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Contents

  1. Dec. 1, 2012, Rudy Maxa's World
  2. Nov. 30, 2012, Toronto Star
  3. Nov. 30, 2012, Business Insurance
  4. Nov. 30, 2012, John Oakley - AM 640
  5. Nov. 30, 2012, Triple Pundit
  6. Nov. 30, 2012, Heise (in German)
  7. Nov. 29, 2012, CBC As It Happens
  8. Nov. 29, 2012, Huffington Post Canada
  9. Nov. 29, 2012, Frequent Flier
  10. Nov. 29, 2012, Knockoff Economy
  11. Nov. 29, 2012, ABA Journal
  12. Nov. 29, 2012, Chicago Tribune
  13. Nov. 29, 2012, Boarding Area
  14. Nov. 28, 2012, Chicago Tribune
  15. Nov. 28, 2012, The Consumerist
  16. Nov. 28, 2012, UPI
  17. Nov. 28, 2012, Boarding Area
  18. Jun. 2011, Aero Telegraph (Germany)
  19. Dec. 2009, Albany Times Union
  20. Dec. 2006, Arizona Tribune
  21. Oct. 26, 2006, The Globe and Mail
  22. Sep. 19, 2006, The Guardian
  23. Mar. 11, 2005, New Zealand Herald
  24. Mar. 8, 2005, Forbes
  25. Jun. 27, 2004, The Guardian
  26. Oct. 7, 2002, Forbes ASAP
  27. Aug. 21, 2002, Forbes
  28. Jul. 12, 2002, Buziness Horizons
  29. Apr. 10, 2002, CBC Marketplace
  30. Jul./Aug. 2002, National Geographic Traveler
  31. Feb. 2, 2002, Daily Herald
  32. Jan. 23, 2002, CKNW AM 980
  33. Jan. 23, 2002, Globe and Mail
  34. Jan. 23, 2002, Financial Post
  35. Mar. 28, 2001, Fortune
  36. Mar. 4, 2001, New York Times
  37. Dec. 2000, Ragan's Interactive Public Relations
  38. Sep. 17, 2000, Denver Post
  39. Sep. 5, 2000, Fox News
  40. Aug. 22, 2000, Tale Winds
  41. Aug. 21, 2000, The Tuscaloosa News
  42. Jul. 2, 2000, San Francisco Examiner
  43. May 14, 2000, Washington Post
  44. Apr. 3, 2000, US News and World Report
  45. Mar. 2000, Ziff Davis: Smart Business
  46. Feb. 28, 2000, Daily Herald
  47. 2000, Journal of Communication Management
  48. Nov. 11, 1999, Westword Online: Off Limits
  49. Nov. 1999, Frequent Flyer Magazine
  50. Oct. 26, 1999, CBC Marketplace
  51. Sep., 23 1999, McGill Reporter
  52. Sep., 1999, Wall Street Journal
  53. Aug. 22, 1999, Chicago Tribune
  54. Jul. 1999, ABCNews.com
  55. Jun. 24, 1999, First Class
  56. Jun. 24, 1999, Dallas Morning News
  57. Mar./Apr. 1999, Trips: A Travel Journal
  58. Mar. 18, 1999, USA Today
  59. Mar. 1999, Globe & Mail Report on Business
  60. Dec. 1998, PC Computing
  61. Nov. 30, 1998, Mining Co. Guide to Air Travel
  62. Oct. 6, 1998, Wall Street Journal
  63. Jul. 6, 1998, ABC News
  64. Jul. 2, 1998, National Public Radio
  65. Mar. 8, 1998, Los Angeles Times
  66. Mar. 5, 1998, World Airline News
  67. Jan. 30, 1998, The Record Online
  68. Oct. 27, 1997, Newsweek
  69. Sep. 24, 1997, Seattle Times
  70. Sep. 19, 1997, Chicago Tribune
  71. Oct. 1997, PC World Magazine
  72. Jul. 28, 1997, San Francisco Business Times
  73. Jul. 20, 1997 , Motley Fool
  74. Jul. 15, 1997, Public Radio International

Aero Telegraph

Der ganze Hass auf United
By Stefan Eiselin
June 30, 2011

Ein Professor fliegt mit der Airline, beklagt sich und bekommt keine Antwort. Die Folge sind 15 Jahre öffentlicher Streit.

