Canceling A Virgin Mobile Account is Extremely Difficult

Pre-paid cell phones sound like a good way to stay contract-free in the harsh world of cell phone use, but can a pre-paid account be just as frustrating as a regular phone? Apparently. Reader Sarah writes to share the email she sent to Virgin Mobile. All Sarah wants to do is cancel her account so she can give her phone to someone else. That’s it. Easy right?:

Did I want to Top Up? Did I want to Upgrade My Account? Did I want to Buy An Amazing New Phone? No, no, no. I wanted to get rid of my old and mediocre phone and wash my hands of my old account. JUST LET ME OUT! my mind (and occasionally my mouth) screamed. I WANT THE NO HASSLE NO CONTRACT PART. By that point I would’ve rather paid a cancellation fee. Any supposed benefits to “no commitment” phones were mercilessly mocking me.

I waded through a number of menus and somehow ended up on hold for a very long time. My mother frolicked with the Nintendo Wii in our family room. I stayed on hold. She bowled a strike. I stayed on hold. She hit a home run. I stayed on hold. Generations passed before my eyes, and I was on hold. Life went on around me. Children graduated from high school. And I was on hold.

No commitment, no hassle? Right.

Eventually I got through to a human being. I told him I would like to cancel my account. He asked me why. I wanted to scream that it was because my mother was playing with the Wii and I was aging and I liked my new phone and I hate it when people spell “you” with only a U and WHERE ARE THE NO COMMITMENT PARTS but I just said I found a better deal somewhere else.

Poor Sarah. Read the rest of her email to Virgin inside.

Sarah writes:

A friend mentioned informing all of you about this, so I am doing that. This is a copy of an email I sent to Virgin Mobile a week ago. I decided to just have fun with it, because I am realizing that getting them to do anything or respond in any way is like… doing something very impossible that I lack the proper metaphor to describe.

Email:

I am extremely frustrated with the lack of service I have received. A few weeks ago, I decided to switch cell phone providers, because it was far too expensive to stick with Virgin Mobile prepaid. I got a much better deal elsewhere, and so I got a new cell phone plan. I have a relative who is still with Virgin Mobile and I told her I would give her my old phone as soon as I got my new one. She was quite excited and looked forward to receiving it. I looked forward to giving it to her. All seemed right. After all, the entire purpose of prepaid was the lack of contract. No contract! No commitment! What could be better?

Many, many things, apparently. After repeatedly searching the website, I could find no information on how to cancel my account with Virgin Mobile. I understand that this is not something that any company wants to encourage people to do, but making it completely impossible to find the information is not exactly the best course of action. It does not make me want to stay with your company, and even if I had been considering staying in the slightest, the idea would have been completely banished from my mind upon finding out that the information wasn’t readily available. Such a move seems irresponsible at best, and at worst, childish. I decided to leave it alone: it was prepaid, after all. No contracts! I figured I would just spend the remaining dollar-something in my account and switch the phone over to her.

I tried spending all my money; I couldn’t. I had too little to spend and too much to fully expire. For a no-contract no-hassle no-commitment phone plan, I was starting to feel very tied down by that last 16 cents. I delayed the horror of trying to deal with customer service for as long as I could but it was inevitable. If I wanted to switch the phone to her account, I was clearly going to have to do something more drastic. So I called the dreaded number.

After listening to a number of unnecessarily jovial options (all of them very pro-Virgin Mobile. Like I said, I understand that a company wants business, but it was ridiculous). Did I want to Top Up? Did I want to Upgrade My Account? Did I want to Buy An Amazing New Phone? No, no, no. I wanted to get rid of my old and mediocre phone and wash my hands of my old account. JUST LET ME OUT! my mind (and occasionally my mouth) screamed. I WANT THE NO HASSLE NO CONTRACT PART. By that point I would’ve rather paid a cancellation fee. Any supposed benefits to “no commitment” phones were mercilessly mocking me.

I waded through a number of menus and somehow ended up on hold for a very long time. My mother frolicked with the Nintendo Wii in our family room. I stayed on hold. She bowled a strike. I stayed on hold. She hit a home run. I stayed on hold. Generations passed before my eyes, and I was on hold. Life went on around me. Children graduated from high school. And I was on hold.

No commitment, no hassle? Right.

