I love You Tube and its endless variety of offerings. I also cordially dislike flying – everything about it infuriates me ranging from the security hassles at the airport, the less than customer friendly airline service, the cramped seating, the full flights and just about every thing that one associates with flying nowadays. I did not always feel this way about flying – there was a time in the eighties when I flew several days a week as part of my job. It was a different era then and many of the frustrations associated with flying today were not there then or to the extent they were, it was relatively minimal and infrequent.

So when I came upon a news item that I totally missed at the time, which showed how one individual was able to get back at indifferent customer service using social media (specifically You Tube) , it certainly caught my attention and interest!

The story is relatively simple. David Carroll, a relatively unknown Canadian country music singer and his group “Sons of Maxwell” were on a United flight from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Omaha, Nebraska and there was a change of planes at O’Hare airport in Chicago. While on board the plane at O’Hare, Carroll and other passengers noticed that guitars he and his band had checked in was literally being thrown by the baggage handlers. Carroll brought this to the attention of airline staff at Chicago but made no headway with them. When he collected his very expensive Taylor guitar he found it had broken at the neck and then began a saga to try and get United to reimburse him which got nowhere ostensibly because he had filed the claim late. He continued to pursue this with United for the next nine months and got no where. So in this internet age he used You Tube combined with his musical talents to make his point.

He was successful beyond his wildest imagination! He posted a video – in the form of a song – on You Tube which essentially outlined what happened and the lack of a satisfactory response he received from United. The video went viral and received literally millions of hits. He received a lot of publicity – and the song he posted was certainly the most successful one of his career – and United got a lot of negative publicity and embarrassment.

Here is the video -” United breaks Guitars” – that Carroll posted after he failed to get satisfaction from United:

This excerpt from Wikipedia gives one a sense of the commotion that was created by Carroll’s video:

“The YouTube video was posted on July 6. It amassed 150,000 views within one day, prompting United to contact Carroll saying it hoped to right the wrong. The video garnered over half a million hits by July 9, 5 million by mid-August 2009, and 10 million by February 2011.

Media reported the story of the song’s instant success and the public relations humiliation for United Airlines. Attempting to put a positive gloss on the incident and the song, a company spokesman called it “excellent”. Rob Bradford, United’s managing director of customer solutions, telephoned Carroll to apologize for the foul-up and to ask if the carrier could use the video internally for training. United mentioned it hoped to learn from the incident, and to change its customer service policy as a result of the incident.

Bob Taylor, owner of Taylor Guitars, immediately offered Carroll two guitars and other props for his second video. The song hit number one on the iTunes Music Store the week following its release. The Times reported that the belated compensation offer of $3,000 which was donated by United to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz as a “gesture of goodwill” failed to undo the damage done to its image.

Since the incident, Carroll has been in great demand as a speaker on customer service. On one of his trips as a speaker, United Airlines lost his luggage.

In December 2009, Time magazine named “United Breaks Guitars” #7 on its list of the Top 10 Viral Videos of 2009.”

Carroll went on to issue a statement subsequently that also appeared on You Tube:



He also posted a couple of additional music videos on You Tube regarding the aftermath of the incident.

There were news reports that the value of United’s stock declined by 10% following the initial video being posted and going viral though that the impact is disputed.

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