United Brakes Guitars
July 7, 2009 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes music really is a weapon. Big surprise, United Airlines messed up some luggage and refused to do anything about it. But I have to give props to this guy for taking a bad situation and making something positive out of it. Bonus points for the song being pretty catchy. I wonder what would happen if that song was so popular that the record label wanted it on the in flight music station...
posted by theichibun (70 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
via
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:17 AM on July 7, 2009


Eugene Mirman does an extended riff about his troubles with Delta airlines that's quite funny. And as an added bonus, when I saw him with John Wesley Harding they turned his bit into one hell of a catchy song.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:21 AM on July 7, 2009


I want to see the other two videos he's promised to make. I bet $10 he's crying softly by the third.

"I wouldn't bring my luggage, because you'd just go and break it, into a thousand pieces, just like you broke my heart."

posted by Juliet Banana at 10:21 AM on July 7, 2009


This Machine Kills FascistsAirline Profits
posted by explosion at 10:22 AM on July 7, 2009 [14 favorites]


Them's the brakes.
posted by anthill at 10:26 AM on July 7, 2009


Not a unique occurrence, unfortunately.

1972 - Lighthouse - "Broken Guitar Blues"

Airline baggage handling has absolutely been reduced to the lowest common denominator. I haven't flown all that much but already I've seen some breathtakingly bad handling. Probably the funniest I've seen was while we waiting for the plane to taxi to the runway, we saw a baggage cart train racing along, with suitcases falling out of a couple of the carts. The guy finally notices, circles back, obviously pissed off, and starts kicking and throwing bags back to the cart.

Anyway, now we only only own soft luggage, we carry on whenever possible, and we know to never put anything remotely breakable in luggage unless it's massively well-packed.
posted by Artful Codger at 10:35 AM on July 7, 2009


The video shows baggage handlers throwing around regular hardshell guitar cases. If that's all he had I'm not surprised the instrument was damaged. Someone needs to invest in an ATA-spec case for their $3500 guitar.
posted by waxboy at 10:36 AM on July 7, 2009


Them's the brakes.

No, them's the clutches. As in: don't let United Airlines get their clutches on your guitar.

And you wanna know why? Because United Airlines is a terrible airline for musicians and you should never ship your instruments with United Airlines. At least, that's what I gather. Because when shipping guitars, United Airlines has been known not only to damage expensive equipment (someone's nice guitar), but to refuse to compensate the owner for the damage. Knowing the facts, I guess I would never ship a musical instrument via United Airlines.

How did I get this song stuck in my head?
posted by pracowity at 10:42 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


The video shows baggage handlers throwing around regular hardshell guitar cases.

I'm pretty sure that is not the actual footage of the damage being inflicted.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:43 AM on July 7, 2009


Not a unique occurrence, unfortunately.

Also, Thank You, Republic Airlines
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:44 AM on July 7, 2009


I want to send this to United personally. I can deal with lost and damaged luggage, what I can't stand is the unsympathetic folks whose job it is to help us! Delta is just as bad. I've turned packing a carry-on into an art! I don't check bags. (Maybe I'll write a song about that!)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:45 AM on July 7, 2009


I'm confused about why someone would think a guitar in a normal, non-ruggedized case, would make it through checked bagged without getting messed up. And a $3500 guitar in checked luggage without a massive amount of padding? Is that what people usually do?

I thought the common wisdom was that if you checked luggage you'd better pad the hell out of anything breakable. Maybe United will do a song about Dave Carroll with instructions for pulling your head out of your ass and getting a glimpse at how life works once mommy isn't taking care of your stuff.

I have no love for airlines. I generally thing airlines suck at the only task they have, which we pay too-high prices for. But I also think everyone knows checked luggage gets treated very roughly. Not putting it in a rugged case is dumb.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:46 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


...and I'm so worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.
posted by Spatch at 10:49 AM on July 7, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm confused about why someone would think a guitar in a normal, non-ruggedized case, would make it through checked bagged without getting messed up.

