United Airlines, you may have heard, is having some public relations difficulties. United Airlines does not like public relations difficulties. How do I know this?
I spoke with a man who claims to have collected tens of thousands of complaints against the airline since the '90s—and now the company is suing him.
"It's no surprise that United would be the airline at the center of this event, given its part and parcel of United's philosophy that passengers are not human beings, even employees are not human beings," said Jeremy Cooperstock.
He was just as appalled as the next person after watching that video of police tossing a United passenger from his seat on an overbooked flight and dragging him off the plane, but I will say Cooperstock was probably far less stunned than the rest of us.
He runs a website called untied.com (read that url closely). It's something of a United parody site that also collects customer complaints directed at United and helps those customers file real complaints. The top of the site says untied.com has "collected, posted and forwarded over 30,000 complaints against United Airlines." It's been around since 1997, when Cooperstock started the site after he got one of those generic corporate responses to a complaint he filed.
"The management has long maintained this culture of impunity, and there's no respect for the rights of passengers," Cooperstock said. "The culture is one of 'do whatever you want and deny passengers their legal rights, deny passengers any amount of respect.'"
(Mashable contacted United about the parody site, and will update the story if the company responds.)
Cooperstock — an engineering professor at McGill University in Montreal — has heard plenty of United horror stories, but his own is up there.
United is in the process of suing him over his website. They've said they want him to limit some of his site's parody elements, and to remove the contact information of United employees the company says do not have jurisdiction over customer complaints. But Cooperstock says he's always figured they were trying to shut down his site.
He claims United's representatives even asked the judge presiding over the case — on the last day of the federal trial still awaiting a verdict — that Cooperstock's domain name be transferred to United. That doesn't seem likely to happen, but he says it proves what their intentions have been all along.
The plethora of complaints compiled on his site have shown Cooperstock how United tries to drag customer complaints on long enough for the customer to lose faith that there was ever any good in the world. He's got intimate experience with just how long United can play that kind of game. For now, he's hoping he can find the money to carry on his court battle, instead of becoming yet another of the airline's "victims."