When United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s $3,500 Taylor Guitar on a flight from Halifax to Chicago, the Sons of Maxwell singer tried – unsuccessfully – to get the company to acknowledge its fault and compensate him for the damage (you can read Carroll’s version of events here). When the airline ultimately refused, denying his claim because he failed to complain in the right place at the right time, Carroll took his complaint to the people via this YouTube video:
The song quickly went viral [UPDATE: as of 9/16/09, the video has racked up nearly 5.5 million views], and United was eventually forced to deal with the fallout, apologizing and offering to compensate Carroll for his loss. However, Carroll considered both the apology and the late compensatory offer to be inadequate – and beside the point. The damage was done, and Carroll stuck to his guns, vowing to follow through on his promise to publicize United’s indifference with a follow-up video mocking their apology [UPDATE: here’s the second video in the promised trilogy]:
The clear loser in this case is United Airlines. Airline employees responded with indifference when Carroll complained on the flight after watching baggage handlers mangle his guitar on the tarmac. United customer service representatives gave Carroll the runaround when he lodged an official complaint, which the airline eventually denied on a technicality. By the time the company was shaken to its senses by the popular outcry raised by Carroll’s video, it was too late. The damage was done, the apology and offer of compensation were refused, and the airline’s negligence was exposed in both social and mainstream media outlets (Carroll made stops on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Today Show).
Now, here’s the positive note. Taylor Guitars, manufacturers of Carroll’s broken axe, capitalized on United’s failure by posting the following self-promotional video:
Though not as popular as Carroll’s vid [UPDATE: Taylor’s vid racked up 181,292 views as of 9/16/09], Taylor piggybacked on its popularity and seized the opportunity for a little free promotion of its guitar repair services. Brilliant. The moral of this social media story: one company’s failure is another’s social marketing opportunity.