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United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media Hardcover – 2 Jul 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hay House UK (2 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401937934
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401937935
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 14.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,356,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

In July 2009, Dave Carroll shared with the world the first of his United Breaks Guitars (UBG) trilogy. Since then millions of people around the globe have resounded Dave's poor Customer Experience and thousands of have communicated with him about their own Good, Bad, and yes, even Ugly (GBU) customer experiences. Today he travels the world with his music and his inspiring lectures. www.davecarrollmusic.com

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book. I bought it when I was doing research for a big online social media course I am writing and producing at the moment. My intention was to learn a bit more about the story behind the broken guitar - if I am mentioning this story as an example it's helpful to have the facts from the book.

My view of the power of social media is very much in line with Dave's and he is describing his view of the world in a wonderful way. I also recommended all my friends to listen to his song 'Now' on YouTube. Great piece of music.

If you would like to get to know more about the song UBG came about you must read this book!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
Back in 2009 the story of Dave Carroll's broken guitar saw the share price for United Airlines take a big hit as he took to YouTube with a very funny and effective film about how badly the airline had treated him and his guitar.

Illustrating the frequent close interaction between social and traditional media, the YouTube clip generated widespread TV news and newspaper coverage, reaching a far wider audience than the original online one and fuelling further views of the video which in turn encouraged more media coverage in a (for him) virtuous circle.

Dave Carroll was, however, not really just an ordinary customer of United Airlines but in fact a musician far more talented than nearly all of us, with access to a network of skilled people and facilities to turn a song into a professional music video on a zero budget.

In other words, rather than being the story of how social media lets one ordinary person strike back, it was more a story of social media let one highly talented person garner massive media coverage. A different world certainly, but not quite the all new, everyone is equal level playing field some social media evangelists slip into describing.

In a similar, smaller scale way I had a similar experience that reflects these inequalities. In the last year both Stephen Fry and myself have been on Qantas flights that ran into serious problems. Both of us tweeted about them. One became a major story and one did not. I think you can guess which is which.

All this made me turn to Dave Carroll's book about his experiences with interest, to see how these issues appeared to him from the inside and how he sees the mix of relations between traditional and new media.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very entertaining, well written and interesting. Not so sure it would be useful to people trying to replicate the success of the United Breaks Guitars video series but certainly shows why customer service is becoming so important in the Information Age.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
And now you know... the rest of the story 14 Jun. 2012
By PT Cruiser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who has ever had luggage or personal belongings destroyed by an airline without being properly compensated or perhaps not even acknowledged, this story is a triumph. The youtube video, "United Breaks Guitars" has been viewed by over 12 million people as of today and Dave Carroll gives us all of the 'behind the scenes' details about how the video was conceived and how it grew into a life of its own. Imagine, one guy from Halifax, Nova Scotia on a music gig for his band, "Sons of Maxwell" who when landing in Chicago. has the unfortunate experience of being told by people across the aisle on his United Airlines flight, that the luggage handlers are throwing around guitars while unloading the plane! This made the blood run cold of every musician on board who had checked a guitar before boarding. The rest of the story is history.

This book is all about the events on the United flight and the aftermath with all the red tape Dave Carroll went through trying to get reimbursed for the damaged guitar (Unbelievable, the hoops they tried to make him jump through, like flying back to Chicago to fill out paperwork!) and then lots of details about making the first and then second and third youtube videos. It tells about Taylor Guitar contacting him and inviting him to their plant in California and letting him choose two guitars to take home with him. He tells about speaking engagements afterwards and other opportunities afforded him on the basis on this video and the larger story. I found it to be very inspiring that there IS a way to make one small voice heard. He also examines how companies can make social media good for, and relevant to their companies. It's interesting to note that while United Airlines seemed to resent the attention and tried to ignore the whole thing, Taylor Guitars took advantage of the publicity about their guitars and expanded on it to their advantage.

