United Breaks Guitars, Passenger Gets Revenge on YouTube

Locations in this article:  Chicago, IL Los Angeles, CA

United old-school logoAs if you needed more evidence of the viral power of the internet, a Canadian man finally got some resolution to an airline dispute after putting his grievance into song and posting it on YouTube.

Dave Carroll, a Nova Scotia-based musician, had been locked in a months-long battle with United Airlines over compensation for his $3,500 Taylor guitar, which he says the airline damaged during a flight from Chicago to Nebraska last year.

Despite repeated attempts to get United to pick up the $1,200 repair tab, the airline denied payment for the damage, claiming that it was not liable because its contract of carriage specifically excludes “valuables” (including musical instruments).

Carroll vowed to the last customer service agent who said “no” to him that he would write a series of songs about his ordeal. So far he has posted one video on the video-sharing site YouTube.

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Titled United Breaks Guitars, the country-flavored ditty features actors posing as baggage handlers indiscriminately flinging guitar cases around an airport tarmac while Carroll strums his broken guitar. Two more songs and videos are planned.

It would be an understatement to say that the video garnered a massive response. Since July 6 over 500,000 people have viewed the video, and the huge volume of traffic on Carroll’s own Web site caused it to crash.

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He has been inundated with interview requests, and the story has been picked up by news media around the world.

Faced with bad publicity and mounting pressure from the public over its seemingly petty denial of Carroll’s damage claim, on Tuesday night United Airlines relented and contacted him about making things right, saying that the video had “struck a chord” (pun intended).

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In a further attempt at damage control, United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said that “things should have been fixed much sooner.” She added Wednesday that she enjoyed Carroll’s video and would use it internally to help train staff and ensure that all customers get better service.

By Karen Elowitt for Peter Greenberg.com.

Related links: Wall Street Journal, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Ottawa Citizen

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