Jeremy Copperstock will weitermachen. So lange es sein Engagement halt braucht. «Da United wie andere amerikanische Airlines in Sachen Behandlung seiner Kunden und Mitarbeitenden immer schlechter wird, glaube ich, dass meine Webseite noch einige Zeit existieren wird», sagt der Amerikaner gegenüber aeroTELEGRAPH. Ausdauer hat er bereits bewiesen. Seit 15 Jahren betreibt er eine so genannte Hatepage, eine Hassseite, die sich gegen United richtet. 500 Menschen besuchen inzwischen jeden Tag Copperstocks Homepage, die unter der URL www.untied.com im Netz steht.

Begonnnen hatte alles 1996, als er auf Flügen nach Japan und Hawaii mit dem Service an Bord eines United-Fluges nicht zufrieden war. Er schrieb an den Konzernchef und den Chef des Kundendienstes, erhielt aber keine Antwort. Auf Nachfragen bekommt er nur Standardantworten. Und so beschliesst er, eine Homepage aufzuschalten, welche sich über United auslässt. Ein Spinner ist Copperstock nicht. Immerhin lehrt er als Professor am Zentrum für künstliche Intelligenz der renommierten Universität McGill in Montreal.

United macht Druck

United hat bereits versucht, gegen die Webseiten vorzugehen. Früher hatte Copperstock sie auf einem Server seiner Uni gehostet. Die Airline drohte der Hochschule daraufhin, dass dies rechtliche Folgen haben könne. Inzwischen liegen sie extern und die Auseinandersetzung zwischen dem unzufriedenen Kunden und der Airline gehen weiter. Und 16'000 Menschen schauen monatlich zu. Tendenz steigend. Anfragen von aeroTELEGRAPH beantwortete die Pressestelle von United nicht.

Albany Times Union

The Advocate: 'Free' air travel not worth the price
By Cathy Woodruff

December 2009

...

"The reality is that most of the big American carriers are generally indifferent to the plight of the customer," says Jeremy Cooperstock, a Montreal engineering professor who founded Untied.com (note the transposition of the "i" and the "t"), a Web site that serves as a clearinghouse for complaints against United.

...

I like Cooperstock's advocacy for a requirement that all passengers receive notification of federal passenger rights and instructions on how they can respond if something goes wrong.

...

"When something goes awry, they are trying to cope with the situation on the fly," he noted, "Travelers tend not to be very aware of their rights as passengers."

(and in a follow-up article Dec. 24...)

Kolta got the idea to head for Small Claims Court from airline consumer activist Jeremy Cooperstock, who founded a Web site called "Untied.com." When I spoke with Cooperstock a few weeks ago, he said the Small Claims Court route has often been successful for those who take the time and effort to do it.

"In these sorts of situations, it's often the most effective remedy," he said.

Arizona Tribune
By David Woodfill
December 2006

It all started with a crushed suit, a bungled flight connection and lost seat reservations.

Those incidents, which sound like a scene taken from the 1980 screwball comedy "Airplane!," all transpired during one round-trip flight that Montreal resident Jeremy Cooperstock took between Toronto and Japan in the summer of 1996.

They were also the catalyst that led to the creation of Untied.com, a Web site that serves as a clearinghouse for complaints against Chicagobased United Airlines.

Untied.com is one of 40 so-called "protest Web sites" that Arizona State University professors Jim Ward and Amy Ostrom examined while researching the rising popularity of such grass-roots portals for complaining and their effect.

The crux of their findings, which was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, was that growing numbers of disgruntled consumers once relegated to complaining to friends and family are taking their beefs to a mass audience using the Internet. That's changing the balance of power between companies and their customers by giving the individual a bigger voice.

