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'United Breaks Guitars' Made Dave Carroll a Customer Service Celebrity (video interview)

   Part 1 of 4 -- Unless you reside on Mars, you’re undoubtedly familiar with “United Breaks Guitars.” That’s the video musician Dave Carroll posted on YouTube 2½ years ago after United Airlines baggage handlers broke his treasured, and expensive, Taylor guitar and UAL wouldn’t adequately compensate him.

“United Breaks Guitars” is the humorous saga of the stonewalling Carroll encountered from United’s customer service department. The video (see it below) immediately went viral, has been viewed 11.5 million times, and spawned two additional musical videos on the same theme.

And Carroll? He’s become a sought-after spokesman about customer service. In the video below, he explains how social media and his experience merged in surprising fashon. Oh, and he did fly United again – and lost his bags. Watch the video below for more:

This video is the first of four from my interview with Carroll, a down-to-earth fellow who has been writing songs and performing for 20 years, often with his band Sons of Maxwell.

Could he have imagined the celebrity status that followed “United Breaks Guitars?”

“No, not at all,” he says. “… it wasn’t my intention to become famous, but I did ask myself to get a million views. It’s gone much more viral than that.”

Asked frequently why he thinks that happened, he says it resonated with everyone and incorporated humor. “Ultimately,” he says, “it has to do with the fact that we’re all connected with each other … and  now that social media allows us to experience that connection, I think it touched a nerve … anyone who’s ever flown and had a bad airline experience.”

Carroll admits it’s been a challenge to keep up with everything that’s come along for him as a result of “United Guitars.” Still, as a musician he’s been through all the highs and lows and he’s managed to make it all work and stay the same guy he always was.

Here’s the “United Breaks Guitars” video:


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Join The Conversation

  • Feb 8 Posted 5 years ago mikeczyk

    Thank you for your reply. My problem is that there's no clear way to come to a monetary solution for the impact of such a video, so providing insurance for it would allow the company to recoup losses for things that weren't necessarily related. My limited insurance knowledge is beside the point, and a weak deflection of the real issue. 

    Regardless of how you spin this, you were there representing Chubb because they paid you, and they were curious about stopping videos like yours from having a business impact. If that's not jeapordizing your integrity, then I don't know what is. Even if you didn't "endorse" them, you refused to answer questions about how ridiculous offering insurance like that was. 

  • Feb 7 Posted 5 years ago Dave Carroll

    I'm responding to mikecyk's assertion that I have sold out in his opinion. It appears his entire argument is based upon my "recent" association to Chubb insurance.  It actually wasn't that recent and it lasted for only an afternoon in April of 2010.  Chubb insurance was interested in exploring the notion of whether or not an insurance company could insure businesses against viral videos like United Break Guitars. They asked me to join there booth at a prominent industry trade show so that people might visit the booth and take a survey exploring this idea. I was there to tell my story and nothing more.  I have not endorsed Chubb insurance and for that matter since United Breaks Guitars was released I have not accepted a single paid endorsement from any company (the only exception might be that I was commissioned to write a song for a company called Sandvik Coromant which I proudly stand by).  

    While Mike is right that the monetary impact to United would be extremely diffucult to calculate, he shows a limited understanding of how the insurance industry works.  They are in the business of mitigating the risk of having to pay claims. That's why insurance companies get a bad name....because of the claims they try not to pay.  Mike's contention that companies who deliver poor customer service, should this type of policy become a reality, could simply buy insurance to cover the consequesnces of their inaction is flawed.  

    The truth is such a policy would be great news for consumers because the insurance industry would hold companies to the highest standards of service to mitigate the risk of viral videos.  People who are treated fairly don't get attention for complaining. My wife and I own a small home in Waverley Nova Scotia.  We have fire insurance on the house and it was fairly easy to get.  If I had a fireplace in my living room and wanted to also store gasoline and fireworks beside it, I'll bet no insurance company in the world would insure me.  The same would be said in this case. United's reaction to UBG has been the focus of what not to do in customer service circles and I would wager that they'd have had a hard time explaining to Chubb why they'd have deserved a claim settlement.

    I have no idea what Chubb has decided to do with their findings and haven't worked with them since, but having all the facts about my own goings on for nearly three years I feel quite confident that my values and my integrity are not in jeopardy of being sold out. 

  • Feb 7 Posted 5 years ago mikeczyk

    True he set a standard for fighting back against a corporation that didn't want to accept responsibility for their actions, but he was shilling for an insurance carrier recently that was looking to offer social media insurance.

    If United had the type of insurance he was shilling for, United would have been able to recoup any money lost because of this debacle, a numerical value which cannot be calculated accurately. 

    In short... Dave Carroll is a sell out. 

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