There are 16 pages of color photos in the center of this book, photos of Dave, his family, his friends and of making the videos. Dave also includes the lyrics to his three UBG songs and a few others in the back of the book. There is one, Now that I was instantly drawn to and bought the mp3 on Amazon. It's in my cloud now and I'm listening to it as I write this review. (You have to go and at least listen to a sample of this song!) I'm grateful to Media Connect for providing me with a review copy of this entertaining and inspiring book.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Nice background on the video 19 May 2012
By Dr. Cathy Goodwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I love the song United Breaks Guitars. It's catchy and the video is hilarious, especially the "funeral," the chalk outline on the ground and the guy acting like a baseball catcher.

I thought the video must have cost a ton of money, but it turns out Dave Carroll had gotten his friends to volunteer. He had some high-powered help with mixing the music and editing the video, but he didn't pay them.

What's especially interesting is the way he wrote the song. He wanted to go viral so he deliberately chose a country beat and a simple chorus refrain.

Is Dave really a humble guy from Canada? Well, Canadians in general tend to come across as low-key and unassuming. He's an entertainer who knows how to gain center stage; as he points out in the book, he was already a successful musician when he wrote this song. He managed to earn a good living and toured all over the world.

At the same time, this book isn't especially deep. It's more like a magazine article. He didn't go into any kind of analysis or even discussion of others who took similar routes, using media, such as Kevin Smith.

I suspect he'll be signing thousands of copies at his speaking engagements. He deserves everything he's got. Sure, he got lucky with the song, but he worked hard to become a speaker. He wouldn't keep getting these speaking engagements if he couldn't do a good job.

I'm not sure how you'd like it if you don't know the song, but it was a fast fun read for me.

Incidentally, I just shipped my dog from Seattle to Philadelphia. One service recommended United as being pet-friendly. Really? I couldn't hep remembering this song and I went with Delta.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Broken Guitar Changes Business History 6 July 2012
By Bryan Carey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever had a bad customer service experience? I would bet that every person asked that question would answer in the affirmative and many would add that the response they received was less than satisfactory. But what if the unpleasant experience involved damaged merchandise? This would certainly take things to a new level and this is exactly the experience of the author of this book, United Breaks Guitars. His prized instrument was damaged by United Airlines and he sought some type of resolution, only to be sent around in circles and never receiving the resolution he desired.

The author went on to write a song about his experience and it turned into an internet sensation. This book is about the song, the sequels to the song, and the overall experience with United Airlines, culminating in the author's new career as a social activist and speaker. A broken guitar started everything and the problem, had it been handled properly, would have been settled and put to rest. But United failed to take responsibility for its actions, leading author Dave Carroll to write a song and create all sorts of bad press for United as a result.

The best part of this book is reading about the author's ordeal and, ultimately, the positive response and outcome, not just from a resolution standpoint, but also from the standpoint of social activism. The author was already a musician, so he was not a complete unknown, but he was far from being a household name. The situation with United changed his life forever and the song's popularity exceeded his wildest dreams. Today, Carroll gives speeches on customer service and his experience has captured the imagination of consumers everywhere.

United Breaks Guitars is a personal book, but it doesn't get too personal and I like that the author knew when to say when. Many authors of books like this spend considerable time explaining their own life story, even when it has no real bearing on the book. This book offers only a small amount of background and then gets on with the story, explaining the sequence of events from the mishandling of the guitar to the many interactions the author has with United personnel as he tried to seek some sort of retribution.

I like this book's ability to show what one person can do in the age of social media and it is great how the author was able to achieve so much with the simple posting of a video. If I had to find something to criticize, it would be the book's lack of analysis and depth. It would have been nice to read about other highly- publicized customer service issues and read some compare/contrast analysis along with some more discussion on customer service in general. Instead, the book just talks about the basics of the event and leaves it at that. It leaves you wanting something more, but it is still a good book in its own way.