Ward said that while the sites can be a major headache for companies trying to maintain a good reputation with the public, the trend has made some more responsive to their clients.

Applying a theory usually used by sociologists called "protest-framing theory," the two found that protest Web sites tend to use similar rhetorical tactics employed by civic or political protesters. Language and stories that invoke a sense that a great injustice was committed, stereotyping of officials as bad people, and calls for greater public outcry are common features found on protest sites.

"They feel they've been cheated," Ward said. "They feel the company has broken its promise."

Ward and Ostrom said the Web sites serve as a way for consumers to exact a sense of revenge against companies they feel committed wrongs against them and also helps to restore bruised egos.

The two educators said that the best way for firms to avoid the headaches caused by negative word of mouth is to try and address customer complaints early on.

"That's what great companies should be striving to do," Ostrom said. Indeed, Cooperstock said he may have never created Untied.com had the airline addressed his concerns early on. But Cooperstock said he sent three complaint letters that resulted in a simple form letter that failed to address the thrust of his concerns.

"That's really irritating," he said. "Far more irritating than the initial problems we experienced."

Ostrom and Ward said that companies may sometimes resort to intimidation tactics like threatening consumers with lawsuits. But those tactics simply confirm a disaffected customer's suspicion that the firm doesn't really care.

"It basically just provides this community of discontent with more ammunition," she said.

Robin Urbanski, a United spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed when contacted about the Web site but said in an e-mail to the Tribune that "everyone is entitled to their opinion" and "customer feedback is best sent to us directly "

...

Since launching Untied. com in Aprilg 1997 as a simple online soapbox where Cooperstock wrote about his negative experiences and the company's subsequent lack of responsiveness, he said the Web site has evolved into a virtual community gathering spot for angry employees, disaffected customers and questions about the airline's safety. Cooperstock said the site gets between 50,000 and 60,000 hits a month. "The site has really morphed many times over the years," he said, adding that he keeps it going through donations.

The Globe and Mail
Cheated? Get clicking

By Victor Dwyer
October 20, 2006

Intro of article clipped.

Or how about thousands of them? Not unlike Complaints.com, but with a much sharper focus, are so-called vent sites, which take aim at a specific company, and are often started by one ticked-off customer of the Peter-Finch-in-Network variety. Among the most visited - it made it onto Forbes's list of the Top 10 "corporate hate sites" of 2005 - is Untied.com.

An anagram of United (as in Airlines), Untied was founded a few years back by Jeremy Cooperstock, now a professor of engineering at McGill University, after his written complaints about a series of glitches on a Toronto-to-Tokyo flight went unanswered.

In an interview, Mr. Cooperstock said the mishaps themselves - "so trivial, I don't want to dwell on them: a bungled seat assignment, misdirection at the airport" - were no big deal. Rather, it was the fact that United refused even to acknowledge his complaint that propelled him to launch Untied.

Today, the site, which gets 50,000 visitors a month, includes performance statistics and press reports on United, as well as a complaints forum, and a handy form with which visitors can e-mail their own grievances to the company - and copy its government overseers. A "success stories" area proves that United does sometimes listen.

But as Mr. Cooperstock told me, the sheer volume of visitors to Untied means that most of those complaints won't get addressed, and that the vast majority of those who visit are saying, in effect, "The airline may kiss me off, but at least I got the chance to tell a lot of other people what I went through."

Rest of article clipped.

The Guardian
Companies wake up to blogs' barking

By Andrew Clark
September 19, 2006

Intro of article clipped.

Many firms have started to pay attention as a rapidly expanding slice of cyberspace is devoted to vitriolic, often obsessive blogs listing the shortcomings of well-known companies.

Among the longest standing is Untied Airlines, a blog on the woes of America's second largest carrier, United. Its recent highlights include an account of an unaccompanied minor who was delayed twice, re-routed and not given anything to eat or drink all day. The staff member looking after him uttered the memorable words: "I can't talk to your mom - it's not in my job description."

...

