"United Breaks Guitars" a Smash Hit on YouTube

Airline apologizes, wants to use video to train employees

By Zach Christman
|  Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009  |  Updated 1:18 PM CDT
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"United Breaks Guitars" a Smash Hit on YouTube

YouTube.com

Yep, that'll do it.

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Anyone who's lost a bag or had their stuff damaged by an airline knows the frustration -- you spend hours on the phone, often with a call center in India, and feel like you're getting nowhere.

Such was the plight of Dave Carroll, a Canadian musician who says United Airlines baggage handlers smashed his favorite Taylor guitar as he changed planes at O'Hare.  As Carroll and the rest of the band sat on the plane, another passenger saw the baggage handlers tossing guitars to one another and shouted, "My God, they're throwing guitars out there!"

Carroll said the base of his guitar was smashed.  He tried to reason with United for months to get them to pay the $1,200 repair cost -- but he got the run-around, and ultimately they wouldn't. So, Carroll did what he does best. He wrote a song about it, "United Breaks Guitars."

The YouTube video Carroll made to go along with the song may be the biggest hit of his career, and it's really worth a watch.  He actually promised to make two more songs and videos about his debacle with United, and if they're half as fun as the first one, we can't wait.

"United Breaks Guitars"

The actual guitar smashing happened in March 2008. Carroll admits he didn't file an official claim for the smashed guitar within United's 24-hour window, but he says he told three employees at O'Hare, who refused to help.  There were no agents around when the flight landed in Nebraska at midnight, and he and his band, Sons of Maxwell, were tired and about to leave for a week-long tour.

After "United Breaks Guitars" hit the big time on YouTube this week, the Chicago-based carrier quickly responded, the Tribune reported. A managing director of customer service called Carroll and apologized, going so far as to ask if United could use the video internally to train its people.

All this is well and good, and maybe Carroll's video will actually help United deal more fairly with its customers when they have a legitimate complaint. But if it doesn't, where does that leave the rest of us?  Posting YouTube videos every time a big company screws up?  Hmmm.

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