    Those “ethically-challenged mileage sites” are helping us go to Israel next month for cheap, while Chris Elliott just provides me a daily crain-your-neck-at-the-wreck view of other peoples’ foibles. I have no evidence that he’s made my life or travel experience better, or even different. He’s opined that our cheap fare to Israel is unethical and cheating.

    Best of luck to him.

  8. @harvson3

    Out of ALL the places one could possibly travel to, did you REALLY have to name THAT one…?

  9. I personally do not put any credit card links on my site that I don’t personally endorse and I always point out exactly which cards I have and which my team has. And also, the point is to maximize the value of points so people need *fewer* cards. And I always give the best offer I can find, regardless of any referral.

    You shouldn’t need 5 cards for a 3 night vacation to Paris…

  10. @Seth — sure, asking for contributions may not be particularly dignified, but I am not sure this post is particularly dignified either 😉 (is it intentional that the post has no link to the actual article you’re discussing?)

    I guess the ‘strange’ category is about right 🙂

  11. I much prefer credit card ads and links to this begging. With credit card affiliate links, I can at least reward the helpful, accurate bloggers without money coming out of my pocket. Not so with straight up donations.

    Chris Elliott serves up so much baloney that I would certainly never contribute to him in either fashion. The world would be a better place if he got out of the “consumer advocacy” business altogether. It’s that fact that makes his begging so pathetic.

    At least the bloggers are adding value with their analysis, presenting us with a terrific deal, and making money in the process. It’s a win-win-win.

  12. No idea why anyone would find this offensive. If you don’t like his site… don’t read it. No one is making you. Similarly, no one is making you donate. He has followers that want him to continue his work (ergo the $5k he has raised this way). He’s being up front and direct about it. Really don’t see what remotely could be offensive.

    But then again, maybe getting page views off trashing the guy and trying to throw up some link bait article is more justified than what he is doing. Or then again.

    1. I won’t say that I find it offensive Michael (and if I said that earlier then whoopsie but I don’t think I did). I generally don’t read his site because I don’t think much of the content actually adds value. I happened across this one because of the headline and his posting on Facebook about it with the line, “They want me to stop publishing my blog.” I clicked through to see who the “they” was.

      Imagine my disappointment to discover that the answer was actually no one. I was similarly disappointed, and only a little surprised, to discover that my comment on that Facebook post was deleted, while the two comments suggesting that the US Constitution is under attack because he cannot make enough money writing were kept.

      I think the tone of the message is overly self-indulgent and egomaniacal. Asking for support is fine if you’re into that (personally, not my thing; I prefer to be self-supporting). But the “you all need me out there to save you” attitude seem quite over-the-top to me. And suggesting that there is some sort of grand conspiracy out there trying to take him offline is laughable.

  13. Two things that I truly dislike: 1) self-grandeur and as you mentioned Seth, 2) the believe that one is indispensable, that’s simply wrong in my book. I think @HansGolden said it well.

  14. Pretty sad! The guy is just another self-important blogger with questionable morals who thinks he’s owed something by those silly enough to embrace his nonsense. Let them send their money to him – dumb and dumber I say!

  15. He is very good when he writes about the TSA. His consumer assistance pieces do sometimes have things one can learn from, though he often takes up cases that have little merit. On frequent flyer programs he is willfully ignorant and to be ignored.

  16. Elliot had a good thing going but then his content suffered. Poor content led me, and I’m sure others, to quit following his blog. Less traffic means fewer ad impressions, so less revenue. He has caused his own problems and now he’s fighting to stay afloat…sounds like it’s time for him to improve content and to find another supplemental income. But then that’d be what 99% of the blogging world would do; he’s definitely in the minority.

  17. Chris Elliot comes across as a narcissist, hardly a character feature desirable in a true consumer advocate.

    I found the remark made by Kris quite offensive, besides being completely off topic.

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