Archive for July, 2012

The following is a letter that my son recently sent to Sir Richard Branson though I’m not too shire that it will ever actually reach him. I’m also not sure if it was his up bringing, or the fact that he is now in the police force, that makes him so pedantic (may be even a pedant)!

I have replaced the names of the individuals mentioned in the letter as I don’t think it is particularly fair to publish them on the internet.

Hopefully this might give you just a little laugh, I must admit that it brought more than just a smile to my face.

Dear Sir Branson,
Please allow me to start by saying that I have always held the Virgin empire and services in the highest regards. As a child I flew with virgin on several occasions and always had a pleasant experience with no requirement for my family or myself to complain.
Since maturing into an adult I have had very few opportunities to be able to fly long haul and therefore utilize Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays, however, I have still raved about your other services and am currently one of your credit card holders. This all being well and good is sadly currently being warped by the service your company is currently not providing me with.
Due to family friends getting married in Florida I have decided to cough the expense and make an effort to head out to the USA along with the rest of my family. My parents, sister and her husband are all flying out to Tamper using British Airways but my partner and I decided that we would fly out to Orlando with Virgin Airways and meet up with the rest of the family there before embarking on a mission around some theme parks and then onwards to traveling around the rest of Florida for a further week taking in the sights of places such as Miami, Key West and the Everglades. What a wonderful way to spend a couple of weeks I hear you telling yourself, and that is exactly what I thought, until I started the booking process. And so the saga begins.
Having looked online at just Virgin Atlantic purely to book flights and then sort car hire out separately, I was then tempted to see what was on offer through Virgin Holidays. On visiting the website I found out that I could book fly drive direct, although the cost was more expensive than booking flights and car hire separate? Having seen a small section of the website that said they would try to beat any other quote, I decided to phone to see what could be offered.
On Friday 29th June 2012 at 0953hrs, I called the number and was greeted by an incredibly friendly and helpful female, by the name of Agent1 who introduced herself as working from the Kensington Branch. I spoke with Agent1 about my requirements for a fly drive holiday, and Agent1 sadly explained that you would not price match via quotes received online. Now this is something that I can understand since it is a very competitive world out there. So with this in mind I thanked Agent1 for her time and explained that I will visit the Virgin Atlantic website and book my flights. To this Agent1, bless her kindness, expressed that as of that very same day Virgin Holidays had just started doing flight only bookings. I was ecstatic! I thought to myself, as anyone would, “great, one call and it will all be sorted”.
So Agent1 took my dates and personal information and then told me that she could do the flights for £862.18 for the pair of us return. My God, I was flabbergasted, this was a good £100 cheaper than I had found direct with Virgin Atlantic, so without hesitation (as anyone would) I instructed Agent1 to book the flights. She was good enough to say she would confirm this and call me back in 5 minutes to take my payment. Having hung up the phone I sat there gleaming in my own amazement to the fact that I could now afford to book a better hire car since I had saved money on the flights.
Well 20 minutes passes and finally I received the call back from Agent1. She was sounding sheepish and apologetic from the start so I knew something was wrong. With this Agent1 explained how she had made an error in the quote as she had forgotten to add the ‘tax’ to the booking cost, and then she re-quoted me for the flights £966.60. From my prior research I knew that this was the cost I was being quoted directly off the Virgin Atlantic website, so, disappointed and marginally irritated that the mistake was made, I instructed Agent1 to go ahead with the booking. Agent1, being ever so kind and still slightly embarrassed by her mistake, said that to make up for the fact I was misquoted, she would waive the 2.5% credit card fee and would just charge me £966.60. I thought to myself, well, that’s better than a slap round the face with a wet fish, and duly accepted her offer and passed over my credit card details and remainder of my personal information. Agent1 told me that she would pass the payment for £966.60 straight away and would email me with confirmation that this was done. And so I waited………..
After an hour of not receiving any reply, I called Agent1 back on her direct number, and was again greeted by her smiling happy voice. Agent1 explained that the payment had been passed and she had sent a confirmation email, although bearing in mind I had not received this, she again checked my email address and then re-sent the confirmation email. Please see the attached email!!
Perfect I thought to myself, done and dusted! WRONG!
So, Saturday 30th June 2012 arrives and I receive and email from Virgin Holidays (official looking as it was logo headed). I checked the information as instructed by the email itself and was dismayed to see that the price stated on this email was £967.72. Considering this email was headed “Invoice” I assumed that this was accurate! Now, I know what you’re thinking, why am I reading this when, all this customer is complaining about is a cost difference of £1.12 (but let’s face it, you didn’t get to where you are by not noticing money just being siphoned out of your account!). And sure enough, this was the start of my annoyance, but it was not so much the £1.12 that annoyed me, more the fact that I was quoted and told that payment had been taken (by Agent1) to the value of £966.60. As I am sure you can imagine, to be told one thing, and to have another happen is irritating to say the least, let alone me point out the fact that this is technically theft under criminal law (definition of theft; a person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it!).
Well needless to say, I called the number included in this email to query the fact that the wrong amount was shown on the invoice! I was calling this number from a mobile, so let’s face it, by the time someone answers I have probably already spend more on my mobile bill than the amount I am querying, but it is now the principle of the matter!
