Virgin Media: The Hamster Strikes Again

1050x400 Virgin Media Hamster



This letter from Kate Edmunds to Sir Richard Branson borrows its style and some of its content from Oliver Beale’s brilliant letter to Sir Richard about in-flight food on Virgin Atlantic (Click here to read the Virgin Atlantic letter).  Even Oliver’s pet hamster makes another appearance.  Kate lives in London and when she moved house recently, she decided to remain loyal to Virgin Media.  That, it seems, was a mistake….

Complaints @ Virgin Media,
PO Box 333,
Matrix Court,
Swansea,
SA7 9ZJ

8th November 2013

Dear Richard,

I am writing you this letter in an old fashioned and time-tested manner not because I am nostalgic for the smell of wet ink on a crisp sheet of paper, or because I am a shareholder in Royal Mail; but because I have no internet, Richard.

Just imagine that, and in 2013 no less! You must be wondering how this sorry state of affairs has come to be, Richard. Well, let me fill you in…

It was August and I had to move flat.1 No one likes moving, Richard; least of all me.  This move was made especially traumatic when I discovered, to my sheer horror, that my future home was not in a Virgin Cable Services area.

BT Infinity,2 the former however, was on the menu.

No one likes BT, Richard.  But what was I to do?  I run a freelance business, I work odd hours and speak to important people in funny time zones, so I know that you can understand – being an international business person yourself – that I need a fast reliable internet service.  And fibre optic seemed the way to go.

With a heavy heart I dialed ‘150’ and told your customer services of my sorry situation.  At first, having confirmed my fears about my non-Virgin address, she wanted to charge me for ending my contract a few months early.  Now, I didn’t think that was very fair – seeing as I didn’t want to leave you, Richard.  I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I got a little cross.

To sooth my frayed temper, customer services then offered me an olive branch in the form of a DSL line internet connection.  Now, we all know that DSL lines are not as fast as Usain Bolt,3 Richard, but I was willing to give our previously cherished relationship one last shot.  Customer services then ran a ‘line test’, which came back saying that I could expect to receive up to 20MB/s, which is not a speed to be sniffed at.

With hindsight, I am wondering how customer services managed this feat – seeing as there was, as it later turned out, no phone line installed at my new flat.  Perhaps she had telekinetic powers.

My arm was twisted, my sense of loyalty stretched, my imagination was racing… I was on a rack, Richard.  Because no one likes BT, Richard.  And then she turned the final screw.  Apparently you were launching a magic new service this Autumn which is “sort of like cable”, which will be available in E94 (my area, in case you were considering popping in for a cup of tea sometime) which would “boost speeds even further”.

And so I welcomed Virgin back with loving arms, went off and started to pack.

Now project yourself forwards in time, Richard, like your telekinetic customer services lady… fly through the ether back to the here and now, 2 months on…

Last night I lost it, Richard.  It was the final straw.  This was my internet.

Virgin Cable 01

Look at it, Richard. Just look at it.

I don’t see a triumphant Usain Bolt beating you to the finish line, Richard.  I see a lame hamster with a 200m handicap and a pair of lead-lined trainers.  And it’s losing, Richard.

There have been a lot of theories proposed by your technical department on why Usain Bolt should be running like a lame hamster up and down my phone line.  I have dialed ‘150’ so many times that I’ve worn the numbers off the buttons on my phone and I am now on first name terms with most of your technical department.  A very nice man called Aaron (who I think deserves a gold medal) once called me back on three consecutive mornings before 9am.  I almost feel like I ought to add him to my Christmas card list, Richard.

After many valiant attempts by the technical team to turbo-boost the hamster (some of them using contradictory and experimental methods), I was told to accept the fact that my line was just very busy with a lot of other people’s traffic.

I bet they have hamsters in cars, Richard.

Anyway, I speed-dialed 150 again last night.  Customer services were going to listen to my initial phone conversation with the telekinetic lady to see what I was saying was in fact the truth and not a figment of a nightmare.  And you know what happened?

They read me the small print, Richard.

I know that internet traffic on the phone lines is not your fault.  I know that 20MB/s is not a promise, and just a suggestion of what my speed could be in an ideal universe where hamsters never age and the entire race runs as free as a herd of Usain Bolts on stimulants.

But I still feel that I have been duped.

So I am leaving.  And I am being charged £45 for the pleasure, which (and it pains me greatly to admit this) is now indeed a real pleasure.  To add insult to financial injury, I was then kindly informed by the customer service manager “once you leave Virgin Media, you can no longer come back as a customer”.

I almost couldn’t believe my ears. Is this true, Richard? Am I now a Virgin outcast?

Does this mean that I am also banned from your aeroplanes?

The parting shot was that “DSL technology is outdated”, referring to my complaints about my speeds.

Then WHY EXACTLY DID YOU SELL IT TO ME?? I wanted to scream.  Instead I took the more civilized step of looking it up on the internet (by hooking up my laptop to the 3G service on my mobile phone, not wanting to upset the sleeping hamster):

virgin media - postcode

So who exactly is supplying me with my internet? This is all very puzzling, Richard.

On a serious note, I’m very tired of fighting with robotic middle managers who don’t have the freedom or capacity for taking problem solving initiatives, all in the name of protecting profits.  I truly really believe that it’s high time all companies took responsibility for providing a crap service, rather than ignoring their faults and problems by shackling customers with small print disclaimers and bullying them into inaction.

And I’m sure you would agree, Richard.

Kind regards, and perhaps I’ll get to enjoy a Virgin Media service again some day (if I’m lucky and taken off the ‘banished’ list).

Kate Edmunds

The last we heard, neither Sir Richard or Virgin Media had replied to Kate.  Of course, as soon as they do, we will add the replies here.

 
 
 

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  1. For American readers: In the UK, a flat is a condominium. Moving flat therefore is not crawling very close to the floor and has nothing whatsoever to do with punctured tyres – or tires even as it is mis-spelled in the USA  
  2. For American Readers (and most of the rest of the world probably): BT, formerly British Telecom, used to be the monopoly telecoms provider in the UK and is now one of the world’s largest telecommunications providers. It was in fact the first company in the world to establish a telecommunications network and has been pissing off customers in the UK since 1846  
  3. For American and other overseas readers: ‘What on earth has Usain Bolt got to do with Kate’s internet connection?’ I hear you ask. Well, the multiple Olympic sprinting gold medalist earns a bit of extra beer money by making a complete tit of himself in Virgin Media TV adverts in the UK, that’s what  
  4. For American and other overseas readers: E9 is the first part of Kate’s postcode (or zip code as you say in the USA). There are 1.7 million postcodes in the UK. Most begin with a two letter prefix which identify the town (e.g. LS is Leeds). Kate’s postcode does not because she lives in London and our beloved capital is simply too big for a single prefix. The usual two prefix letters are therefore substituted with points of the compass (so the postman knows which direction to walk in). From just this little piece of the postcode therefore, it can be correctly deduced that Kate lives in East London  

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