He says "...I should have taken my hard case out of the padded protective exterior case to examine the guitar at the airport but I didn’t..." so it wasn't just in the kind of case in the video. He doesn't say if it was a real flight case, though.
posted by cmonkey at 10:57 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hate it when the TSA rifles through carefully packed checked luggage containing fragile items and doesn't bother re-padding stuff, so that it winds up breaking. Thoughtless goons.

I generally thing airlines suck at the only task they have, which we pay too-high prices for.

This I don't get. They can transport a human across the country in less than a day for a few hundred dollars. How much do you think it should cost? People shop almost entirely by price, so that airlines can't really complete just by providing better service.
posted by exogenous at 11:00 AM on July 7, 2009


I'm confused about why someone would think a guitar in a normal, non-ruggedized case, would make it through checked bagged without getting messed up.

I'm confused about why someone would think a country music video involving a cardboard cutout airliner and guys in cheesy sombreros and big fake mustaches is meant to be a documentary film representing the precise facts as one would present them in court.
posted by pracowity at 11:03 AM on July 7, 2009 [27 favorites]


y6y6y6,

I think it's interesting that you think that although we PAY the airline EXTRA for checked baggage, that we shouldn't have an expectation that said bag will be handled appropriately? An instrument in a regular case, handled with unexceptional care should be just fine. Additionally, it's hard to miss what's IN a guitar case, so baggage handlers should excercise reasonable caution when taking it from the baggage compartment, to the cart and back to the baggage compartment of the connecting flight. Especially at $25 extra per bag.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:04 AM on July 7, 2009


"I think it's interesting that you think that although we PAY the airline EXTRA for checked baggage, that we shouldn't have an expectation that said bag will be handled appropriately?"

They should treat it appropriately. But they don't. Everyone knows that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:08 AM on July 7, 2009


...and my wife wonders why I fucking REFUSE to check luggage that has anything more delicate than tripod legs in it...
posted by notsnot at 11:09 AM on July 7, 2009


You can give things over for special handling. I've flown with a large umbrella which had to be checked loose. On the way there, fine. On the way back, it was shredded because the handlers clearly let it catch on something. The airline approved the packaging; they are responsible for the damage.
posted by jb at 11:09 AM on July 7, 2009


Okay, I get the sky waitresses and baggage handlers, but why Mexicans?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:11 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would very much like to hire him to write a tune about the bureacratic crapstorm known as "My Auto Club Year." I would be happy to sing it. Top of my lungs.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:12 AM on July 7, 2009


That's why I always carry it on or gate check it.
posted by chillmost at 11:16 AM on July 7, 2009


$25 for each piece of luggage, more for odd shaped or oversized. Just fed-ex/USPS/UPS all your possessions to your destination. At least then you can add insurance.

Someone needs to link to the crazy infomercial/motivational speaker/business card designer who spends an hour talking about how he's perfected the carry on.
posted by ShadowCrash at 11:17 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]



I think it's interesting that you think that although we PAY the airline EXTRA for checked baggage, that we shouldn't have an expectation that said bag will be handled appropriately?

The bags are handled appropriately. I think you need to recalibrate how much concern for your parcel 9 dollars an hour will actually buy.

If this guy really sent a 3500 dollar guitar anywhere without insuring it first, he is a moran. Even of those baggage handlers were sent down from baggage handler Valhalla - even if they were the very topmost Top Men - to handle his very special snowflake with the utmost grace and care some other unforseen shit could, you know, happen.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:23 AM on July 7, 2009


Okay, I get the sky waitresses and baggage handlers, but why Mexicans?

Don't over think it. Sometime a Mexican is just a Mexican.
posted by chillmost at 11:25 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


>The bags are handled appropriately.

Um, did you listen to the song?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:31 AM on July 7, 2009


They should treat it appropriately. But they don't. Everyone knows that.

Cops shouldn't shoot people in the back. But they do. Everyone knows that.

This "everyone knows that airline security molests every passenger/baggage handling destroys every bag/stewards will throw out passengers they don't like" line of argumentation is such a dead end.

One way this can be parsed is as a sort of meaningless "this ain't news to me, pal" in which case, you have contributed nothing to the discussion. Everyone knows the sky is blue already? Wow, now everyone knows that everyone knows that the sky is blue. Maybe we should start telling people that everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone knows that the sky is blue, etc. It's redundant.