Customer service annoyances are common and we can all relate to the frustration experienced when something goes wrong and a business fails to resolve the problem. United Breaks Guitars is a good read about a man and his experience with a broken guitar, a video, and a newfound career as a spokesperson for customer advocacy. It shows that one person can make a difference today, in the age of social media.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Great book 8 May 2012
By Pete Gifford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the book very much. It's good to finally get the full story of Dave's damaged Taylor and the mess United caused by not taking care of the individual consumer. Actually, it's a good thing they didn't. Otherwise, we wouldn't have the songs and Dave would probably be a fireman by now. The story shows the true power of social media and of quality content in social media. Keep it up Dave!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Striking a cord with frustrated flyers 11 Jun. 2012
By honoryourspirit - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
United Breaks Guitars (Book Review)

Please note: This is a review for Amazon.com as well as a book review posted on my personal blog: [...]. From time to time I review books related to conscious creation, self-development, law of attraction and other subjects of interest to my readers. I note on each book review if I purchased the book myself or if I obtained a review copy from the publisher. For this particular review of "United Breaks Guitars," I received a free copy from Hay House Publishing for review and the opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

When a careless United Airlines baggage handler threw musician Dave Carroll's guitar across the tarmac in March 2008, little did he know he'd strike a chord with millions of air travelers around the world. On that fateful day, Carroll's guitar would suffer severe damage and set in motion one of the most successful viral music videos to date. That video lead to a global conversation about customer service, social media, self-empowerment and the value of doing the "right thing."

United Breaks Guitars is the written follow-up to Carroll's YouTube video and is an intriguing story that will certainly be of interest to anyone involved in customer service, public relations and social media. It is also an excellent example of how applying conscious creation concepts to a challenge can yield fruitful results both in the marketplace and in life.


After Carroll discovered his broken guitar, he spent almost a year trying to get compensation from United Airlines for repairs. At each step, he was turned away, the result of a poor customer service policy that favored United and not its customers. As his frustration mounted, he began searching for ways to share the experience with others that would cause United to take heed.

Rather than turn to legal action, Carroll decided on the one area he knew best: music. He vowed to write a series of songs and make corresponding videos to be placed on YouTube. The first song, "United Breaks Guitars," was posted on July 6, 2009 and took only days to reach a million viewers, his original goal. In that first week, his message reached around the world and he became sought by media outlets to talk about the experience.

The idea worked, prompting United Airlines to engage him in conversations about the experience and the video. But perhaps more impressively, the United Airlines stock price actually dropped as a result of the video's success. It's fair to note that United did finally own up to the mistake, apologize for it and offer compensation for the repairs.

Today, with more than 12 million hits on YouTube, the video trilogy continues to gain steam while Carroll has become a sought-after speaker and consumer advocate. United Breaks Guitars dissects the experience in minute detail and gives readers a chance to understand the circumstances, the musician and the social media phenomenon that resulted from one mishandled piece of luggage.

Overall, this is an excellent account of Dave Carroll's United experience and is useful for anyone interested in or working in customer service, social media, branding or the music business. It's a quick, easy read and gives the audience a thorough look into the implications of social media in the marketplace and the ability for one person to truly make a difference. The book, however, may also be of interest to readers familiar with new age concepts.

New Thought Connections

When I saw United Breaks Guitars on the Hay House review website ([...]), I was intrigued: why is Hay House--the largest publisher of self-development books--producing a book about business, customer service and social media? I must admit I hadn't heard of Carroll's experience prior to seeing the book title, but a quick read of the description convinced me I'd like to learn more. As a public relations/marketing director by day and conscious creator writer by night, the book seemed right up my alley.

The main storyline of UBG is certainly applicable to general business. Parts of the book read like a university textbook on customer service 101 and what can go wrong when businesses don't take care of their customers. But it's the understory of UBG that gently leads readers to understand the power one person can bring to the marketplace--and the world--with a good idea and a cause.


What's important to note and what most media accounts of Carroll's experience omit is the fact that he was not out for revenge against United, quite the opposite. Instead, he was intent on making things right in a way that respected everyone involved. So, when he vowed to write songs and produce videos about the customer service challenge, he was very clear in his goals:

"The success of UBG was not about anger or confrontation," Carroll writes. "From my perspective, my goal was never to get revenge, but rather to compel United to take responsibility and to see that hurting their customers is damaging to their own business. I wanted them to see that there aren't two sides to consumer stories like mine, just one: the right side. While revenge is a negative and angry emotion, my approach was anything but vengeful."

