Carroll says that he and his band, Sons of Maxwell, were on their way from their Halifax, Nova Scotia, home to Omaha for a tour last year when they and other passengers saw United employees literally throwing guitars around on the tarmac during a plane change in Chicago.
Carroll later discovered his $3,500 guitar had been badly damaged, he says, and that he spent nine months getting the runaround from United before he was finally told the airline would simply not pay to repair the instrument, even though it had been properly packed and there was no real dispute about who had broken it.
"So I promised the last person to finally say 'no' to compensation," Carroll writes on his Web site, "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."
The first of those songs, titled "United Breaks Guitars," went up on YouTube Monday. As of late Wednesday, the goofy video for the mildly catchy number had been viewed more than 255,000 times. That's what you call a hit. Carroll writes that all of the people involved in the recording of the song and the creation of the video volunteered their services.
CBC News and others report that the video quickly got United's attention. "This has struck a chord with us," the Canadian network quoted a United spokesperson saying Tuesday. "We're going to contact him directly." The Los Angeles Times quotes Carroll's wife, Jill, saying that United had gotten in touch, though nothing had been settled.
Picture this incident happening 20 years ago. Carroll would have gone through the same runaround, and then -- what? He might have called a few newspaper or TV reporters in Halifax or Chicago, and he would likely have been told that his broken guitar was a sad story, but hardly news. If he were really lucky a consumer-advocate reporter might have taken up his case and badgered the airline into cutting him a check for the repair cost.
In 2009, though, the CBC reports, Carroll thought to himself, "What would Michael Moore do if he was a singer-songwriter?" Carroll's answer, the first in a three-song trilogy about United's carelessness and horrendous customer service, is indeed news.
And it's not just a curiosity. Carroll might end up having a positive effect on the world around him. The L.A. Times quotes a United spokeswoman saying, "His video is excellent, and we plan to use it internally as a unique learning and training opportunity to ensure that all our customers receive better service."
Power to the source. Welcome to one little corner of the future.