United Airlines

Untied Airlines is proof it pays to respond to customer complaints. According to the site, Jeremy Cooperstock first wrote to United after an unpleasant trip to Japan in 1996 but got no response. After a second complaint, he received just a form letter. The website was born. Today he vents his spleen against the airline and invites others to do so, including an employee feedback board.

New Zealand Herald
Hatred of corporations spreads across the internet

By Peter Griffin
March 11, 2005

Intro of article clipped.

It was a series of unfortunate events during a trip to Hawaii and Japan in 1996 that led Jeremy Cooperstock to form www.untied.com, a site dedicated to running down United Airlines.

...

Forbes
Top Corporate Hate Web Sites

By Charles Wolrich
March 8, 2005

Ed note: It should be noted that Untied.com does not see itself as a "hate web site" but rather, one that is lobbying the airline to make improvements in its treatment of passengers and employees alike, thereby making this site irrelevant.

Sometimes it seems that shoddy products and atrocious customer service go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

But while your average disgruntled consumer simply vents their bile by bellowing at a bewildered service rep, a few go farther. Much farther. These perennially peeved people build--and obsessively maintain--sites devoted exclusively to complaining about their least favorite corporations.

To honor these quixotic champions, we spent hours trawling the Web looking for the very best corporate hate sites. After checking out more than 100 sites with names like dontflycontinentalairlines.com and fordlemon.com, we rated the best of them on a scale from one to five in six different categories: ease of use, frequency of updates, number of posts, hostility level (angrier is better), relevance, and entertainment value (Hey! Angry and funny!).

The following nine sites--there were ten, but one went unexpectedly dark during the editing of this story--are the creme de la creme of online rage. Note that we substantially cleaned up some of the posts, editing out odd capitalization schemes, iffy grammar and plain incoherence. Apparently blinding anger does not go hand in hand with dotting your i's and crossing your t's.

UAL (parent of United Airlines)
Untied.com
Launched: April 1997
By: Jeremy Cooperstock

Why did you create the site?

"It was not the poor treatment received from United but, rather, the subsequent disregard for a serious, polite complaint, which led to the creation of the Web pages."

What would UAL need to do to get you to take down the site?

"Replace their current staff. I'd need to see a shakedown from the top."

Company Says:

"Our customers have a right to their opinions. We give customers an opportunity to come to us directly. The best way to get complaints resolved is to work with United directly."

Typical Post:

"I was charged $100 because I was at the airport forty-five minutes early. But the airline won't let me get on the plane because I was late."

"When I arrived in Hong Kong, my baggage was still in the U.S. Baggage received 24 hours later. I have to buy everything I need when I got off the plane."

"While on the plane, I pressed the "service button." A flight attendant told me that button is for emergencies only. When I asked him for a cup of water, he's busy."

"The food is really bad."

"The plane was delayed for three hours at the Calgary airport."

Guardian
Blogger power to the people

By Nick Kettles
June 27, 2004

Intro of article clipped.

As of February, Ms Griffiths has stopped posting updates onmastercare.blog spot.com, but some consumers have much more spleen to vent. Following United Airlines' (UAL) inability to satisfy Jeremy Cooperstock's complaints in 1996-97, he launched www.untied.com, widely acknowledged as the internet's first gripe site.

Since then, it has received more than 5,000 letters from people like Jeremy and helped a group of flight attendants convince UAL to give ground in negotiations with their union. Untied. com has become the proverbial thorn in the side.

A spokeswoman for United Airlines, a unit of UAL, said the airline preferred that customers with legitimate complaints contacted the customer service department. If a complaint was forwarded by a third party site, 'of course we would respond to it', she said.

Rest of article clipped.

Forbes ASAP
Vox Unpopuli

By John McHugh
October 7, 2002

Intro of article clipped.