Eventually the call is answered by a female, who’s name I was unable to catch. I explained the reason for my call, to which she apologised for the inconvenience. Of course, she could not explain to me how this misdemeanour had occurred but assured me that she would credit my card with £1.12 as had been taken. Well, I was obviously pleased that this was going to happen, but asked specifically to speak to a manager who could explain how this happened. This lady could not/would not put me onto a manager at the time, but instead told me that someone from the support team would contact me on either Monday or Tuesday. I could tell that I would not gain an explanation from the call taker, so this had to suffice. Time to wait for the call from the support team!
Well Sir Branson, you could never guess what happened, could you? Yep, you’re right, I didn’t receive a call! So come Wednesday 4th July 2012 at 1040, and having checked my credit card bill (and yes, you did charge me £967.72 and no, by this time I had not received the credit of £1.12) I decided that again I would have to call customer support and see what happened. But sadly I was unable to speak to anyone! I believe that there may have been a fault with the phone lines, but by the time I had gone through the relevant options (about 2 minutes per call and more pennies on the phone bill) the line would just go dead. So thinking that this might just be a glitch with your system at 1047 I tried to call again, but needless to say, the same thing happened!
Rest assured, by this stage I was down, but not defeated and there is more than one way to skin a cat. So back to your website, onto the customer support section and open up the ‘online chat’ section. Fantastic, sure enough within 5 minutes I am chatting to Agent2 (when I say chatting, I really mean typing my fury as quickly as possible). So I explained to Agent2 why I was ‘chatting’ to her and in the politest way possible explained my irritation with the customer support that I had not received and that I wanted to know why no-one had been in touch. Still, Agent2 helped to put my mind at rest. She finished our ‘chat’ by telling me she would email the Kensington Branch and Branch manager, and ask them to call me that same day. She even asked if there was any time that would not be convenient and got me to provide my phone number again so there could be no mistake!
Well, there was either a problem with the mobile phone network that day, or no-one could be bothered to call me! I will let you decide which it might have been!
So to Thursday 5th July 2012. Again, I start my morning by checking the good old mobile banking, and sure enough, nothing had yet been credited to my card! Time to check the mobile phone, and again no missed calls, messages or anything else for this matter! So onwards and back to calling the call centre to get the issue amended!
It would appear that any possible phone problems within Virgin Holidays were by this stage fixed. I called at 1031 and after a short time on hold (about 8 minutes) I finally got to speak to a human being. Sadly, and again due to his accent I was unable to catch the name of the male I was now speaking to, but I had a good 6 minute conversation with him, again expressing my annoyance and my grave dissatisfaction with the lack of explanation as to why your company thought it would be right to take additional money from me without my consent. Well, with this I again got the same excuse as in the previous contact! The male call taker could not provide an answer, so provided me with the following. The first was that he promised that I would receive the sum of £1.12 credited to my credit card within 2 working days, the second promise made was that I would receive a call from a manager within 24hrs. Again I thanked him for his time and the conversation ended.
Now on to the time of writing, Friday 6th July 2012 at 1600hrs, and as I am sure you can guess by the fact I am going to the length of writing this that yes, no-one has yet been in touch. Again, I have checked the balance on my credit card, and as yet there has been no credit placed onto the card. Once again, I re-iterate to you the fact that the money is only the starting block to this, but that lack of customer service is the biggest gripe I currently have. I have now been told on 3 separate occasions that I would receive a call back by a manager. This has stretched over the period of a week and still I have not been able to speak to anyone who can resolve the issue about why the over-charge was taken in the first instance.
What I am struggling to understand, is how a man of your calibre, who has managed to build up such a sterling reputation, can allow such appalling customer service to go unnoticed and unchallenged. Certainly in my line of work, if I was to say I will call someone, or help someone, then this is exactly what is expected of me to do, in an appropriate time frame.
This is the first experience I have had of booking through Virgin Holidays and based on the lack of customer service, it is possibly going to be the last time.
I have not asked for a miracle, nor have I asked to be taken to the moon and back! All I have asked, every time I have spoken to someone is to be credited the £1.12 to the credit card, and to speak to a manager who will be able to explain why this money has been taken.
I hope that you can understand the cause for my concern. Your branding goes to great lengths to show that your company cares for everyone on an individual basis, and aims to make each holiday personalised, but sadly this is not how I am currently feeling. I can only estimate at this stage that I have had to spend somewhere near £5 on calls to your customer support and still have no answer. And as of yet, we have not even had our holiday, but yet the booking process of the flights has currently been more stressful than arranging car hire, hotel accommodation and theme park tickets, which have all gone seemingly smoothly.
I trust that you can resolve this medial issue in a now timely fashion, without any further undue stress to myself or my partner and assist us in enjoying our vacation.
Thank you for your patience and time to read this and I await your response with baited breath.
Kind regards

Who knows, maybe in my younger days I would have done the same, Come to think of it a few years ago, when I frequently flew Virgin to the states, I did actually write to Richard Branson with a complaint, never did get an answer from him personally, but someone replied.

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