Good Riddance, Virgin Mobile!

virginmobileFor many years, Mike and I have had our cell phone service with Virgin Mobile.  We were happy with them for a long time, but eventually, it all turned to shit.

We liked them because they were affordable did not require us to sign a contract, and had a halfway decent selection of phones.  Not the latest and greatest, but I’m never one to buy the newest gadget the second it comes out.  And the service was good enough so that we were able to get rid of our landline and just use the cells.

The annoyances started when we moved up here from MA a few years ago, and we had to switch banks. We went with St. Mary’s Bank, which is actually a credit union.  This involved having to change the payment info with everyone, including Virgin Mobile.  I set it up to auto-pay every month for both accounts from my St. Mary’s Visa debit card.

Apparently, St. Mary’s sometimes does system maintenance on their computers at 2AM or so. This makes sense to NORMAL people, because that is a time when the fewest people are using it. But Virgin Mobile is not “normal people”. We soon found out that they process the auto payments at around 2AM – on the day that the payment is due. And if St. Mary’s computers happen to be down for maintenance at the time, the card is declined, and they shut off the phone service IMMEDIATELY. They do not bother to try to charge the card again in an hour or so, they do not contact the customer and give them until the end of the business day to either try the card again or enter another payment method. Nope, they just shut off the damned phone at 2AM, and I was often waking up to emails saying that the payment had failed and I’d have to log in and pay before they’d turn the service back on.

I complained about this to Virgin Mobile numerous times, and even filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The Virgin people didn’t seem to understand what it is that I wanted (for them to change their billing practices to give the customer until the end of the business day to settle up should an auto-payment fail. But I guess that in Virgin Mobile’s world, the business day ends at 2AM Eastern time. I also didn’t like being treated like a deadbeat, because the damned money was always there, there was really no valid reason to shut off either of our phones, ever.

Then, this stopped happening, for many months. I thought that perhaps they finally took my complaints seriously, especially the part where I said that if they shut off either of our phones ONE MORE TIME, we are both gone. Still, I was looking for another provider, for another reason. I was paying an extra $15/month to Virgin to be able to use my phone as a mobile hotspot. But I saw that they did away with that particular unlimited plan, and now it’s $5 a day for the mobile hotspot, and they only give you a cheap amount of data usage for that. And you have to take the extra step of logging into their stupid website to set it up, every damned day you want to use the feature. I still had the unlimited because they grandfathered people in. But when I asked them what would happen if my current phone died and I had to get a new one, would I still be able to get the unlimited mobile hotspot for $15/month? Nope, I was told. This was unacceptable to me, and I knew right then and there that when I did decide to get a new phone, it would be on another carrier. I was strongly leaning towards Ting, a no-contract carrier with an interesting concept – pay for what you use. This could be costly for a heavy user, but both Mike and I are light users when it comes to talk and text, and I only use data when there is no WiFi available. Mike never even uses the data. I knew this would save us a ton of money over the $80/month we were paying for two phones with Virgin Mobile. And Ting doesn’t charge for using the phone as a mobile hotspot, all the charge for is the data used while doing so. Fair enough. And I don’t have to log into their website every time I want to do it, I can just set it up once, and then just toggle it on and off on the phone when I want to use it.

But I did not make the switch right away, because that would mean having to buy new phones, as Virgin Mobile phones only work with Virgin Mobile. Our phones were still in good shape, I was happy with my iPhone 4S for the moment.

Then, on December 8, 2014, at 2AM, Virgin Mobile struck again. It was my phone they shut off this time, with an email time-stamped for 2AM telling me to pay up or they won’t turn my phone back on.