Jeremy Cooperstock, a 35 year-old professor at Montreal's McGill University, is far more focused than Parisi. Cooperstock wrote a letter to United Airlines complaining about shoddy service on a trip to Tokyo in 1996. When United delayed getting back to him, Cooperstock declared war on the company. He put up a Web page parodying the airline -- later calling it Untied.com -- on his college server. The battle escalated when United contacted the University of Toronto, where Cooperstock was a student at the time. He put the site up on his own server and in the five years since has been a steadfast thorn in United's side, soliciting and posting complaints from fellow sufferers and digging up internal secrets from United employees.

Cooperstock recently received copies of maintenance reports detailing mechanical problems that United supervisors allegedly covered up in order to get a flight in the air on time. The reports are posted on the site. Untied.com also has gradually become a forum for employee grievances, and United brass has taken notice; server logs show that Untied.com gets more Web traffic from United headquarters than from anywhere else, Cooperstock says.

If United's paying attention to Cooperstock's site, is it doing anything about what it finds there? Soon after Untied.com berated the airline for asking for customer feedback but requiring customers to use a toll line, United announced a toll-free customer suggestion line. Another time, United flight attendants alerted Cooperstock that the airline had continued to require them to stay in a Los Angeles hotel, allegedly in which a flight attendant recently had been raped. Untied.com ran an item on the matter, and soon Cooperstock heard that United had switched to a different hotel. He says the flight attendants' union sent him a letter commending him for his key role in persuading United to change hotels.

Cooperstock remains modest about his role in the governance of the airline. "Whether they made the changes because of my efforts, I have no way of knowing," he says.

Forbes
The Best Corporate Complaint Sites

Charles Wolrich
August 21, 2002 So in the spirit of rewarding emotion well expressed--and giving the disgruntled consumer his due--we spent a few hot weeks this summer trolling the Web for the best complaint sites. We looked at dozens of sites and rated each of them between one (worst) and five (best) on six criteria: ease of use, frequency updated, number of posts, anger level, relevancy and entertainment value. Below are the five sites that scored the best, based on our formula.

Untied.com was given the following scores:

Ease of Use Updates # of posts Hostility level Relevant news Entertainment value
4 4 5 3 3 3

Buziness Horizons
Volume 45, Issue 4, Pages 7-14
The Internet and the birth of real consumer power

By Leyland F. Pitt, Pierre R. Berthon, Richard T. Watson, and George M. Zinkhan
July 11, 2002

Intro of article clipped.

One of the best publicized sites is www.untied.com, set up by disgruntled United Airlines passenger Jeremy R. Cooper- stock. Opened in April 1997, this Web site, described as "the place that allows frustrated former United Airlines pas- sengers a chance to speak out," includes many hundreds of passenger complaints, but also allows surfers to select by type of grievance the poor experience they have had with the airline, from rudeness and misinformation to incompe- tence and refund problems. There is a complaint form for irate passengers to fill out that automatically puts the com- plaint on the Web site and copies it to United's director of customer relations and president. The site keeps a daily tally of complaints submitted and responses received from United. There is also a round-up of employee lawsuits against the airline and links to any stories in the general media that show it in a less than favorable light. Cooper- stock claims that more than 200,000 people visited his Un- tied site in 2000, and that United Airlines itself has been to his main page more than 1,500 times.

What impact do spoof sites have on corporations? Clearly, they can damage a firm's reputation. Untied.com lists 38 news reports covering the site, which has been featured in such highly visible outlets as the New York Times, USA Today, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, ABC News, and National Public Radio. However, there is not much evidence that the site has changed United's be- havior. Cooperstock claims that of the more than 3,000 complaints forwarded by his site, United has replied to fewer than 60. Public relations experts suggest that the air- line's action has been inadequate, and that it should be re- sponding to complaints originated at untied.com. United has taken some steps to facilitate customer interaction and now has a toll-free number for comments and a "Contact United" button on its home page.

...

Some spoof sites have been set up so effectively that anyone looking for the real firm on a search engine can't fail to find the spoof site as well. The strategies employed by large firms to deal with these sites also make for inter- esting analysis. Some take legal recourse, which United has attempted unsuccessfully in the case of Dr. Cooperstock;

...

