In the spirit of full disclosure, I contacted author/musician Dave Carroll via Facebook and asked if he would send me a free copy of his just-released book to review on my blog. He most graciously, and immediately responded and I had the book in my hands in a couple of days. He also agreed to an interview (until I realized, I had nothing original to ask him...but I tried). Heck, he even politely followed me back on Twitter! Did a free book and the agreement to an interview influence the caliber of my review or my opinion of it? I'm sure it did. How could it not? And hey, that Twitter follow-back, sealed the deal. If only I understood Twitter.
I was impressed with the story. I was impressed with the kind and prompt response I received from Dave who has gotta be one heck of a busy guy. So, before I even got the book, I felt like I knew him...a little...and liked him...and sure, I don't want to write a crap review for someone I think I like and respect (even if only cyberly). That being said, I still think there is much to learn from his book, his videos, his story, his music, his lectures and his approach to living life.
I came pretty late to this party. I had not heard the explosive media buzz when this story first broke back in 2009. Am I the only one? If not, enjoy it now.
Well, things just didn't seem to improve much with United, and when Dave finally got what United referred to as the "definitive last word"...which was "NO", Dave told their representative that he planned on writing three songs outlining his experience with them and posting them on YouTube. United didn't seem very threatened or interested. Dave figured that United needed to improve its customer service.
"I changed gears from someone who wanted something to someone who was going to do something. Contrary to popular opinion, my motivation was never to force United to compensate me. From this point on, I actually accepted that there would be no compensation and let it go.
When I chose to stop wasting time and energy navigating a customer-service maze and start investing that energy in a challenging, creative project, I instantly felt better. Just the decision to take action vented months of frustration." (pp 20, 21)
Within 4 days, the FIRST song had reached over one million views. A media frenzy ensued and Dave's life was shifted in a new and unexpected direction. To date, there have been well over 11 million views. That's just the first video.
Eventually, this unfortunate guitar assault has lead to greater income, becoming a published author, becoming a consumer advocate, public speaking engagements, publicity for him and for his music (and increased sales of said music), improvements in customer service awareness/training. Dave co-sponsors a customer service issue resolution website called the Gripe Vine. Read the book to see the many ways this "problem" has generated positive opportunities Dave could not have foreseen. Find out how it connected him to Eckhart Tolle, Gene Simmons of Kiss, Wayne Dyer and Hay House.
Dave's book, United Breaks Guitars, tells the original story, and the story behind the story. He takes you through the process of trying to get compensation from United through their flawed customer "service" department, the making of the videos, the responses to the videos and all that good "what happens next" stuff.
Between every line is the primary story of fun, positivity, and creativity. Life can change in a heartbeat, in the blink of an eye or in the snap of a guitar neck. It is the story of taking lemons and making lemonade. It's the story, of a man named Brady, who was...wait...never mind...that's a different story. To me, the ultimate message is that we never know what tomorrow will bring, and we can't see yet how our so-called adversities can lead us to new and even better places. It is also a testament and a challenge to approach life with greater kindness, positivity and respect, even in the face of tough stuff...even when you're being wronged. I want to take up that challenge; to learn to handle my difficult situations with not only perseverance (which I have), but with respect, dignity, kindness and a polite demeanor (which I don't always have when I'm moving through "customer service" situations...or any other challenging situation).
This book works well as a personal, stand-alone, self-help book to check your attitude at the door and work creatively and kindly in conflict resolution (while still getting the job done). This book works well as a corporate customer service training guide with regards the power and importance of one customer, the power of social media, and the responsibility of companies to treat customers well.
I appreciated the easy style with which the book is written. Being a songwriter, Dave can tell a story. He does so with humor and a congeniality that supports the walk he talks to be walking (is that a phrase?). He also gives links in the book for free music downloads (you didn't think I was going to give them to you, did you?) and provides the lyrics to the major songs he talks about in the book. The book isn't long (just under 200, fast-read pages), and includes some photos.
Tomorrow, I will include my brief interview with Dave Carroll, my reflections on how this story found me and how it relates to what I'm doing, and I'll throw out some of my goals to the wind...in writing...Dave-style.
Quotes from the book:
- "...I personally believe that success is defined by your ability to earn a living doing what you love." p 27
- re goals/purpose for the UBG video series: "First, I would take a frustrating experience and turn it into a positive one with my music....Second, I wanted to bring my friends together...Third, the videos could potentially compel one of the world's largest companies to change the way it deals with customers." p 36
- "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 of 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." p 45
- "As I have come to learn, some people can only understand what they've seen before,..." p 47
- "I...was reminded again how my issue with the airline was about policies, not individuals." p 76
- "...our video would promote nonconfrontation..." p 85
- "What was the big lesson for companies? No customer is expendable, and we are all part of a bigger whole." p 89
- "...once again, put a point on the fact that customer-service agents are people with hidden depths, just like the rest of us..." p 99
- "...once again, I was struck by the irony of how a broken guitar had led me to this place. There we were - me, the band, and Brent - in a congressional hearing room to give testimony in an attempt to change U.S. law. The bill has since been passed." p 106
- "From what I can see and feel, the concept of statistical insignificance has to be one of the most destructive ideas that certain companies employ when it comes to customer service...This implies that there is some measurable portion of your customer base that doesn't matter..." p 107
- "Every day, people like me are waking up to the fact that what they have to say matters, and that they have the tools to present their message in a way that stands out." p 112
- "The success of UBG was not about anger or confrontation...I simply rejected United's policy and aimed to change the rules by exercising my rights as a consumer." p 127
- "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. Whereas anger is draining and self-defeating, caring is empowering and energizing." p 178
- "I subscribe to the belief that all emotions hold a vibration and that love is the highest vibration there is...when I have been in a caring frame of mind, the right people or circumstances always appeared at the right time to help me." p 179, 180
- "Declaring your goals seems to help achieve them." p 180
- "For my son Flynn, I'd like him to know the value of chasing down his own dreams, especially in the face of uncertainty, and I've discovered that the best teachers teach by example." p 184
Dave's Web Page
The Gripe Vine Web Page
Wikipedia talks about United Breaks Guitars
Right Side of Right is Dave's first consumer complaint website before he joined forces on Gripevine.
United Breaks Guitars 1 told the story, and did so with a country flair since country music is all about "love and loss". It features Mariachi band players.
United Breaks Guitars 2 explores Dave's "relationship" with United customer service agent Ms. Irlweg" and has a German Um Pa Pa music style. See if you can spot Dave's Grandmother. The book has some interesting background information on the making of all of these videos.
United Breaks Guitars 3 "takes on more of a spokesperson role for all customers." p 95 and has a bluegrass style with famed bluegrass guitarist donating his time to the project. Do you recognize him?
Everyday Heroes is a song Dave was commissioned to write for/about/in support of First Responders.
Now is a song about being in the present moment, inspired by the work of Eckhart Tolle.
I've Got a Book Coming Out is where I came upon the story for the first time...it was his promotional video for this book. I'll post that video link tomorrow with more on how this all came to my attention.