Eventually I got through to a human being. I told him I would like to cancel my account. He asked me why. I wanted to scream that it was because my mother was playing with the Wii and I was aging and I liked my new phone and I hate it when people spell “you” with only a U and WHERE ARE THE NO COMMITMENT PARTS but I just said I found a better deal somewhere else. He was sorry to hear that. I wasn’t. Eventually he said he would cancel my account. I went on hold for a while longer. I came back. I was told something about 60 days and 90 days and I don’t know what it was. I don’t want 60 days, I don’t want 90 days, I don’t want 60 seconds. I want my account cancelled. Done. I am through. If I had ever even wanted to consider coming back, that moment is now going. It is over. I want out. We are done. This relationship is no longer working.

I asked him about transferring my phone. He said it would be no problem.

It has been a week and it is still a problem. I am not sure what part of CANCEL MY ACCOUNT is hard to understand, but here it is again: CANCEL MY ACCOUNT. I AM DONE WITH VIRGIN MOBILE. DONE. END IT. DELETE MY INFORMATION. LET ME SWITCH THE PHONE AND BE DONE WITH THIS. There is no reason to perpetuate the insanity any longer.

My phone serial number is ****. Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, switch that phone over to ****. It is not stolen. It is not missing. It is not a mistake. The phone is just waiting to be used by someone who will enjoy it. I am not going to wait sixty or ninety days to switch my phone to her account. I am done with it RIGHT NOW. I was done with it a week ago.

***

They have not replied in any way, not even a form letter. The phone still can’t be switched.

So much for no hassle phones. We’re starting to think two tin cans and a string is our only option. —MEGHANN MARCO

Comments

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  1. VA_White says:

    Great. I just bought my 9 year old a Virgin mobile phone two days ago.

    I don’t understand why companies make it so effing difficult to cancel. Sometimes you just NEED to. The only one that was easy for me was Earthlink because I admitted, pointblank, that the only reason I’d ever signed up in the first place was to get the six credits on Southwest for less than the cost of one Ding! fare to Vegas. It was a pudding-cup offer and I took full advantage while I could. The Earthlink guy sighed and agreed to cancel my account immediately and he did, with no further hassle.

  2. yetiwisdom says:

    I suggest using one a’those handy disposable credit card numbers that many CC companies are offering online now. At least with Citi & Discover, you can generate a 1-use number then shut it down later. Go to Virgin’s website, “update” your account with the soon-to-be-dead disposable credit card number (and if possible delete your actual card number), then either shut the card number down or (depending on how your provider works), make a charge on the card elsewhere, rendering the card dead.

    Yes, it’s a kluge, but it’s also a great way to make sure that you won’t be billed after trying the normal cancellation channels. Nothing says “cancel” like a charge being rejected….

  3. adamondi says:

    As a side note, the email that Sarah wrote to Virgin Mobile, and also sent in to the Consumerist, is very entertaining and excellently written. I like the visuals of her mother playing various games on the Wii and life going on around her while she has to just sit on hold. It reminds me of movies where one person is in focus and in slow motion while everyone and everything around that person is speeding by in super fast motion.

  4. Starfury says:

    I used to have Virgin Mobile and the cost of the calls I made per month was the same as having a standard 300 minute Sprint plan that included free nights/weekends. When I called to cancel their stupid voice prompt system kept going in circles for 10 minutes before it finally went to a person. Turns out I had a few dollars left on the phone but I told them to cancel anyway. Took forever before the phone quit working. Virgin mobile sucks.

  5. dazzla says:

    I have a Virgin Mobile phone and I spend about $20 every 2 months as I don’t make many calls. Works great for me.

    But what is there to cancel? There is no contract. Just stop using the phone.

  6. TechnoDestructo says:

    @VA_White:

    I had the same issue with my car insurance, my cell phone, and cable modem when I was MOVING OVERSEAS. The car insurance people actually had to be told more than twice.

  7. Disgruntled CC Employee says:

    One of the best investments I have made is a speaker phone. That way, I can play on the computer while I am put on eternal hold.

  8. Theora says:

    @dazzla:

    I think the issue is that she’s unable to transfer the phone unless she moves her remaining sixteen cents to another phone, or wait until the balance expires.

    Which reminds me, would she even be able to transfer it after the ninety days, or would she have to wait the (however long it is, I can’t remember) after the initial expiration of the balance that they give you to put more money on the phone before they entirely cancel the account (lose the phone number, not able to restore previous balance, etc.)?

    I use Virgin Mobile, and I hope I never have to cancel (I hate cell phones, so keeping just a prepaid one for emergencies works well for me) – it sounds like a nightmare!

  9. rg says:

    the funny thing about all this is that “dazzla” is right. There IS nothing to cancel. Just stop using it! As far as letting someone else use the cheap phone, is it really worth all this hassle?! Just have them go plop down the measly pittance for a new one at Target and get on with it.

