Heard It Through the ‘Gripevine’: A No-Nonsense Approach to Consumer Complaints

Have you ever been dissatisfied with the way a company or a customer service department has treated you? Has that experience led you to write a letter or file a complaint, only to find that nothing was resolved and that you weren’t clearly heard?

If you have said yes to any of the above, then I have some good news! As far as companies are concerned, they should now fear your dissatisfaction.

Musician Dave Carroll, or as most of the world knows him, “the guy who made that YouTube video called ‘United Breaks Guitars,'” has a plan for scorned customers, and it’s called Gripevine. Gripevine is the first social media site with an exclusive focus on customer complaints — and their resolutions.

Before we get into specifics about this new site, however, you have to understand the backstory. You see, while Carroll was on a United airline flying out of Chicago O’Hare, his $3,500 Taylor guitar was broken by baggage-handling staff members — and no one wanted to take responsibility for the damage.

According to an article on the Financial Post, Carroll and his band members didn’t receive much sympathy from customer service representatives after reporting the incident:

[T]heir immediate complaints were turned aside by United staff stuck intractably in “Not my problem” mode, and when Carroll reached Omaha, where his band Sons of Maxwell had a gig, he found that his $3,500 Taylor guitar had been smashed inside its travelling case. After a long and nightmarish jaunt through a claims system much more badly broken than Carroll’s axe, he received final word from an otherwise friendly customer-service rep that he had missed a “standard 24-hour timeframe” for formally reporting damage to baggage.

Unfortunately for United, Carroll chose to strike back in his own way! Angered by United’s lack of action or care, he wrote the memorable “United Breaks Guitars” song, and almost immediately it went viral. Check out the creative video retaliation here:

This is pretty cool, but was it effective? Time Magazine stated that, within four days of the video being posted, United’s stock dropped 10%! Talk about being heard…

Now, back to Gripevine. For those of us who don’t have the time (or the talent) to sit down and create an internet sensation or song about all the companies that have done us wrong, it’s okay, because Dave Carroll has us covered. Dave has co-founded and launched an internet platform for frustrated customers to gripe — thus the name, Gripevine.

With Gripevine,unhappy customers can post their “gripes” and complaints regarding specific companies. Once said complaints are on the site, Gripevine uses automated channels to notify companies of the grievances against them. Once a company is notified, they then have the option of to rectify the problem and make amends with unhappy customers. If the companies choose to ignore (or simply not care about) the complaints, then they are indexed and put into a company rating system for people to see in public reviews. Now that’s bringing a modern twist to social protests through the use of social media!

This is absolutely a time when I think that modern-day social networks are really fulfilling their purpose. By using the appropriate social media outlets and channels, customers are now able to harness their frustrations in order to help others! Isn’t that what it’s all about?

P.S. Dave also wrote a book called United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media, which would be worth reading to any social media nuts or customer service fanatics out there.

What do you think? Do you think this new social network will have little or no impact or do you think that it will truly bring a big voice to the everyday consumer?

Image is a low-res screenshot from Logo is a trademark of Gripevine. All rights reserved.

Serenity Morris

Serenity is on the support staff for Quality Logo Products. Cynical and straight to the point, this no-nonsense gal is loveable and passionate about her various nerdy interests. When she is not geeking out about music, British television, and politics she is usually doodling her troubles away! Her artistic abilities are often commissioned for internal and external QLP promotional materials. You can also connect with Serenity on Google+.


  1. Jeff Porretto

    Despite my ranting nature, I actually think I’m very understanding of the reality of business. I completely understand that not every product will work correctly or that every consumer need will be met. And I’m ok with that. But hiding behind the red tape of a overly complicated claim process and 24 hour window is cowardly, and United got everything they deserved!

    I had a very similar experience with UPS. Although there was a hole punched through my “FRAGILE” stamp on a package, I happened to use newspaper instead of bubble wrap, so my claim was denied. I now refuse to use UPS unless I absolutely have to. Maybe that story will end up on Gripevine…

    I personally hope Gripevine evolves into the biggest checks and balances system since the BBB! It would be a thing of beauty! Thanks Sam!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thank you! Most of the time I never share my grievances with companies when I have them because I know it won’t accomplish anything, this way seems a lot less complicated and I feel like I am being heard!

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    I think that every company in the world must hate United right now. While this is a completely amazing platform for consumers, I do feel for the customer service representatives of every single company ever. After all, they’re already monitoring complaints via email, phone, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. And now they get one more thing to deal with. And if they don’t, they’re gonna look like jerks online. Even the best company can make mistakes sometimes. And if they don’t have the personnel/resources to address the gripes, this could really end up hurting them.