The other way it can be parsed is with as "and things should be that way, baggage handlers should be able to consequence-free destroy baggage". If this is what you are trying to say (and on preview I see that some people are indeed making softer versions of this argument), then be upfront about it. At least it's an ethos.
posted by breath at 11:32 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


About 10 years ago, I took a small twin-prop plane out of the Pittsburgh airport to a small regional. I knew better than to check luggage, but I had a very nice leather bag as a carry on. The plane was so small that we couldn't carry anything on board larger than a purse. I had to check the bag. On the runway after landing, I was watching out the window and saw the baggage handler throw my bag 10ft from the plane towards the cart. It landed about three feet short in an inch of water in the pouring down rain. I don't know what the point of this story is except that I was really pissed.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:34 AM on July 7, 2009


I could have done without the sombreros and mustaches. Clearly a smart move - going out of the way to make an uninteresting song (I fucking get it, it's a TAYLOR guitar) pretty retching for the sole purpose of adding absolutely nothing to the video. Having sat through the whole video, I want to break his guitar too. United did us a favor.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:46 AM on July 7, 2009


I prefer the way Eugene Mirman (yt 5:40) dealt with his airline troubles.
posted by hissing sissing at 11:47 AM on July 7, 2009


As a travelling musician, I can tell you that after a couple of significant losses and delays, I've learned never to check anything valuable. Board early and bring it on board with you. If the flight crew gives you shit about it just stand your ground, holding back the long line of people waiting to board the plane. Eventually they will cave in and your gear will be as safe as can be considering it's in a big metal box in the sky.
posted by analogue at 11:54 AM on July 7, 2009


Trying to deal with this after the fact leads to broken guitars. I don't even travel with my Martin unless it's in the car. I wouldn't dream of checking a valuable guitar unless it was in a big ass shipping-grade metal case like an EDAK or similar. You want a case big and heavy enough that will break other shit if they're not careful with where it goes. Whining that they didn't treat your shit carefully enough when you know that's always a risk is irresponsible regardless of what the airline should be responsible for.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:55 AM on July 7, 2009


So they checked their guitars in cheap music store 'hard' cases rather than proper flight cases and don't want to take responsibility for their stupidity, so they blame the airline.
posted by jjb at 11:58 AM on July 7, 2009


Flew American Airlines from Boston to LAX a few weeks ago and checked Fender American strat (in a hardshell case with padding) and tube amp (wrapped in foam rubber, placed in a cardboard box). Upon arrival the amp is totally fine (even after I forgot to take the tubes out) and the strat has multiple chunks missing from its body. Thanks, American!
posted by inoculatedcities at 12:02 PM on July 7, 2009


"Okay, I get the sky waitresses and baggage handlers, but why Mexicans?"

'Cause the band figured that someone's gonna get his ass sued over this, but it ain't gonna be them. Cheesy moustaches and sombreros -- a relic from this year's Cinco de Mayo gig in Tijuana -- were the only disguises they had in common.
posted by Mike D at 12:06 PM on July 7, 2009


My wife's luggage was recently mis-routed, but only 100 miles away, and dropped on our doorstep ~28 hours after it first should have arrived with her. While initially waiting for my wife to fill out the lost luggage information, there was another group waiting for their surf boards. They were talking with the local luggage handler/everything else guy at our small airport, and he said that large luggage is put on last, probably with the notion that it's better to leave behind one large item instead of 5 smaller ones.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:07 PM on July 7, 2009


This is why I bring my instrument on as a carry-on.

of course, it is a ukulele
posted by davejay at 12:07 PM on July 7, 2009


On the topic of United Airlines:

If you're making a website for a giant company whose name is also a common spelling error, be sure to buy all related domain names or you may inadvertently drive thousands of hits to your enemies: Untied.com
posted by fontophilic at 12:10 PM on July 7, 2009


Pogo_Fuzzybutt said: "If this guy really sent a 3500 dollar guitar anywhere without insuring it first, he is a moran."