  10. humphrmi says:

    >By that point I would’ve rather paid a
    >cancellation fee.

    So you’d rather pay a, say, $150 ETF than have your chinsey friend go buy a prepaid phone for $50 at 7-11.

    I don’t get it.

  11. spanky says:

    So just throw away a perfectly functional, usable phone because it’s easier than transferring it?

    That’s really kind of, um, evil.

    Anyways, I have been happy with Virgin Mobile because it is ideal for my unusually low usage (nothing against cell phones, I just hate talking on phones, period). This makes me nervous, though.

  12. vfxguy says:

    I have a Virgin US cell phone. You can get a new one right now for free on the Virgin Mobile website if you buy $20 minutes worth of airtime. Give that one to your relative.

    Take the other phone you have and drop it off at Staples or some place where they recycle phones. I understand you wanting to cancel but frankly your time is worth more than that.

    At least you are not staring at a $175 dollar fee to get out of Verizon or one of the other carriers.

    Good luck to you. I feel your phone tree pain.

  13. TPK says:

    Sounds like you should take the relative with you to the new service, not help them stay stuck with the old…

  14. velocipenguin says:

    Like Starfury, I was a reasonably happy Virgin Mobile customer until the death of my phone gave me a reason to switch to a 300-minute Sprint plan. I had absolutely no trouble getting rid of my account – all I had to do was ask Sprint to port my old number and my Virgin Mobile account was gone. I’d recommend trying that.

  15. Citron says:

    @dazzla: That’s what I did. I just stuck my phone in a sock drawer and forgot about it. I loved my Virgin Mobile phone, since I hate talking on phones so much.

  16. superbmtsub says:

    I used to have a Virgin Mobile account. After I got a new plan under T-Mobile, my brother took over my account. All I had to do was call the CSR line and tell them that I was transfering my phone to another person. They changed the name and the creditcard info and the address and next thing you know, it’s DONE!

    After my brother got a T-Mobile account, I made one big mistake. Canceling my Virgin Mobile account. The CSR dude was like “why do you want to cancel?” and stuff but later he was able to spell out that it would cost Virgin money to cancel accounts over inactive ones. If we didnt use em, there was NO CHARGE! But my mind was made up. I still regret that decision.

    GO VIRGIN!

  17. Lewisham says:

    This sounds like a rant more than anything else.

    So they have a crappy switchboard system: welcome to the 21st century. It’s not like the CSR sounded mean or intentionally deceptive, it sounds like he was trying to help.

    This missive doesn’t even explain why it hasn’t been transferred yet.

    I’d suggest trying Sprint or Verizon’s service before you go off the end at this one.

  18. glitterpig says:

    Odd. My husband and I did a weird phone # switch thing with our Virgin phones that was way more complicated than this and took all of 10 minutes. (It involved three phones and two numbers, for starters.) We’ve used their service for years and never had a problem with their CS – even replacing a phone that was broken when I bought it wasn’t too much hassle.

    When you get to the voice menu, just say “live advisor” immediately. (Maybe immediately after “English”) I just checked – they buried it in the options, but it still works from anywhere in the tree.

  19. jdthorpe says:

    Its prepaid…why wouldn’t you just let the minutes expire?

  20. prjayne says:

    This is Jayne Wallace from Virgin Mobile USA. Hi. No company likes to hear about unhappy customers or customers treated badly. We are all customers and consumers of products and services ourselves. Virgin Mobile really does pride itself on hyper-serving our customers — who give us a 94% customer satisfaction rate — and Virgin Mobile has also been recognized by J.D. Power and PC Magazine for excellent service. Even so, in serving more than 4.6 million customers, we recognize such situations occur and we sincerely regret the situation that Sarah experienced.

    In the few instances where Customer Care does not handle an incidence satisfactorily, customers contact our corporate offices and we are able to resolve such situations right away. I know that Sarah has emailed us already, but I have asked Consumerist to have Sarah contact me directly. Then we should be able to get to the bottom of this, and get the account closed. Thanks.

  21. flamaest says:

    This is pretty lame, ever heard of gethuman.com?

    Once you get a human like I did, you just tell them to disable the account and forfeit the balance, so you might lose a few bucks, big deal.

    Then just put the phone on ebay and move to another carrier. Not that hard.

    F.

