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New Book Tells It
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January 18, 2012 - What do ultra low air fares, pirated DVD's, phony online complaint sites, and a "L"olex watch all have in common?  Answer: Chances are, somebody's getting scammed. Long time travel writer and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott has just published a book telling us all how sadly crooked America has become. Titled SCAMMED How To Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals, this new book has carefully analyzed the growing American business culture based upon the clever and, more typically, not so clever art of the rip off. Elliott has helped thousands of consumers handle their complaints. In his early career, back when the web was young, he wrote under the  under the byline "ABC News Crabby Traveler" where his daring truths were exceedingly popular among web surfers but seldom shared over actual ABC broadcast television. There were no blogs in 1999 as we know them today, but on occasions when Elliott baited his readers, either intentionally or accidentally, they would email their comments to him and, if worthy, he would post them for site visitors to read. When Elliott got "flamed" he shared that, too, along with the kudos.

Christopher Elliott started the airline passenger rights movement about the time that Northwest stranded thousands of people on Detroit's snowbound runways. Elliott's early travel site, known as The Ticked Off Traveler (part of AOL official content) decided to link thousands of daily visitors to the government's aviation consumer complaint page, explaining why they should let the Department of Transportation know about violations of the carrier's contract of carriage. It wasn't long before Congress held hearings demanding to know why airline complaints had skyrocketed. The venom had been building for years and web pioneer Elliott had twisted a couple of wires together to make a connection for a government which, to date, doesn't seem to have gotten much smarter. In fact, some argue that today's DC law makers are more vulnerable than ever to getting scammed by the steady stream of lobbyists lined up to buy lunch. After all, when the check comes at an expensive place like The Palms, sometimes it pays to be dumb.

So back in 1999, the snow hit the tarmac and the S%$& hit the web. This is when and how the passenger rights movement was born. Eventually, voters didn't need to buy anybody lunch to get a law passed which actually helped them. Today, airlines, still  embittered by the new rule, face steep fines for walking out on stranded passengers after three hours. Despite added protections which some hoped would boost business, people still hate to fly. Scam me once, shame on the airline; scam me twice, shame on me. Many say they like Southwest, which was never cozy with Washington. Elliott's old nemesis, American Airlines, now teeters on the cliff of financial survival, no longer protected from Southwest's competitive spirit by the Wright Amendment. All this air over the wings, and passengers are still getting scammed. It appears that Elliott understands the airline business at least as well as American's management did, if not better.  His book is barely about airlines and only in a subconscious and subtle way, whispering an early warning to other businesses NOT to operate like the airline industry.  If you do, your competitor will win sooner or later.

SCAMMED talks about civil, honest communication as a basis for doing business above board. Elliott doesn't take sides, either. He courageously points out that it isn't always the evil corporations trying so hard to do the scamming. Yes, Elliott presents hard evidence that certain industries and certain corporations play, well let's call it, serious hardball with their customers, never giving a second thought about ripping off little old ladies or helping impoverished college students join the world's cynics sooner rather than later. On the other hand, Elliott justifiably blasts those who might feign victim status and lie about the quality of a meal to negotiate a freebie or to threaten a hotel manager with yet another phony or online review. And it never occurred to Elliott, nor would it ever occur to him, that he might be able to tap in on the new consumer action by offering flamed businesses a reputation repair service to make all the ugliness disappear, for a price, of course. Elliott is a rare and genuine white hatter,  philosophically opposite...   Continued...