If a win-lose mindset is dominant, the firm can follow a capture or litigate strategy. It could try to preempt the emergence of unfavorable sites by purchasing all URLs that could disparage the firm (such as www.wal-martsucks.com), but capturing might not account for the ingenuity of the disgruntled customer who finds an effective URL (www.untied.com) that other customers can easily remember. Owners of adverse sites can also ensure that when surfers seek a firm's official site using search engines, they also find the unofficial one.

CBC Marketplace
Impact of the Web
April 10, 2002

Veteran online consumer activist, Jeremy Cooperstock of Montreal, is behind Untied.

"Some people have called it the first Internet gripe site or the launching of consumer advocacy online. It was a site that was devoted first to airing a single complaint that I had against United Airlines after they failed to pay any attention to the letters I had written them."

But even as more people turn to the internet, success stories are the exception rather than the rule.

"I think what's happened is over time and the explosive growth of the net and the increased number of users or individuals who have set up similar Web pages isthat there's been a decrease in the impact that these sites can have simply because of the sheer number of them," Cooperstock said.

National Geographic Traveler
July/August 2002

Had a Bad Trip?
By Christopher Elliott

Intro of article clipped.

Untied.com (www.untied.com), a gripe site for United Airlines, now offers to send complaints along to United. But so far, the results have been highly disappointing." Of more than 4,000 complaints fielded, the carrier has replied to fewer than 100.

Rest of article clipped.

Daily Herald
Saturday, February 2, 2002

United's aim is now survival
By Mike Comerford

Relevant excerpt below:

United said Friday it will begin increasing its number of flights 7 percent by April, but the challenge will be winning customers back with better customer service, said Jeremy Cooperstock, a McGill University professor who runs Untied.com, an independent Web site that draws comments from those upset with the company.

Improving employee relations is key, Cooperstock said.

"We hear from passengers and employees," said Cooperstock, who teaches electrical and computer engineering. "Some of the stories they tell are incredibly bad. Dramatic changes are needed."

CKNW 980 AM Vancouver
Wednesday, January 23, 2002

The Agenda - with Jon McComb

[no transcript available]

Globe and Mail
Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Air Canada agents on trail of dissidents
By Douglas McArthur

The following two articles deal with a new website, errorplan.com, which takes Air Canada to task for the new policies regarding their frequent flier program, "Aeroplan." The relevant extracts are included here.

Annoyed customers of Air Canada have been telling their tales of woe at another site, http://www.aircanadasucks.com for more than two years. And anyone with a beef about United Airlines can submit it to http://www.untied.com, one of the most influential gripe sites in the air industry. It was founded by Jeremy Cooperstock, now a professor at Montreal's McGill University, after a disastrous trip to Tokyo in 1996.

Despite numerous attempts by the airline to shut it down, it continues to receive an average of 50 to 60 complaints each month.

Financial Post
Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Air Canada clips wings of frequent fliers
By Kate MacNamara

He says he thinks the architects of errorplan modelled the site on untied.com, a site started in 1996 by University of Toronto graduate student Jeremy Cooperstock, who encountered a series of minor frustrations flying with United Airline. It grew into a forum for passenger and employees to register complaints and tackle serious issues.

United threatened legal action but, says Mr. Cooperstock, "I think they've come to realize the site actually benefits them." Now a professor of electrical engineering at McGill University, he forwards all the complaints he receives through his Web site (and there have been thousands) directly to United.

Fortune
Monday, April 2, 2001

ONLINE COMPLAINING
By John Simons

Stop Moaning About Gripe Sites and Log On Managers may be horrified by online complaining. But if you can stomach the vitriol, you just may learn something.

Relevant excerpt below:

Where Workers Vent

untied.com
The friendly skies? Pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, and frustrated fliers unload on the miseries of flying United Airlines.

New York Times
March 4, 2001

What, You Don't Have Skim Milk? This Means War
By Hilary Appelman

Unlike Web sites for general complaints, sites that bash specific companies do not claim to solve consumers' problems. Often, such a site is the handiwork of one disgruntled customer.

