12.1.11

Daily Moan #14: Virgin Media

This a real genuine bona fide Moan and it makes me tired just thinking about it! Have you ever felt you were in a Franz Kafka novel? When something goes wrong in your life and you haven't a clue why? And you seem to lose control? And nobody seems to know why? Then you'll sympathise with my sorry tale. It does have a happy ending, of sorts, so there's no need to be alarmed. [Old Arnold Brown joke: 'This door is alarmed'. How does it think I feel?]

Back in November, Virgin Media sent me a letter saying I was 'guaranteed pre-approved' to get a Blackberry for £10 a month. My pay-as-you-go Samsung clamshell phone was fine for me, and to get an iPhone would mean upgrading my OS - and they're very expensive. And I already have an iPod Touch, and plan to get a 2nd gen iPad. Nick has a Blackberry and says it changed his life... So, I made the call.

I spoke to someone at the Virgin call centre, gave them all my bank details (I have been with Virgin Media for landline and broadband from the beginning - NYnex, Cable & Wireless, NTL and then Virgin) and received a confirmation email. Then nothing.

A week or so later I rang the number again. My niece had applied for one after me and was already enjoying it. I spoke to Alvin in Manila and he took all my details again. I received an email. But still no phone.

Two weeks later I called again and spoke to Sheryl. She said there was something wrong with my credit check (I was 'pre-approved' remember?). She said she'd call me back within 48 hours. She didn't. So a few days later I spoke to Lucy who said there was a problem with my credit rating (I was 'guaranteed pre-approved' remember?).

A week later I spoke to Anna who said I should re-apply in 31 days. Computer said no. I was getting annoyed by now, so I sent off two letters of complaint to two different complaints addresses, and copied in Paul Gosling from the Independent. I hate having to play the 'press card' but it had worked in the past.

I was worried about this credit thing. Anna told me they used Equifax, so I took out their free 30-day trial - and I paid an extra £5.95 to get my credit score. It was 508, in the 'excellent' band. The only slight blemish was a late payment to a credit card made ages ago. What was going on?

On 28 December (two months after my initial call to Virgin) I got a call from a Virgin press person. She said she'd expedite things. I sent her scans of the original letter. On 8 January, a Saturday, I got called by someone from sales who took all my details yet again, but this time I received lots of emails. I also received a follow-up call from the PR person. The final insult was a text at 3am (my Samsung kept ringing every few minutes until answered) on Monday morning saying it was on its way. UPS would deliver between 8am and 6pm. So guess when they came? Well it was choir in the afternoon and I returned home to find a UPS card on my doormat. My heart sank - but phew he'd left the parcel next door. I now have a Blackberry! I still haven't had a proper explanation or apology. Apparently too many orders going through Virgin's system caused a lock-down on my account - but is that my fault?

So there we have it - off my chest. I've had problems with Virgin before, almost always caused by their internal lack of communication, and phoning call centres is a dismal experience. If you need to get things going, bring in Watchdog or some other consumer programme, or newspaper 'agony aunt' as early as possible. And don't rely on verbal assurances. Get it in writing!

I am thinking of sending the Blackberry back and getting an iPhone. What should I do?
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