Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sons of Maxwell: "United Breaks Guitars"

Anyone who's ever had luggage delayed, stolen, damaged or pulverized by an airline will appreciate this Sons of Maxwell video and the backstory on the band's website about the destruction of a $3,500 Taylor guitar and subsequent customer service runaround. A couple of thoughts, in no particular order:

  • This Canadian band's humor, employed in a video that's now been viewed nearly a half-million times, is a far more devastating approach than 100 handwritten letters and phone calls to customer service
  • I love, absolutely LOVE, the fact that they call out the name of the customer service person that gave them the final "no"--instant, well-deserved infamy!
  • What conversations are taking place at United right now about how to handle all the negative PR they're getting?
  • Do you think they regret taking responsibility and doing the right thing?
  • Will United approach things differently next time? Do you think their competitors have taken notice?
  • How many times over have these guys made back their $3,500, thanks to people like me having downloaded Dave Carroll's solo CD at $10 a pop? I think their only mistake is to not have any of the Sons of Maxwell albums available on iTunes. I emailed Dave; will let you know if I hear anything, but I suspect he's got a busy schedule!
  • Dammit, I wish I could play the guitar. Or sing worth a crap.


  1. The old saying that an upset customer will tell 10 people doesn't apply anymore. These things go viral and the whole world knows that you screwed up.

  2. Good point, Anon. I worked for a big hotel chain way back in University, and a squeaky-wheel customer would get royal treatment just to curb their tendency to spread bad news. These days, bad news travels at lightening speed--although customer service is heading downhill at much the same speed.

    United's woken up, but at the upper echelons. I doubt the people who work with the pubic day to day are going to have much of an epiphany...

  3. I just noticed my typo there--yikes!!!

  4. Teenie, you're human! :) Someday, Blogger should allow posters to revise their own comments...

    Unfortunately, I think you're right about the upper-vs-lower chasm. What it comes down to, I think, is that people are afraid they're putting their jobs in danger if they make an expensive decision in favor of the customer. And they may be right...

  5. It sounds like I meant hair-removal experts instead of airline personnel!

    You're all too right; I'd bet a lot of workers have a cap on how much they can "give away free" to consumers who call up to complain. Still, I think disgruntled or disillusioned employees won't change their work habits no matter what new ideas the upper crusts put into action. There's no motivation to change, so...