United Breaks Guitars

United Breaks Guitars by Dave Carroll is an easy read – and if you buy the Kindle version, you get links to download free copies of the music videos Carroll made (they’re also on Youtube) to speak out about United Airline’s poor customer service.

The book also is a great follow-up to Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus because it illustrates Shirky’s point that social media can interconnect us so well, we can use them to create both personal and social change. For Carroll, social media aren’t the sources of our connections to each other but platforms that “let us experience our connectedness” (pp. 131-132). He believes that social media are about communication (p. 116) and that

 …once it sinks in that all people share an inherent connection to one another, and that longing to experience that connection forms the basis for many of our choices, everyone would be wise to take note. If we are really connected at the deepest level, then that would explain why it feels good to help others (because we’re really helping ourselves). It can also account for why it’s so frustrating to be treated badly and, if you think about it, why it feels so unpleasant to hurt someone else (because we’re really only hurting ourselves when we do). The impact of this inherent truth can be felt not only on a personal basis, but also in business. (p. 136).

Carroll also asserts that “the concept of statistical insignificance has to be one of the most destructive ideas that certain companies employ when it comes to customer service” (p. 107). I agree. The goal needs to be to get it right 100% of the time, because no customer-service failure is insignificant; every failure is worth worrying about because every customer matters (p. 107). As Carroll says, studies show that customers who have a problem and get that problem solved actually like the company better than those who never had a problem (p. 110).


United Breaks Guitars is the sort of book I’d like young people to read for some inspiration and encouragement to keep working for what they believe in – and for some good advice. To make something other people will want to spend time on, Carroll advises asking, “Can I make something that looks good, sounds good, and makes people want to tell their friends about it?” (p. 112). He says,

If you care that people may choose to spend some of their valuable time looking at you, your content will likely raise itself up and stand above the “clutter.” I have learned that the simple act of caring changes the outcome, and I challenge everyone to try it for themselves. It works. The beauty of caring is that it’s contagious and unlimited. (p. 178)

The advice is good for us librarians, too. Caring, quality, and a focus on good customer service make a huge difference to our patrons.



One thought on “United Breaks Guitars

  1. Michael Sauers

    Thanks for you comments, especially for connecting it back to the previous Book Thing. Also, great suggestion on recommending it to teens. I hadn’t thought of that and I completely agree.



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