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July 10, 2009

OBE: United Breaks Guitars

United Airlines Breaks GuitarsI wrote this Tuesday, to post on Friday. Late Thursday night, it looks like I've been OBE'd (overcome by events). Seems like United had enough. My intended post follows--

My Mother is a letter-writer. With a deeply held sense of injustice, my Mom would write strongly-worded letters when things went wrong.

For instance, once we had a dozen kids playing in our yard. My Mom says, Who Wants Ice Cream Cones, the kids all shout out I do, I do, my Mom opens the box of ice cream cones and -- they're all intact around the top, but not one of cones has a complete bottom. The bottoms were shattered, destroyed, unusable. This was a disaster and a mini-riot was a possibility. She ended up scooping ice cream into her China bowls, the only thing she had 12 of, and the mini-riot was averted. She recently told me that she cringed while the little ruffians ate their ice cream in our concrete backyard, fearful that her one matched set of China would be demolished.

Mom wrote a letter to the company president. It must have been one strongly worded letter, because a man in a suit from the Nabisco company came to the house, apologized profusely, and opened a large box. He gave my Mom two of every thing Nabisco sold. He gave her two boxes of ice cream cones, and my Mom - you gotta love this - opened them in front of the man, because "I'd just like to make sure they're OK while you're still here". My Mom shared the Nabisco windfall with the neighbors, and the story became part of the Flatbush Mythology.

Kids are smart people. When things go awry, the children in families know what's going to happen next. In some families one parent or another may lose their temper, in other families maybe they start drinking. Fortunately, when things went south in my house, my Mom channeled it into Writing The Letter.

Borscht Belt comedian Alan King took a similar approach in his comedy routine. I remember him talking about his battles with the electric company. I was told that eventually the electric company, and later an airline, gave him a large amount of money to find somebody else to talk about. Part of me loves that.

I don't know if letter writing is as effective as it once was. I suspect blogging about corporate malfeasance is the new letter writing, but I don't have any research to back that up.

Dave Carroll: musician and blogger. Flying United, checks his guitar, sees baggage handlers throwing the guitar around, gets his $3500 Taylor guitar back broken.

There's a long, sad story of an unresponsive and uncaring airline that just didn't care about his guitar, which he earns his livelihood with. My favorite employee response was the woman who said to him, "That's why we make you sign a waiver". He vowed to make a video and tell his tale to the world.

Dave Carrol: I salute you, and my Mother does too.

It may be the new button to punch with unresponsive companies. "I have a blog". A United Rep on Twitter says they're going to fix it; no news from Dave yet.


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