MONEY

Musician’s damaged-luggage complaint is smash YouTube hit

Has a big company done you wrong? Trying to get it to address your problem isn’t always easy. Sure, you can email a complaint to the customer service department, or you can beg for mercy over the phone. But that doesn’t mean you’ll get the results you want.

Well, one disgruntled United Airlines customer found a creative way to get the company’s attention.

When Canadian musician Dave Carroll was flying from Halifax to Nebraska on March 31, 2008, he changed planes at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. There, another passenger noticed some rough handling of luggage out on the tarmac, exclaiming, “My God, they’re throwing guitars out there.” Carroll says he looked out the window to witness baggage handlers throwing a bass guitar. And when he got to Omaha, he discovered that, sure enough, his $3,500 Taylor guitar was “severely damaged.” It would cost him $1,200 to get it repaired.

Carroll filed a complaint with United and spent the next nine months haggling with United reps for compensation, to no avail. Exasperated, Carroll “promised the last person to finally say no to compensation … 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,” he wrote on his web page.

Carroll unveiled the first of those videos this week. “United Breaks Guitars” is a catchy, twangy ditty about the musician’s experience, and with more than 520,000 views in just a few days, it’s become a viral video success.

So much, in fact, that United Airlines itself is taking note. A United spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune: “This struck a chord with us. We are in conversation with one another to make what happened right.” The company has gone so far as to praise Carroll and wants to use the video “to help change its culture.” Meanwhile, Carroll is working on the next two songs and videos.

Sometimes drastic situations call for drastic measures. How have you gotten your complaint noticed by a company that won’t recognize its wrongs?

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