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United Breaks Guitars: the power of the internet

What happens when a major, multi-national corporation does wrong by one of their customers? In the not too distant past, nothing happened. If an airline lost your luggage, if the "view cabin" on your cruise had a view of the lifeboat, if your hotel room turned out to be infested with bed bugs, complaints to the corporate office often fell on deaf ears. When faced with a complaint, all too often big companies rely on their size, and the insulation it provides, to stymie the average customer in search of a little justice. We know that this isn't the way it should be. We know that good, responsible companies should step up and say "You're right, we made a mistake, how can we fix it?"

But for the average Joe Consumer, navigating the twisting labyrinth of a corporation was too much to deal with. Letters begot form letter replies. "Dear Mr. Consumer, I'm very sorry to hear about your experience with XYZ Corp. It is always our policy to blah blah blah compensation denied." Phone calls would be shuffled from one office to the next, each less willing than the last to accept responsibility for the problem. Months would pass, and eventually Mr. Consumer would drop it and get on with life. XYZ Corp. might have one disgruntled customer, but that was about the end of it.

Enter the internet. Some companies have realized just how powerful a force YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like have become. Many actually have a dedicated employee who monitors posts on Social Media sites to see if there's anything negative (or positive) coming across the air. Others are apparently still oblivious to this new-found power in the hands of Joe Consumer. Everybody who follows you on Twitter will soon know about the viewless cruise cabin and vow never to use that cruise line. Thousands of people on TripAdvisor will learn about the hotel with the bed bugs. And if you have a bad experience with an airline, well, you might just write a song and post it to YouTube, where (as of this posting) over 1.5 million people will see it:

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