For example, Jeremy Cooperstock, 33, a computer engineering professor at McGill University in Montreal, started an anti-United Airlines site, Untied.com, after he failed to receive a reply to a letter he wrote complaining about the service on United flights to Japan and Hawaii in 1996. "It was not the poor treatment we received from United, but rather the subsequent disregard for a serious, polite complaint, which led to the creation of the Web pages," Mr. Cooperstock says on the site.

More than 3,000 complaints are displayed there, under categories that include rudeness, misinformation and incompetence.

Whitney Staley, a spokeswoman for United Airlines, a unit of UAL, said the airline preferred that customers with legitimate complaints contact the customer service department. If a complaint is forwarded by a third-party site, "of course we would respond to it," she said.

You've got to love comments like the above. I wonder if Ms. Staley could enlighten us as to what she means by " of course we would respond to it." Given United's stellar record at responding to customer complaints forwarded from our site (over 3000 complaints forwarded, to which the airline replied to fewer than 60), perhaps she means that UAL responds by pressing the DELETE key on the keyboard.

Rest of article clipped.

Ragan's Interactive Public Relations
December 2000, Vol 6, Issue 12

From the front: PR pros share their lessons to handle rogue Web sites and assaults on their brands

Intro of article clipped.

Tip 3: Offer dialogue on your sites

PR pros say United Airlines could learn a lesson from Monsanto. Although it offers customer service e-mail links on its own site, it apparently ignores customer complaints coming from other sites.

Enter Untied.com, United Airline's most heavily trafficked rogue site to date. The site's run by Jeremy Cooperstock, a professor at Montreal's McGill University. Four years ago, he suffered what he thought to be shoddy service from United Airlines. His first letter of complaint got no response; his second brought only a form letter.

And that's all it took for Cooperstock to launch Untied.com, a now-popular forum for disgruntled airline passengers. The site generates close to 20,000 visitors per month and has gotten a lot of media coverage, including the Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

In addition to posting unflattering news about the company and customer complaints, the site encourages visitors to complete an online complaint form with the opportunity to be anonymous. The site forwards them to UAL's customer relations director and CEO. Cooperstock logs these submissions and UAL responses. To date, the site's generated 2,731 passenger complaints, most of which were copied to one or both of the UAL contacts.

And what has United done? They've done a lot of watching, that's for sure. Of the site's 20,000 visitors in September, 192 came from UAL headquarters. That number reaches more than 500 at times. But that's typically where UAL's action stops, unless you count the 54 of 2,731 responses the company's reportedly delivered.

Is United doing enough? Most PR pros say no. Cooperstock agrees. In fact, Cooperstock finds his site to be a service to the company, an opportunity to see how it can improve. Cooperstock and other PR pros suggest the following tips when dealing with a complaint site such at Untied:

  • Attempt to form a relationship with the rogue-site owner. Cooperstock says he'd be delighted if he could unplug the Untied site. He could spend the three-to-four hours per week on other things.

    Cooperstock claims that if United approached him, made some changes to better serve consumers and continued to provide an open means of communication, he'd happily give up the site.

    "But United hasn't come close," he says.

  • Solicit complaints on your own site. If United had began soliciting both anonymous and nonanonymous complaints online and responded publicly, the company would have never been attacked by a site like Untied, says Cooperstock.

  • Support communication in whatever form your customers and employees want it. When Untied complaints do get answered, it's acknowledged on the site.

    The site also has a page devoted to "success stories" offered by travelers who reached some satisfactory resolution to problems with the airline, sometimes after threats of legal action. But the number of success stories are few and far between, according to the Untied site.

    United claims it responds to all communication -- concerns, questions and complaints, whether they come from an outside source or via its own site or 800 number.

    But, "Third party communication slows the process," says Kurt Ebenhoch, former media relations manager at United. "We urge concerned consumers to come directly to us."

    Perhaps Mr. Ebenhoch, would be kind enough to elaborate on this point. The last time I contacted United Airlines directly was my letter to Ms. Harvill of September 9. I'm still waiting for her reply.

    Remainder of article clipped.