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By Kay Coyte

In honor of my Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series, my assistant Kay Coyte is writing  a series of consumer tips inspired by TV reporter Elizabeth Danniher. As we wind down the summer vacation season, today’s tip might save you some travel dollars.

In SIGN OFF, TV reporter and consumer advocate Elizabeth Danniher comes to the rescue of a Sherman, Wyoming, resident who fell for a travel scam offering a fabulous vacation to Acapulco. She tracked down the scam artist in Dallas and got a refund for the traveler – a coup for her “Helping Out” segment.

The Better Business Bureau suggests that you book your next trip through an agent or check its Business Reviews at I also scan travelers’ reviews (and photos) on sites such as TripAdvisor.  I booked one stay partly based on how well a hotel manager responded to complaints. And when I got there, I sought her out and told her that.

Another tip: check out property locations on GoogleEarth. You’ll know exactly how far that motel is from the beach and how close that campground is to, say, a water-treatment plant.

chris elliottIf you don’t have a local version of Elizabeth Danniher to call on, let me suggest Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate, journalist and customer service expert. His website offers a forum for consumer complaints and a staff to help solve many of them. He has a proven record of Helping Out and he is very balanced in his reporting. His pet peeves include “frequent flier, frequent stayer — frequent anything — programs” which he describes as “addictive and expensive for the average consumer … and encourage companies to quietly remove necessary amenities and services from ordinary, non-elite customers.” I’ll second that.