Video of the Week: “United Breaks Guitars”

Dave Carroll:

In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss.

So I promised the last person to finally say no to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United Breaks Guitars is the first of those songs.

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From Wikipedia:

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 22 million views and 287,000 likes as of December 2022.

Bob Taylor, owner of Taylor Guitars, immediately offered Carroll two guitars and other props for his second video.The song hit number one on the iTunes Music Store the week following its release. The belated compensation offer of $3,000, which was donated by United to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz as a “gesture of goodwill,” failed to undo the damage done to its image (it was later revealed that the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz was, at the time, chaired largely by United executives and used United Airlines exclusively for its corporate travel).

In response to his protest’s success, Carroll posted a video address thanking the public for their support while urging a more understanding and civil attitude towards Ms. Irlweg, who was just doing her job in accordance with mandated company policies in this affair.

Since the incident, Carroll has been in great demand as a speaker on customer service. Coincidentally, on one of his trips as a speaker, United Airlines lost his luggage.

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