That respectful nature was part of a larger approach, which Carroll describes as "non-confrontational." Like many authors in Hay House's catalog, the singer/songwriter realized that coming across as bitter and rude wouldn't really get to the heart of the matter and could actually escalate the tension further.

With a good idea in place, Carroll enlisted the help of family and friends to make his music videos and all were more than happy to help. After all, many people at some point in their lives have had a bad air travel experience and most people thought this would be an excellent way to get United's attention. Also, his musician friends were very supportive, knowing how important the instrument was to the performer. He was on to something big.

"Call it intuition, but I absolutely knew that I was at the start of what would be a very long process, so I made two vows to myself that day: first, I would not give up until this matter was resolved to my satisfaction; and second, I would never lose my temper in any of my interactions. I would do my best to be respectful to everyone I encountered, knowing that they were simply trying to do their job within the rules they were given," he writes.

Carroll obviously understands new thought concepts and applied them (knowingly or unknowingly) to the situation at hand. His grace-under-fire handling of the customer service issue cut through months of deadened leads and caused an airline--and the world--to stand up and take notice. As the video gained popularity and Carroll began doing media tours, he quickly understood how letting go of results and remaining focused on his goals would help move things forward.

"As has happened so many times in my career, there were plenty of reasons to wait until all the conditions were better in order to move ahead. But once again, I took a leap of faith that doing the best you can with what you've got always leaves you better off than having done nothing at all. I was reminded that stepping up to make the most an opportunity is when magic occurs and that the right people will always appear for you, at just the right time, but you have to first show up yourself."

That approach would allow the songwriter to take advantage of synchronicities that came his way, including friends and strangers donating time and effort to make the videos and help him with his new career as a consumer advocate. The first video became successful so quickly that Carroll was forced into the limelight with little or no direction. He was pioneering a new way of taking on a giant corporation through social media and the idea was working.

Nice guys finish first

What becomes immediately apparent when reading UBG is Carroll's understanding of the power new age thought. While so many in the main stream media turned the story into that of "one guy taking on a giant corporation," Carroll focused on doing the right thing for himself, United and seemingly-powerless consumers everywhere.

At each step in the story, the musician kept a clear head and remained focused on telling the story the way he wanted. He stuck to the facts, letting others draw their own conclusions about United or about customer service, and in the process, reveals to the reader what happens when a nice guy is compelled into action.

Millions understood the frustration, anger and bewilderment he felt with the United experience and he's received email after email of similar stories. He's been recognized in airports and venues around the world as the "United guy," and he's been able to focus that popularity into new ventures.

In addition to his music, Carroll has launched a secondary career as a consumer advocate, sharing his United story with audiences and also helping co-found the website Gripevine ([...]), where frustrated consumers can post messages to businesses large and small in hopes of getting satisfaction. He's become an ombudsman of sorts, standing up for the little guy and leveraging his new contacts to help businesses learn to take care of their customers.

He also used the theory of "pay it forward" as he found success with the YouTube version of UBG, donating United's financial compensation to people and organizations that needed a little extra boost. The video and corresponding story have since been used by organizations large and small as training material about customer service and social media.

What struck me most when reading United Breaks Guitars is Carroll's overall life philosophy, how he turned each step in the United saga into a win-win for everyone involved. That life-approach is familiar to self-development readers who will resonate with Carroll's mission statement:

"Whatever I choose to engage in, I've decided to approach it with a caring and positive attitude, and I know that when I do, I attract more of the same. In the process, I'll control the tings within my reach and worry less about the things outside it."

Overall thoughts

This is a deceptively complex manuscript. Carroll's clear and simple writing make it a quick read yet the story line allows for different audiences to each get something out of the book. Business-type readers will appreciate the ramifications of social media on the bottom line; consumer advocates will resonate with his ability to get United to act; while personal-development readers will take home examples of living a consciousness-centered life.

While you're at it, check out Carroll's first United Breaks Guitars YouTube video or check out some of his other music. In particular, "Now" is a beautiful ballad based on the work of Ekhart Tolle and other new thought pioneers.

FTC Disclosure notice
I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.
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