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Christopher Elliott
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Christopher Elliott is the reader advocate for National Geographic
magazine and a travel columnist for the Washington Post and USA Today. He writes a syndicated column for King Features Syndicate and publishes a consumer advocacy blog. Elliott is the author of Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals. His latest book is How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle).

Entries by Christopher Elliott

Thanks to the TSA, it's a Confusing Time to Fly

(0) Comments | Posted January 31, 2016 | 6:13 PM

These are confusing times for airline passengers.

In recent weeks, the government has made two surprising policy changes: First, the Transportation Security Administration announced that screening with a full-body scanner would no longer be optional for some passengers, and then the Department of Homeland Security said that soon your...

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Her Kenmore Oven is Missing in Action. Now What?

(0) Comments | Posted January 29, 2016 | 9:29 AM

Tara Karran's oven is missing in action and Sears has pocketed her money. Is there any way to save this kitchen appliance?

Question: I purchased four large appliances at Sears several weeks ago. Only three came.

After several back-and-forth conversations with Sears delivery, the customer service...

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How United Airlines is Making a Customer Service Comeback

(0) Comments | Posted January 24, 2016 | 8:49 AM

Like a 747 loaded to capacity, United Airlines is rising — slowly, steadily and improbably.

“I thought I was imagining it,” says Anne Klein, who works for a marketing agency in Durango, Colo. “But United is listening. It’s trying to improve.”

Klein had two recent customer...

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Consumer Review Freedom Act Would Stop Travel's Gag Clauses

(4) Comments | Posted January 21, 2016 | 8:21 AM


If he reveals the details of his awful vacation-rental experience, Terry Fedigan is afraid of what might happen. The rental property's owner could sue -- and win.

Last summer, he rented a home in New York's Catskill Mountains with his brother. "We were...

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What's This Surprise Charge on My Capital One Card?

(1) Comments | Posted January 21, 2016 | 8:10 AM


Marie Levine finds a mystery charge on her Capital One credit card. Why won't anyone help her remove it?

Question: I have had an ongoing dispute with Lord & Taylor for a charge on my bill going back to last June. The charge...

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They Zeroed Out My Target Gift Card -- Can You Unzero It?

(0) Comments | Posted January 14, 2016 | 8:44 AM


When Joanna Lee's Target gift card is suddenly worthless, is there any way to recover the missing money? Perhaps.

Question: I registered a physical Target store gift card in April on Target's website. I depleted the balance a few days later but I...

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My AT&T Phone Isn't Insured After All

(5) Comments | Posted January 7, 2016 | 7:50 AM


Justin Goromaru's phone is stolen. But no worries -- he has insurance. Oh wait, no he doesn't. Is he out of luck?

Question: I recently upgraded my phone with AT&T. When I did, they they offered me insurance through a company called Asurion.

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What Do the TSA's New Scanner Rules Mean for Your Next Flight?

(82) Comments | Posted January 4, 2016 | 10:20 AM


The Transportation Security Administration's new rules for screening passengers with its controversial full-body scanners -- which were quietly changed just before the busy holiday travel season -- represent a significant policy reversal that could affect your next flight.

Getting checked by the TSA's...

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Is Sears Playing Markdown Games With Me?

(2) Comments | Posted January 3, 2016 | 1:34 PM

The washing machine Laurie Beane just bought from Sears is suddenly on sale. Why does the company want to return it in order to honor the new price?

Question: I've been without a washing machine for a few years and have been waiting for the best deal that I could...

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What's the Government Doing About Soaring Airline Complaints? This.

(26) Comments | Posted December 22, 2015 | 9:18 AM

Kendra Thornton is an unlikely candidate for government aid, but when Frontier Airlines recently denied her a seat on a flight from Chicago to Denver, that's exactly what she got.

Thornton and her three young children were headed to a ranch vacation in Missoula, Mont. When they tried to check...

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Read This Before You Rent a Car

(0) Comments | Posted December 18, 2015 | 2:22 PM

During a recent visit to Atlanta, Sixt Rent a Car upgraded Samuel Ventola to a Jeep Patriot instead of the subcompact he had reserved. Maybe it wasn't doing him a favor.

"It was night," remembers Ventola, a lawyer who lives in Denver....

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Do I Need a Background Check to Buy an iPad at Walmart?

(21) Comments | Posted December 18, 2015 | 9:08 AM


When Nick Fitzsimmons tries to buy an iPad at Walmart, he gets the runaround. Why does it need to conduct a "background check" on him?

Question: I had a very disappointing experience with Walmart today. My wife is about to leave to visit...

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Hey Comcast, Where's My Missing $5,800?

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2015 | 10:33 AM


Comcast owes Cathy Coffey $5,800. Why is it taking so long to refund her?

Question: I overpaid Comcast by $5,800 after I switched to satellite TV and forgot to cancel autopay. Earlier this month, a representative promised me a refund within 10 days....

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Amid Terror Threat, Can I Call Off My Trip to Europe?

(1) Comments | Posted December 6, 2015 | 4:03 PM

Jocelyn Holgado knew that her reservation at the Hôtel de Varenne in Paris was nonrefundable. But then the terrorist attacks on Paris happened, and the world suddenly felt more dangerous, and she figured the Varenne might make an exception.

Holgado, a nurse...

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How to Fix Almost Any Travel Problem From Afar

(2) Comments | Posted December 3, 2015 | 7:53 AM


Kathryn Frieze just wanted her money back.

She had paid the airline Iberia $176 for an "extra legroom" seat on a flight from Chicago to Madrid, but the airline rescheduled her flight, dropping her upgraded economy class seat. Her repeated attempts to reach...

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Her Facebook Account Was Hacked -- Can She Unhack It?

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2015 | 7:47 AM


Barbara Chaiken's Facebook account is hacked, and the bad guys are asking all her friends for money. Is there any way to stop this?

Question: I was hacked a year ago and everyone on my Facebook friend list got a...

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Where's The Tablet I Ordered?

(0) Comments | Posted November 26, 2015 | 6:51 AM


Joe Kim orders a tablet from, but it never arrives. Now they're balking at a refund. What gives?

Question: I've been a loyal customer of Sears and Kmart, making multiple purchases online of electronics at both stores. I recently bought a Samsung...

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Is it Wrong to Outfox an Airline at its Own Game?

(21) Comments | Posted November 22, 2015 | 10:39 AM

Nikolas Langes thought he knew every trick in the book for saving money on airline tickets. After all, he's the founder of an online start-up called Tripdelta, which specializes in finding inexpensive fares.

Turns out he didn't. One day, he noticed a discrepancy between fares based on the currency used...

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I Want My Voice Mails Back, AT&T

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2015 | 11:01 AM


Aylin Gaughan's attempt to upgrade to a new iPhone fails, but that's not the worst of it. Her voice mails are now missing. Can AT&T get them back?

Question: I visited an AT&T store to upgrade to a new iPhone recently. A sales...

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Hey Air Travelers, Here's How to Make Coach Feel Like First

(12) Comments | Posted November 15, 2015 | 3:43 PM


Air travel can be a humiliating, dehumanizing and even torturous experience -- at least according to my e-mail inbox.

I hear often from readers like Sue McDonough, who contacted me after flying from Calgary to Washington on United Airlines recently.

"After changing planes...

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