Technology, a Songwriter, and United Airlines
Technology has given customers powerful ways to retaliate if they are ignored or mistreated. Take for example, Canadian musician and songwriter Dave Carroll, whose guitar was broken by United Airlines luggage handlers on his way to a performance in March 2008. After 9 months of getting the runaround by officials at United, Carroll took matters into his own hands by writing and recording an entertaining musical video called “United Breaks Guitars,” which he posted on YouTube on July 6, 2009 (Mutzabaugh, 2009). In the video, Carroll (accompanied by his band, Sons of Maxwell) sings of how his guitar was smashed and of his frustrations in dealing with United Airline employees.

The facts of the story according to Carroll (2009; 2012) include the following: Prior to deplaning in Chicago for the last leg of a trip to Omaha from Halifax, a passenger sitting behind Carroll noticed that the baggage handlers were throwing guitars, which just happened to belong to Carroll and his band. He tried to complain to three different United flight attendants before leaving Chicago, with no success, and when they arrived in Omaha at 12:30 a.m., there were no employees available at all. Early the next morning, after being picked up by the tour manager, he discovered his $3,500 Taylor guitar was broken into two pieces. As frustrating as this was, it didn’t compare with the frustration of trying to file a claim and contact the “correct” person to discuss reimbursement for his guitar; at various times he was told to talk to all the following: the ground crew in Omaha, the airport where the trip began (Halifax), the airport where the damage occurred (Chicago), United’s 1-800 number in India, and Central Baggage in New York. Carroll notes that “The system is designed to frustrate affected customers into giving up their claims and United is very good at it.” The last person he spoke with, Ms. Irlweg, told him nothing could be done even after he offered to settle for payment of $1,200 in flight vouchers to reimburse having the guitar repaired. He gave up after telling her that he would write three songs about his experiences with United in video form, offer them as a free download online, and ask viewers to vote on their favorite song. His goal, he told her, was “to get one million hits in one year”—a modest goal as it turned out.

“United Breaks Guitars” was posted on Monday, July 6, and by Thursday, July 9, it had 400,000 hits and, according to Benet Wilson in her blog post titled “United Airlines Sees Power of Viral PR Up Close and Personal” (2009), Carroll’s video already had over 100 news stories and 2,000 blogs written about it, including multiple television network reports. Even United Airlines was on Twitter explaining its actions and making apologies. On July 10, United posted on Twitter that following Dave’s request, they had donated $3,000 to the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. A spokeswoman for United told the Chicago Sun Times that they were interested in using the video “for training purposes to ensure that all customers receive better service from us” (Jackson, 2009). By evening on Sunday, just 6 days after the video was posted, more than 2.4 million viewers had listened to it. In addition to making a point, and getting the attention of United, Carroll and his band were a hit! The song was clever, the video funny, and the music really enjoyable. Carroll (2009) ended his background on the incident with this statement:

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I should thank United. They’ve given me a creative outlet that has brought people together from around the world. We had a pile of laughs making the recording and the video while the images are spinning on how to make “United: Song 2” even better than the first. So, thanks, United! If my guitar had to be smashed due to extreme negligence, I’m glad it was you that did it. Now sit back and enjoy the show.

Note: You can still view Dave Carroll’s video on YouTube. Just search “Dave Carroll United”.

Now that you’ve read the case study, respond to the following statements in a word processing document:

Decide whether the action taken by United Airlines to repair the damage done by Carroll’s video was adequate.
Discuss the actions that United should take to prevent future customer service incidents.
Determine whether technology is more of an advantage or more of an obstacle to effective communication in today’s society.
What does this incident mean for you as someone who may be involved in some form customer service?
The assignment will be graded on the following:

Respond appropriately to all of the question(s).
Provide enough information and detail to support and explain your experiences, thoughts, and/or ideas.
Write in complete sentences using correct grammar and proper punctuation.
Do not use text message acronyms.
Make sure that your purpose/thesis is evident.
Your paragraphs should clearly support the purpose/thesis.
Sentences within a paragraph should clearly support the topic of that paragraph.
Be sure that the content within the assignment is placed in a logical order.
Your transitions between ideas should illustrate the relationship between ideas and allow the reader to pass from one idea to the next without confusion.
Your conclusion/conclusions should be apparent and clearly defined.

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