Please, please, please, for the love of Zalgo, don't use the word "moran" unless you're absolutely sure how to spell it.

And I can't imagine why you'd ever check anything valuable in a soft case. Haven't they ever watched luggage get loaded while waiting on their plane?
posted by Nauip at 12:13 PM on July 7, 2009



Please, please, please, for the love of Zalgo, don't use the word "moran" unless you're absolutely sure how to spell it.


Oh, I have absolutely spelled it correctly.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:17 PM on July 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


"Okay, I get the sky waitresses and baggage handlers, but why Mexicans?"

Because the style of the song is similar to a specific style of Mexican folk music.
posted by jeanmari at 12:26 PM on July 7, 2009


This "everyone knows that airline security molests every passenger/baggage handling destroys every bag/stewards will throw out passengers they don't like" line of argumentation is such a dead end.

Obviously you've never worked with baggage handlers.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2009


Because the style of the song is similar to a specific style of Mexican folk music.

This is also why the band wears blackface when performing its bluesier stuff.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:46 PM on July 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


And I can't imagine why you'd ever check anything valuable in a soft case.

Exactly. The trick is not to use a soft case, or a hard case.

The trick is to use the Weapon of Cases. MeFi, meet Anvil Cases, which are built to handle lots of shock sensitive equipment that's loaded by something *worse* that Ramp Apes: Roadies.

When baggage handlers see your precious axe come down in a form hit hardshell case, they just lob it onto the plane. When they see your precious axe come down in an Anvil Case, they call a supervisor. They will then carefully load your case, *and tie it down.*

Because turbulence+Anvil will destroy just about everything in the hold *except* what is in that case. And airlines know that. So, they make sure the beast is safe.

And if they don't? Your gear is fine, and they're paying a whole bunch of claims.

Yes, it costs more. Yes, it weighs more. I know nobody who's checked a guitar in an Anvil case that had any damage when they got the guitar back. *Every* other case I've seen has failed.

If you must check it, get Anvil. Or carry cheap gear that can be replaced at the other end.
posted by eriko at 12:49 PM on July 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Question from SO:
"Where did you find this? I can't see why it's not on CNN or MSNBC."
Mefi.
"Then it will be tomorrow. They read Mefi too."

Baggage story:
"If you don't find my luggage and send it to the house, I am going to have to go to my father's funeral in blue jeans after I turn my underwear wrong side out." In my case, it was true, but it worked fine if you want to borrow it.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 1:21 PM on July 7, 2009


Please, please, please, for the love of Zalgo, don't use the word "moran" unless you're absolutely sure how to spell it.
Welcome to the intarwebs, Nauip. May I take your coat?
posted by Aquaman at 1:24 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to own a Jan-Al flight case that was designed to carry a guitar while inside its around-town hardshell case. I never flew with it but the previous owner had and never suffered any damage. You could probably kick that thing down a flight of stairs with no problems, as long as you don't mind damaging the stairs.
posted by waxboy at 1:30 PM on July 7, 2009


I prefer Dr Frank singing "Cingular Wireless: worse than Hitler" but I'm a Mr T Experience fan, so take it for what it's worth.

While he lacks a snazzy video (as far as I know) his claim is that he sang them the song on the phone with customer service. You can hear him say part of that on the linked video; I no longer recall if he claimed to have written it between calls or while waiting on hold.
posted by phearlez at 2:12 PM on July 7, 2009


I don't know what the point of this story is except that I was really pissed.

The point is obviously never leave Pittsburgh.
posted by inigo2 at 3:34 PM on July 7, 2009


I really feel for these guys, but I did enjoy this youtube comment ...

based on this music, I think UA was trying to do us a favor.
posted by orme at 3:57 PM on July 7, 2009


Tom Paxton, lyricist/composer of "Last Thing On My Mind," "Bottle Of Wine," "The Marvelous Toy," and other classics, was traveling to a concert in 1992 on Republic Airlines. When he opened his guitar case, he found that it had been broken beyond repair. Naturally, he wrote a song about it.

