The following are real emails from readers.
Here's one from Renae Ritchie, reacting to my exclusive interview with John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders, last week. The company had just introduced a new Book With Confidence program aimed at helping people plan responsible vacations in 2021.
As a nurse, I'm so appalled by this that I am immediately unsubscribing.
This is reckless. This is foolish.
Yes, there are people wanting to travel HOWEVER, there are also people who want to live-on-the-edge and do dangerous drugs or drive drunk. YOU DON'T ENCOURAGE THEM!
I thought better of you Chris. No more. Enjoy spending your blood money.
Here's another email from Bradley Thompson, reacting to the last issue of Elliott Confidential, in which I predicted Americans' refusal to heed the CDCs travel advice would not end well. (I had to clean up some of his, um, colorful language.)
Tell me Elliott, what does the devil's **** taste like?
This fear-mongering is worse than what the Nazis did. Keep up your evil, and you will be smacked down by the good in the world. Good always wins in the long run. All of your chaos, all of your fear, all of your lies will define you, not America or Americans.
**** off, Elliott.
The first thing I noticed, besides the raw anger in both missives, is the irony. Ritchie thinks I'm encouraging people to travel by interviewing someone who is introducing a program to help people travel safely in the future. Thompson believes I'm a tool of the devil by agreeing with the government's advice, which is meant to keep you healthy.
I just can't win.
A few points of clarification. I'm not encouraging anyone to travel for leisure during the surge in COVID-19 cases. Quite the opposite.
And Ritchie, you were reading the free edition of Elliott Confidential — so there's no blood money.
As for Thompson, agreeing with medical experts is not fear-mongering. It is not worse than what the Nazis did. And that's coming from someone whose family lost their ancestral home, their livelihood, and escaped to the United States with nothing but the clothes on their back during World War II.
Oh, and PS — language!
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The year we lost our manners
I'm used to dealing with people who have lost their manners. During my career, I've been attacked by anarchists, company apologists, hackers, loyalty program lemmings, and other bottom-feeders, and have always won. But friendly fire from my own readers is rare — or at least it was rare — until this year.
Something about getting locked down during a pandemic brings out the worst in all of us.
And that includes me.
This year's low point was losing my temper with an editor for a major magazine. I told her that the publication could do something that was anatomically impossible, I'm embarrassed to say.
What happened to me?
It was a politically divisive year
If you live in the United States, you know that 2020 was the year of the great divide. The campaign rhetoric was angry and divisive and the election was so close. Nearly half of Americans, including several close family members, believe the election was rigged. They will not be happy when the Electoral College meets tomorrow.
Some of you, dear readers, took it all very personally. When I wrote about our political differences and their effects on travel, you interpreted it in the worst possible way. When I noted my political leanings, which I have disclosed on my site for years, it was the final straw. Some long-time subscribers left because they couldn't handle a news source outside their echo-chamber.
I have nothing but love for them and wish them well.
I received a fair amount of criticism for writing about politics. My responses: I don't write about politics. I write about customer service. But when politics intersects with customer service, I can't look the other way — and I won't.
Companies treated their customers horribly
Making matters worse: Many companies didn't do right by their customers in 2020. With more than 100,000 complaints with the Department of Transportation alone, and many more outside of regular channels, it's clear that no one was looking out for you this year.
The worst part? Having to wait for refunds. Some customers are still owed money. Companies seem to think they can use your money as a microloan to get them through the pandemic.
Talk about unethical.
It’s true, we’re all going a little stir crazy
Also, being grounded is driving all of us a little nuts. I hear from people every day who say they've canceled all of their upcoming trips and are staying home. But if you're a true nomad, then being trapped in one place for more than a few weeks can seem like being on a respirator in ICU.
Some of this newsletter's readers are free spirits who must go places. South for the winter, north for the summer. If they're not on a plane a few times a month, they're not living. I totally understand that. A little Bedouin blood flows through all of our veins if we're still reading a travel newsletter months after the world stopped.
This reminds me of the years I lived in the Florida Keys and suffered from bouts of island fever. There was only one way in and out of the Keys if you were driving. After a few months of being in the same place, doing the same thing, I started to lose it.
But is that an excuse?
I don't think that's an excuse for losing our manners. I shouldn't have told off my editor. And Ritchie, with her YELLING and Thompson with his salty language — come on! We are better than that. I think this is the time when we show the world, and each other, the ladies and gentlemen that we were raised to be.
We're almost through this pandemic. Vaccines are on the way. I'm ready to get in the car and drive somewhere, and I will soon. But long after the pandemic is over, we'll remember how we treated each other now.
I'd love to get your feedback on this topic. I'm working on a story about how manners were one of the casualties of the pandemic. Do you have a story to share about manners (good or bad) during the pandemic? Do you think we've lost our manners in 2020? Or were they already on the way out?