United breaks Guitars; share price dips (allegedly)

by Justin Souter on July 27, 2009

I realise that for many of your seasoned observers, this is old hat.

However, having been told about this at lunch yesterday by Caroline’s Daughter and Son-in-Law, I thought I would have a look into this, as it appears to be part of a growing trend of smart people employing social media to get heard.

Long story short: United Airlines breaks musician’s guitar; musician claims restitution; gets stonewalled by United; writes song which goes viral on YouTube; United caves in; lots more people buy musician’s music.

The story can be read about here, on the Musician’s website; the video is below. At the time of writing, it has had 4,225,709 views.

Apparently United’s share price took a pasting, which has been attributed to the negative publicity.

There’s a bit of doubt about this here and here, but I think you get the general point! The fact that there is a debate about this demonstrates how important Social Media is becoming in determining reputations, and tipping the balance of power in favour of consumers.

The Times summarises the situation from United Airlines’ perspective:

The company is trying to put a brave face on things. On Twitter it admitted its mistake and announced that it was donating $3,000 to a music charity. A spokeswoman tweeted that she liked the video: “It is excellent and that is why we would like to use it for training purposes so everyone receives better service from us.”

And for anyone considering consumer complaint videos on YouTube in the future, Mr Carroll recommends the key of D.


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