Thank you Republic Airlines
for splintering the neck on my guitar
My guitar case was so strong that nothing could go through it
Way to go Republic, only you could do it
Crash bang Republic Airlines
in the field of demolition, you'll go far
for you took it as a challenge when I turned in my case
and you saw the fragile stickers glued all over the place
May a team of mad flamingo dancers do to your face
what you did to the neck on my guitar

You can read all the lyrics here or download the mp3 here.
posted by tzikeh at 4:32 PM on July 7, 2009


Obviously that should be flamenco dancers, not flamingo dancers. *facepalm*
posted by tzikeh at 4:33 PM on July 7, 2009


Oh, for crying out loud. Kirth Gerson, 8 1/2 hours ago. never mind
posted by tzikeh at 4:40 PM on July 7, 2009


I liked flamingo better, they have nasty looking feet
posted by kathrineg at 6:32 PM on July 7, 2009


This is also why the band wears blackface when performing its bluesier stuff.

Hey, I didn't say I approved. I just was explaining the connection. **shrugs**
posted by jeanmari at 6:38 PM on July 7, 2009


I wasn't going after you, sorry if that's how it seemed. I expressed annoyance about it even earlier in the thread and am continuing to vent. Even here. Argh. Rage. Ok, I'm done.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:51 PM on July 7, 2009


>This is also why the band wears blackface when performing its bluesier stuff.


You're trying too hard.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:00 PM on July 7, 2009


This is also why the band wears blackface when performing its bluesier stuff.

Hey, it worked for Joni Mitchell. (go to 4:12 in the vid. I don't know how to do that fancy link thing the youngsters are doing.)
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:20 PM on July 7, 2009


sounds like Air Canada baggage handlers are to blame not United...
posted by dawdle at 8:30 PM on July 7, 2009


y6y6y6: They should treat it appropriately. But they don't. Everyone knows that.

Did you read the article at all, or did you just watch the video and assume, somewhat ridiculously, that the reenactment signified the same thing as what actually happened? Jesus.
posted by koeselitz at 1:27 AM on July 8, 2009


No one has mentioned Wesley Willis yet? His keyboard got damaged on a flight.
posted by mhjb at 1:44 AM on July 8, 2009


Examples of ATA cases.


(Actually, I kind of like the mental image of "mad flamingo dancers".)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:52 AM on July 8, 2009


The wonderful Swedish indie singer Pelle Carlberg also has an excellent song slating Ryanair (the unspeakably hideous Irish budget airline) about their baggage fees.
posted by flashboy at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2009


Surprise, surprise, surprise. Now that it's a big internet thang, United Wants to 'Make Things Right' for the guy.

Funny how that works. And Adam Savage didn't even need to make a peep this time.
posted by rokusan at 11:22 AM on July 8, 2009


Ryanair (the unspeakably hideous Irish budget airline)

In Ireland, I always like flying AerLingus myself, just so I can spend the whole flight snickering my Beavis and Butthead snicker.

Those poor stewardesses.
posted by rokusan at 11:24 AM on July 8, 2009


I've also had really good luck by slamming my luggage carelessly on the counter, and announcing that I have enough clean underwear in my carryon bag to hold me until the W'mart opens, so if y'all feel like losing it, just knock your socks off; you're not going to bother me. I've never had a problem again. (I think it's mostly a superstition, like crossing myself on takeoff, but who wants to take the chance?)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 9:54 PM on July 9, 2009


Update - the Intarweb worx.

This story was on the CBC news yesterday, and there's a 20 min interview on CBC Radio this morning with the guy. And they played the song in its entirety.

If that's what it takes to change something "unchangeable" like airline baggage handling, I'm gonna start taking music lessons.

“Revenge is a dish best served with country accompaniment.”
posted by Artful Codger at 8:01 AM on July 10, 2009


Guitar owner Carroll refuses United's belated offer to pay for damaged instrument.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:28 AM on July 10, 2009


"United Breaks Guitars" breaks share prices: "a PR disaster for the airline, which has seen its share price plunge by 10 per cent, wiping $180 million off the company's value."
posted by rory at 5:01 AM on July 23, 2009


« Older wetness ... pours onto my paper out of my pen   |   Reissue, repackage, repackage. Satiate the need! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments