So when United passenger Dave Carroll discovered that his $3,500 guitar had been smashed by workers (who were seen tossing guitars), he contacted the airline. But he did so after the 24-hour statute of limitations for complaints expired. If Carroll also expected United to resolve this situation without further complication, he neglected the basics outlined in the previous paragraph.
Months later and still not compensated, Carroll and his band Sons of Maxwell wrote a song called “United Breaks Guitars,” shot a video that has become a YouTube sensation, and the whole thing has gotten nationwide press.
Of course, United has now agreed to take responsibility for Carroll's broken instrument (both sides have decided to donate the money to charity), they've shouted their mea culpa, and an airline spokesperson said it will use the video internally to “change its culture.”
But that's not the point. This was a simple problem with a simple solution. The right thing for United to do was to apologize from the get-go and pay for the man's guitar.
Instead, in this social media age, they decided to take a hard line on an arbitrary rule. Now it will cost the airline way more than the value of the guitar once you include the damage to its reputation, passengers who will take their business elsewhere, the extra baggage fees that will not be collected because consumers no longer trust them to handle their possessions, and the PR team's efforts to clean up this silly mess. With all that money, United could have paid for the guitar, some new blankets and pillows, and some tiny bottles of alcohol to help passengers numb themselves to the whole travel experience.