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United Breaks Guitars

Source | Wikipedia

United Breaks Guitars” is a trio of protest songs by Canadian musician Dave Carroll and his band, Sons of Maxwell. It chronicles a real-life experience of how his guitar was broken during a trip on United Airlines in 2008, and the reaction from the airline. The song became an immediate YouTube and iTunes hit upon its release in July 2009 and a public-relations embarrassment for the airline.


Musician Dave Carroll said his guitar was broken while in United Airlines’ custody. He alleged that he heard a fellow passenger exclaim that baggage handlers on the tarmac at Chicago O’Hare International Airport were throwing guitars during a layover on his flight from Halifax Stanfield International Airport to Omaha, Nebraska’s Eppley Airfield. He arrived at his destination to discover that his $3,500 Taylor guitar was severely damaged. Fox News questioned Carroll on why he checked the valuable guitar and Carroll explained that it is difficult to bring guitars onto flights as carry-on luggage. In his song, he sang that he “alerted three employees who showed complete indifference towards me” when he raised the matter in Chicago. Carroll filed a claim with United Airlines which informed him that he was ineligible for compensation because he had failed to make the claim within its stipulated “standard 24-hour timeframe”.

Carroll says that his fruitless negotiations with the airline lasted about nine months. Then, asking himself, “if Michael Moore was a singer-songwriter, what would he do?”, Carroll wrote a song and created a music video about his experience.The song’s refrain includes “I should have flown with someone else, or gone by car, ’cause United breaks guitars.”

The YouTube video was posted on July 6, 2009. It amassed 150,000 views within one day, prompting United to contact Carroll saying it hoped to right the wrong. The video had over half a million views by July 9, 5 million by mid-August 2009, 10 million by February 2011, and 15 million by August 2015. It has roughly 17.7 million views and 119 thousand likes as of October 2017.

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 incident and to ask for permission to use the video for internal training.United claimed that it “hoped” to learn from the incident, and to change its customer service policy accordingly.

Since the incident, Carroll has been in great demand as a speaker on customer service.

He has gone to publish a Book UNITED BREAKS GUITARS, The power of one voice in the age of social media

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Ramesh Ranjan

A Business Consultant, Executive Coach, Visiting Professor, Content Manager & Editor. Ex IIM NASSCOM LRC, ex VP NHRD Bangalore Chapter, ex VP-HR@Schneider Electric, Head HR@ APC, Caltex,Co Systems, Natural Remedies.

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