    On the other hand, it’s nice that consumers have a legitimate forum for their complaints to be heard. Too often, bad reviews for shady companies are unanswered. At least in this public setting, there’s a bit of accountability.

    • Cybernetic SAM

      You make a really good point and I agree. I also feel that if this social platform takes off, it will eventually be the go-to for reviews about business and customers etc… Maybe that will eliminate and actually add more of a professional platform for businesses to handle complaints, where as Twitter etc.. are good places to make a statement but again, kind of unreliable. This way, it goes through several channels and seems more like it will be a lot more organized and used purely for this purpose whereas the other social networks tend to be a catch-all for everything, not just complaints. And after all, if you are going to own a business in modern day, you have to expect that these are going to be added struggles no matter what. Thus, more of an incentive for a company to ALWAYS keep customers happy and put them first.

  3. Jaimie Smith

    Sam this post was awesomee! And I very much enjoyed watching their music video. This was such a great idea to do this, because I hate when companies just don’t care at all when their customers are not satisfied. I’ve known some people who are just ignorant and are complaining for no reason. But in cases like his, it is a big deal. So it’s good something is finally being done about it.

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks! yeah I know there will always be a time for crappy customers, but judging from the forum you can see the complaints and use your judgment to get through the B.S.

  4. Rachel

    It’s pretty amazing how far consumer influence has come in the last few years. Only the Internet could produce a video seen so widely that it actually made the company’s stock price drop! Thanks for this rundown, Sam; Gripevine sounds really interesting, and I’m curious to see how influential it becomes in the future.

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Yeah it reminds me a lot of the “Angies List” Forum which is a directory of businesses and reviews, but you have to pay for access to it, so this is kind of neat free forum to be able to utilize.

  5. Bret Bonnet

    Wow…. What a great idea.

    I like the the fact gripevine doesn’t allow the gripe to be indexed and entered into into their company rating system for people to see in public reviews until AFTER giving the company in questions an opportunity to rectify the situation.

    As a business owner, I think this is fair AND transparent! 🙂

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Yeah, I like that it is not a post-and-see review forum where random, insignificant complaints go through and get posted immediately. I like the idea that there is time and channels that the complaint has to go through before it gets cataloged. As I stated before, I like that even if it is a hassle for the company to monitor yet another site, this is a little more formal and stresses the importance of customers’ importance. The “incentive to keep customers happy” should be their slogan.

  6. Roxanne Krause

    take a look at – a similiar concept here in South Africa that works wonders!!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Wow that is similar to Gripevine! How neat! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    Sounds like Grapevine will be a pretty useful resource for consumers. I can see it coming in handy for online shoppers who want to avoid those less-than-trustworthy sellers out there.

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Yeah I agree, I think it is a good thing so it gives a stronger voice back to the consumer. After all, without consumers, companies would not exist and I think Gripevine is the whip that is there to remind business of what is important.

  8. Eric


    Hiding behind red tape is a sure-fire way to have some sort of consumer backlash, and I’m glad to see if affected the value of their stock like it did.

    I play some expensive musical instruments, and – without putting a price on them – I’ll say they’re worth well more than my car. Why? Musicians need good instruments, and the best of them have a price tag to match their quality. If a musician comes along willing to trust your airline with his prized possession, the very least you can do is see to it that it arrives there just as safely as he does. I don’t think they’d throw their passengers into the cabin like they do cargo.

    Most importantly, I’m glad sites like this exist. I’ve sat on the possibility of having to fly with my instrument(s), and it’s very difficult to figure out. There are rules for the TSA, rules for the airline, and – of course – the pure, subjective discretion of either party to tell you the opposite of whichever rule there may be.

    I’m glad to know that never, ever, not once in this lifetime…will I ever trust a United flight with my guitar.

    Thanks for the heads-up. 🙂

    • Cybernetic SAM

      You’re welcome! I love that United tried to make it up to shut him up by offering a bunch of money to him. In response, he said something like he wasn’t going to take their crappy money, that money wasn’t the point. He wanted to make an example of them, because too often consumers are taken advantage of and he wanted to do something about it! To me that is awesome!

      • Eric

        The word of Mr. Awesome.


  9. Jen

    I think this is a really cool idea! I have a beef with target, maybe I will use Gripevine to settle the dispute. Great post Sam, super informative, thanks!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks Jen! Yeah I thought it was really awesome that this guy took the time to find a way to help consumers win! So you go and get target what’s coming to it!

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