United Breaks Guitars – a public relations nightmare

Dave-carroll-preview Customers who are mistreated can use the Internet and YouTube to make their unhappiness known. If they are as persuasive and entertaining as Dave Carroll, it can result in a viral campaign of enormous power.

United Airlines is discovering that their failure to handle a valid customer complaint has generated  extremely bad publicity which will cost them millions of dollars to repair.

United Airlines baggage handlers smashed Dave Carroll's Taylor guitar on a flight from Nebraska to Nova Scotia in the spring of 2008. Passengers actually saw them doing it and Dave set about getting the problem handled.

After nine months of being passed around from one employee to another, he was finally told that United would not compensate him for the damage, even though they acknowledged that it occurred.

Dave Carroll told the person who said no (a Ms. Irlweg) that he would write and produce three songs about his experience with United Airlines and make videos to be viewed online by anyone in the world.

The first video, United Breaks Guitars, went up on YouTube July 6 and has had 2,496,000 2,902,775 views. There are two more videos being released.

It is a brand new world out there. Customers with a valid complaint and a bit of talent can cancel out millions of dollars of public relations work in a few days.

Unhappy customers can bring their story to the court of public opinion and the company that fails to respond can lose market share overnight.

United is toast.

A search for United Breaks Guitars produces 19,100,000 mentions on Google

Dave Carroll and the Canadian country band, Sons of Maxwell, are doing fine. You can read the whole story on his website.

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0 Responses to United Breaks Guitars – a public relations nightmare

  1. Brad says:

    Wow, I hope United paid attention. That’s one reason I’m glad I play the fiddle, it will fit in he overhead compartment as a carry on.

  2. mattbg says:

    Is it really that bad? Maybe I’m just an isolated case (like the guy who had the guitar broken), but I would still fly United and wouldn’t even give it a second thought. I’ve seen the video and I’ve heard the guy interviewed on the radio. All I’ve really noticed is that United’s name is getting out there a LOT, and in a very “cute” way… I’m tempted to think it might even be positive for them.

    I am actually getting tired of these YouTube campaigns and they have the opposite effect on me, as did the antics of activists before them.

    On the other hand, I just assume that my baggage is going to be treated roughly when I travel. Couriered parcels get the same treatment. I don’t expect them to be treated carefully. Baggage handlers are like bigfoot… the only trace of them is their footprints in your luggage.

    I don’t know the intimate details of this case, but did the guy just check his guitar case in baggage with no protection whatsoever?

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