Why I’ll never buy from Virgin Mobile again

Today’s post is a bit self-serving and for that I apologize, but I’m hoping that telling my story publicly will accomplish 2 things: first, it will warn my readers that they do business with Virgin Mobile at their own risk. Second, and it’s a long shot, but it might provoke a response from VM and they might return the money they’ve owed me for years. A very long shot, I realize.

“Trust, but verify.” I learned this lesson in early 2011. I have nothing against Virgin as a brand or a company. I admire Richard Branson and all he’s accomplished. He’s a remarkable example of a self-made entrepreneur. However, I can say without hyperbole that he has some real dolts working for him at Virgin Mobile.

In December of 2010 I was looking for a mi-fi provider. I didn’t have an iPhone to tether with yet and needed an option to connect to the Internet while on the road. Virgin Mobile seemed to have the best deal at $130 plus S&H for a MiFi 2200. They also touted a 30 day money back guarantee which gave me confidence in making the purchase.

When the device showed up, I quickly discovered that the coverage was not satisfactory for my area. I would frequently get dropped connections from home, and when out and about coverage was even spottier. So I called VM on January 5 to request service cancellation and get instructions on how to return the device for a refund. The rep I spoke with put me on hold for 20 minutes then said she would call me back later that night. She never did. Thus began 6 months of pure and utter frustration.

  • January 7: called a second time to find out what happened. Rep said they were sending me a mailing label to return the device. I waited over a week for the label to arrive but it never did.
  • January 16: called a third time to ask where the label was. The rep wanted to transfer me to the “mi-fi group” (first I had heard of this) but actually just dumped me back out to the automated call menu.
  • January 17: called a fourth time and the rep finally gave me an address and RMA for the device. I shipped the device back the same day via UPS and included a note in the package explaining in detail about what had happened.
  • January 19: UPS reports the package was delivered.

Between January and June 2011 I called Virgin Mobile a total of 6 times to ask why my refund had not been processed. Each time I was told that it would be processed within a week. Each time the refund failed to appear.

I switched to a different tactic and opened a service ticket through their web site. Here’s their response:

We do understand how frustrating could be not having the answers when you need them. Unfortunately, there are procedures we have to follow and your issue is under review at this time. All we are asking you is for a little time in order for us to resolve the issue at your satisfaction. Again, we are deeply sorry for the delays, but we need to wait for the investigation that we have opened regarding the refund of your device.

We have already confirmed your device has been returned and it might take up to 5 business days for us to have a resolution.

So they admit they received the package. But for some reason, issuing a refund is a challenge for these people. Subsequent service tickets were equally useless. My refund was always “in process” or “under review.”

Eventually, they claimed they had mailed me a refund check. The check never arrived. Subsequent customer service requests yielded no help whatsoever. Refusing to explain why I hadn’t received a check yet, they instead began telling me they couldn’t help me and that I had to contact the “Broadband department” for a refund. Whatever. I give up.

By the time August 2011 rolled around I decided it was not worth the time and effort to continue pursuing this. So Virgin Mobile kept my money and I’ve heard nothing from them since. Overall, it’s a frustrating and disappointing experience when a company steals your money. Had I anticipated what was going to happen I would have kept the device and sold it myself. I wouldn’t have gotten all my money back, but I would have gotten something. As it happened, Virgin Mobile ended up with both the device and my money.

Be warned. When it comes to Virgin Mobile, advice from The Princess Bride is appropriate: “Get used to disappointment.”