Harnessing Consumer Rage

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Several years ago I was sitting in the aisle seat of an American Airlines 737 in Dallas, catching the evening flight to Vancouver. While we waited on the tarmac, a serious man in his early fifties cleared his throat and pushed the attendant button above us. When the flight attendant arrived to inquire as to the man’s concern, he was told by my neighbor that the baggage handlers were getting a bit “loose” with their duties below his window, and that they should “correct their behavior.”

The flight attendant offered a mild retort along the lines of the men are trained professionals, or I’ll make a note of your observation – in short, refusing to see to his customer’s concern. Before he turned to get back to the rest of his pre-flight routine, the man in the window seat said, “No,” and unfolded an FAA’s Inspector’s badge from his wallet. “They should correct their behavior.”

Not only was the runway roughhosing interrupted at that instant, but our row of seats – the first set of coach seats – seemed to enjoy the benefits of the first class cabin, as warm cookies and free beverages made their way through the still-drawn curtain. Probably a clerical error.

Short of brandishing a badge, Dave Carrol has drawn up the second-best response to cavalier baggage handling, in his song, “United Breaks Guitars,” which takes aim at the Airline and tells the heartbreaking story of not only his Taylor’s demise at the hands of United employees, but also the frustrations of lodging the complaint, and obtaining retribution. From his website:

“In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise.”

He’ll either be sued, or made the national spokesperson.

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