Remember the part where I told them that if they did this ONE MORE TIME, they’d be losing both of our accounts? I meant it. I did NOT log into Virgin’s site to try to run the card again, or put in another payment method. These bastards were NOT going to get one more red cent from us, not now, not ever. Instead, I went to Ting’s website, asked them a few questions (no, they say they do NOT shut off phones if the payment doesn’t go through the first time they run it; they do the decent thing and give the customer the chance to fix the problem before they terminate service). Happy with the answers I got, I ordered a refurbed iPhone 5c directly from them, and to my delight, it arrived at my door the very next day. I activated it with Ting immediately, so I was only one day with no phone. While I was waiting, I complained to Virgin Mobile again and demanded that they delete my account from the system, so that they could never trey to charge me again. The only thing they would do was to remove the card I was using for the auto-pay thingy. They told me that they could not remove my account completely until 60 days passed. I could have had thew account permanently removed if I had chosen to port my number over to Ting. But the reason I chose not to do so was because Ting requires an “account number” from Virgin Mobile in order to do this. This is NOT the same as your phone number, and it is nowhere to be found on your account pages on the VM website. You have to call them to get it, the Ting website said so, and it is true. I know I could have called them from Mike’s phone, being that mine was not working at the time, but I didn’t want to deal with the hassle, and DOG knows how long the port would take from VM’s end. Virgin Mobile is like the Hotel California, where you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. So when my new phone arrived, I simply activated it and let Ting issue me a new number.

But Mike wanted to port his number over. His phone did not come direct from Ting, it was bought from Glyde, which is a partner of theirs that sells new, used and refurbed Ting compatible phones. So it took a little longer for that phone to get here. Meanwhile, I used Mike’s VM phone with its 300 minute a month plan to call VM to get HIS account number (damned if I was going to spend the money on my Ting minutes for this). It was like the Spanish Inquistion, they actually wanted to know WHY the account number was needed. I told them that it was because we needed it to port the number over to a carrier that was not shitty like theirs is. I was finally able to get the top-secret number, now it was just a matter of waiting for his phone to arrive.

Meanwhile, I looked up the laws regarding porting, as in how long they have to get it done. I found this on the FCC government website. One business day, no longer. I also noticed that there was info on filing a complaint, which I bookmarked for future use. I figured that VM thinks their customers are too stupid to be aware of the laws, and will try to use skeevy tactics to keep customers as long as possible, against their will. Clue – you keep customers by not having shitty service. I then sent another email to VM asking them once again to delete my account completely (I wanted to try to sell the phone to some dumb sucker who still wants to use Virgin Mobile). I also added that because of their turning off my phone, which is what caused me to no longer want their services, my husband was also moving over to Ting. I let them know that I was aware of the laws regarding porting, and if they didn’t stay within the law, I’d be filing a complaint with the FCC.

When the phone arrived and I set up the porting, it happened within the hour. But I still ended up complaining to the FCC over VM’s refusal to remove my account, and the fact that they were harassing me via email to pay up so they can turn my phone back on. This, after I told them that I had already purchased another phone and set up service with another company.

The FCC passed my complaint onto Virgin, and they called to discuss the issue; I let this go to voicemail. They also sent an email asking me to call to discuss the issue. WTF is there to discuss? Just delete my damned account already. I emailed them back telling them that I am NOT going to waste time and money on the phone with them, knowing it would get me nowhere. Either they delete my account or they don’t, nothing to talk about with a phone rep in India who can barely speak English. I went back to the FCC site, looked up my complaint, and posted an update saying they wanted to talk bullshit to me on the phone over the matter. I told the FCC that there was nothing to discuss, I just wanted them to delete my account completely.

Surprisingly enough, when I tried to log into that VM account a few days later, it wouldn’t let me. I guess the FCC got on them to delete it. Now I just need to run the serial number or whatever on the old iPhone to make sure it’s clean, and then I can place it for sale.

Even if I can’t sell either of our VM phones (Mike’s is already listed HERE), we will still be saving enough money with Ting to soon recoup the cost of having to buy new phones. Our first month’s Ting bill, for BOTH phones (they let you have as many as you want on one account) was $31.45. That is a saving of $48.55 just for the first month! So far, we’ve been very happy with them!