It’s been an incredible year for consumer advocacy. Beyond what anyone could have imagined.

My advocacy team and I are shocked by this year’s numbers — but in a good way. We’ve welcomed more visitors to the site, come to the aid of more readers, and had more help from you, our valued supporters.

In short, it’s been the best year ever.

Here’s a summary of what happened:

āœ“ We responded to a record number of help requests in 2017, with our cases rising 17 percent from last year.

āœ“ Site traffic surged by nearly 10 percent. We also raised more than $30,000 to keep the advocacy going in 2018. We’ve just started our winter fundraiser and are incredibly optimistic about meeting our goals for next year.

āœ“ I introduced a new syndicated consumer column called Problem Solved, and our existing consumer feature, The Travel Troubleshooter, landed in more media outlets. I spent more time than ever in live radio interviews, TV interviews and online chats, making the world safe for consumers.

But you have to dig into the numbers to see how much we’ve done — and how much your support has made a difference.

Cases rise 17 percent

We track monthly consumer complaints for grievances received through this form. These tend to be the hardest of hard-luck cases that beg to be mediated by our advocacy team. And they are.

2017 Cases
Rank Top 25 Companies Total Complaints Percent
1 American Airlines 409 9.57%
2 United Airlines 228 5.33%
3 Delta Air Lines 131 3.06%
4 Expedia 91 2.13%
5 British Airways 84 1.96%
6 Enterprise Rent-A-Car 76 1.78%
7 Hertz Rent a Car 64 1.50%
8 Southwest Airlines 52 1.22%
9 Airbnb 51 1.19%
10 Amazon.com 50 1.17%
11 Spirit Airlines 49 1.15%
12 Lufthansa 42 0.98%
13 AT&T 40 0.94%
14 Airberlin 40 0.94%
15 Turkish Airlines 39 0.91%
16 Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) 37 0.87%
17 Air Canada 35 0.82%
18 WOW Air 35 0.82%
19 Justfly.com 33 0.77%
20 Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle) 30 0.70%
21 Marriott 28 0.65%
22 Travelocity (Expedia) 27 0.63%
23 Hotels.com (Expedia) 26 0.61%
24 Walmart 26 0.61%
25 Comcast 25 0.58%
Total Cases: 4276
Last Year: 3536
Percent Difference: 17.31%
Total Cases 2016: 3536
Percent Difference Year Ago: 20.93%

I’ll spare you the analysis about the worst-performing companies. Needless to say, my team and I are keeping a close eye on the top businesses and making sure that we hold them accountable in 2018. That’s why we’re here.

But there’s a silver lining: Some of this site’s corporate underwriters are also on this list, and their complaint numbers are falling from year to year. To me, that means they are doing their best to fix the complaints they have and to create more happy customers. My team and I stand ready to help them meet that noble goal.

Traffic increases 10 percent

By almost every measure measure, traffic surged in 2017. Our number of users jumped 9.63 percent to 2,674,902. Our number of sessions rose 4.03 percent to 4,245,794. Our pageviews edged up by 3.85 percent to 8,131,379. And the percent of new visitors rose by 6.02 percent, to 62.48 percent, from 58.94 percent a year ago. (Our actual traffic numbers are probably higher, since we lost a week’s worth of data when we switched themes.)

What do these numbers mean? That we had more new visitors and that they came back again and again to benefit from the advocacy on this site. That’s a beautiful thing!

A banner year for media

In 2017, we were everywhere. My flagship consumer advocacy column was picked up by several large publications, including the San Jose Mercury News and the Miami Herald. My new consumer advice column, Problem Solved, went into syndication in late 2017 through King Features and is rapidly gaining steam.

I made lots of media appearances in 2017, including radio, TV, online, and speeches. All of these help bring in new visitors to the site — people we can help. There’s no other reason to be staying up until 11 p.m. to do a live radio interview. I’m an old school journalist, trained to tell the story, not be the story. I wouldn’t be doing this unless I knew it was helping consumers who really needed it.

But 2017 was all about you

Most of all, you made 2017 so successful. That’s because you supported the site by volunteering and by making a donation as an individual underwriter. Together, we raised more than $30,000, most of them contributions of $25 or less. These allowed me to pay for the server, development and legal costs associated with running the leading consumer advocacy site on the internet.

Companies also joined the effort by supporting the Readers’ Choice Awards and becoming corporate underwriters. In 2017, we had more corporate underwriters than any other year since the site’s inception in 1997.

Next year is going to be a challenge. It feels like the whole world is against us. Our bills will be higher and I expect a lawsuit or two just to make things exciting. In other words, it’s going to be an expensive year for advocacy. The winter fundraiser, which just wrapped up its first week, has raised just over $6,000 out of $30,000. We have a long way to go.

In 2018, I’m going to offer even more ways to get involved. At a time when consumer advocacy is an endangered species, you can make a real difference. And I don’t just hope you will — I know you will.

Happy New Year!