Has an airline ever treated you unfairly? Has any large company ever treated you, a paying customer, with indifference or even disdain?
United Airlines abused the wrong passenger. Their luggage handlers at O’hare Airport (Chicago, Illinois) broke a passenger’s guitar and then refused for a year to compensate him for his loss. Rather than sue United, the passenger, who is a musician, wrote a clever song, produced a funny video, and posted it on Youtube. In less than a week, it has been viewed over 2.4 million times and received over 20,000 (mostly positive) comments. It’s a public relations nightmare for United.
Here’s the “United Breaks Guitars” video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
This is a David and Goliath story. David has used the power of the web. Goliath has no viable response channel.
- Damage to guitar: $1200
- Dave Carroll’s video production cost: $300 (including $160 for props)
- Loss in goodwill for United: millions of dollars
- Potential lost revenue for United: millions of dollars
The phrase, “Penny wise and pound foolish” applies to United.
Dave indicates that some of his conversations were with United agents who are based in India. (This demonstrates that the company is willing to sacrifice customer satisfaction for cost.) United has lost this round — big time. Their management has forgotten that it’s less expensive to keep an existing customer happy than it is to find a new customer.
In this case the web has made possible the 60’s phrase, “power to the people”.
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