United Breaks Guitars by Dave Carroll


I must admit, though I spend a substantial amount of time now on social media, I was not even aware of this world famous video of the author. That changed his life and probably inspired many more to take that route to get their problems sorted. In a fun and non-confrontational way. The biggest take away for me from this book United Breaks Guitars is that you can convert every problems or obstacle into an opportunity. If you can think in an unusual way that is not focused on hurting someone but at getting what you want.

The story is simple. Author a musician by profession was traveling by a United Airlines flight. And they broke his guitar. And refused to listen to his complaint or compensate. After running from pillar to post and getting a No from United Airlines, he decided to tackle it in his way. He wrote a song and shot a video of his experience. And put it on YouTube. The video went viral becoming the most watched video of the year. Getting a million hits in a matter of days. And the rest is history.

United offered him much more than what he had initially asked. Taylor the makers of broken Guitar gifted him two guitars. He was on every possible television channel and newspaper giving interviews through the day. His music career obviously got a boost with his newfound celebrity status. He eventually got invited to events to speak, to advise companies on customer service, on branding. And of course on the use of social media. So from having a small time music career, he went on to become this multi-faceted person with no dearth of opportunities knocking at his door.

As a book, it is an OK read. The subject is interesting. But his writing skills could be better. He is so overwhelmed by his later success that he can now sit back and laugh about his frustrating experience with the airline. He has attempted to be funny. But it comes out as an effort. The first half of the book talks about his story from a musician’s relationship with his guitar to the whole episode. And details of the making of the trilogy of videos, to the whole experience that followed. In the second half, he has tried to share his insights through this whole experience. I did not find them as enlightening. But yes those are simple things that we sometimes tend to ignore.

Now what is interesting is the analysis. If this was a stroke of luck for Dave, as millions of people every day suffer bad customer service. And a lot of them do follow up for a long time. Or was it a planned innovative strategy that worked. As the author himself says it was a combination of both. His video becoming such a big hit is something that no amount of planning could have predicted. And at the same time, his openness to grab everything that came his way to leverage this experience is something that not many people can do. He had never spoken at events, he had never ever thought of writing a book or consulting people on branding and customer service.

If I look at it critically, his experience was limited to a small part of the whole game. But he never said no to any opportunity, went ahead and made the best out of it. Does this re-enforce the age-old adage that ‘Fortune favors the brave’- sure, it does.

Read United Breaks Guitars to read one of the most credible case study on success through social media and the potential it holds.

You may buy this book – United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media by Dave Carroll at Amazon.

United Breaks Guitars by Dave Carroll

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  1. Sounds like a really interesting read. I’ve never heard of this author or his videos before though. What year did this whole guitar-breaking fiasco happen exactly?


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