02 December 2009

A Virgin berth

'I've just been to the cinema, to see Paranormal Activity, and found the experience highly disturbing. The film was no problem, but there was an advert on beforehand for Virgin Trains with Richard Branson that must be causing people to wake up shrieking "Aayeeugh he's all jolly and fluffy and horrible," until they're given an injection.

No one should be reminded of Virgin Trains at any time, as their one outstanding achievement is attention to detail, because everything is awful. Any train company can make trains late, but Virgin put in that extra effort, so there's an announcement as you leave that there's no tea because the boiler's busted.


Perfectionist that [Branson] is, Virgin also has the worst record for answering complaints, replying to a wonderful 36 per cent within 20 days. I enjoyed some of this service last week, when I rang to reserve a seat but couldn't get through for 26 minutes.

So I said I'd like to complain, and was put on hold for another 15 minutes, then told the complaints department was very busy so could I ring back later. So later I called a customer relations department who told me, "This can happen."

"Is there an explanation?" I asked, and she said: "I've given you one." I said, "What was it?" and she said: "I TOLD you – this can happen."

Just to make sure, I said, "Are you telling me 'This can happen' is the explanation."

"Yes," she said triumphantly.

So it seems Virgin is being run by philosophers from the 13th century. When someone rings to ask why they were stuck for two hours outside Preston they must get told "Ah, 'tis God's will". The station announcements will soon say: "We apologise for the cancellation of the 2.15 to Coventry. This is due to the fact that this can happen. It's not our place to incur the wrath of our creator by asking why."'

- Mark Steel, Independent, 2 December 2009

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