  22. queenFrostine278 says:

    Though the Virgin pay-as-you-go service has suited my needs in the past couple of years, I have had two terrible encounters with customer service. The first time, I bought a prepaid phone card from target. I didn’t load it onto my phone immediately, and a couple monthes later when I did, it had expired. I called a total of 23 times, half of those times contacting Corporate directly. (and by the way, after a couple times they blocked my home phone number so i couldnt call) Rude cannot even begin to describe how I was treated by the shuffle of people I spoke to. I didn’t stray from calm, cool, speech until I was treated so very poorly, and each call would end in pure yelling. I had incidents when they would just hang up on me (times when i hadnt raised my voice…yet) And after all my wasted time, I didn’t get my 100 dollars to the account. Another incident involved pure stupidity. All I wanted to do was reset my six digit pin. Nobody could figure out how to do it. I spoke to 6 different people, each one telling me to do something different (but, of course, none of their instruction working) The last person I spoke to was startlingly rude. Stay away from Virgin.

  23. bobsdiner says:

    @VA_White: @VA_White: i called customer service at 1-888-322-1122 and when you get to the option to ask a question, do that, and then say “live advisor” and you will get some options but eventually be connected to a person.

  24. bernvancouver says:

    October 11, 2008
    I got a virgin phone, as a gift a few years ago, in Vancouver BC when it first was marketed in our city. There was a big ad campaign with sexy nurses saying no hassle, no catch, no contract. I needed a phone for my high school son who was travelling acrross the city for work experience. At first then top up was $10 minimum and it lasted 90 days, then it was shortened to 45 days and a minium of $15. There has been so many changes and additions of contracts, plans etc that it has become a major hassle.

    When my account reached nearly a hundred dollars of credit and my amount was to expire I had to fight to get it extended, they did that three times but no more and I am again loosing money. I am trying to cancel my account with difficulty and they won’t give me my money back.

    Even my grocery store and national gas station has cell phone plans that have NO expiry for minutes unused. When the world economy is in the dumps how can a company like virgin keep abusing people?

    I will never use Virgin again and I am surely telling people it is the worst cell phone company out there. Their advertising of no hassle no catch no contract was a total outright lie. DON’T trust virgin

  25. jeffpuster says:

    I agree that canceling a Virgin Mobile account should be as simple as “stop using the service” or “let the minutes expire”. Nope, not that simple. I went to ‘My account’ and “Edit Payment Method” to make sure I was not charged on a monthly basis (a default setting). I changed my setting to ensure that I was charged only when I initiated the charge. Then I realized that I can “delete” the credit card information and hopefully not incur any further charges as my account ‘closes out’. However I just learned that I was charged $6 for EACH time I went on to “My account” and changed information (I entered that section 6 times). I completely disagree with earlier postings that state “It’s not like the CSR sounded mean or intentionally deceptive”. Beware that you need to be completely vigilant in your use of this service and ensure that you know all aspects of their terms before entering into an agreement. I have one thing to say to Ms. Jayne… “We are all customers and consumers of products and services ourselves…” Do not patronize us with statements of customer satisfaction which no longer mean a pile of sh*t. Your company buries such information (canceling a service) in jargon which is deceptive and dishonest. You, Ms. Jayne, should be ashamed to defend your company for doing the ‘right thing’. Yes, many folks have taken the road as “lewisham” has stated “sounds like a rant more than anything else”. Seriously!? Are customers/consumers expected to be the ones to take the ‘high road’…are customers expected to ensure that all possible ‘exceptions’ are accounted for??? Screw you, for those who insist the customer is responsible for accountability of a service agreement…It’s exactly this type of mentality which has delivered us to our present situation.
    Jayne Wallace, you need to truly portray yourself as a consumer, and make every effort to simplify the process of canceling your service. If your service was truly exceptional, what do you have to hide?
    I, will not continue to use your service for your charge of $1 each time I altered my “account settings”

  26. laugust says:

    I just went through an absolutely horrendous experience with Virgin Mobile.

    I was a customer for about 5 years. I chose Virgin Mobile because they offered a cheap plan and I didn’t use my cell phone very often. As a low-income, legally blind person, I recently received a free phone and minutes thanks to a government program. Not needing my Virgin Mobile phone any longer, I planned to call them to cancel my account. Since I was looking to cancel my account and get a refund of my balance, I did a web search before calling them. In dong so, I found the article above. This prompted me to check VM’s terms of service. I combed through the legal jargon and found that there were a number of instances where they would charge a termination fee equal to the current account balance. However, in all cases, it was for things like lost/stolen equipment, termination of the account due to failure to maintain a specified balance or credit card charge backs. None of these applied to me. In fact, my account has been in good standing for the entire time I was a VM customer.

    Having just read through the terms of service, I called VM to cancel my account and request a refund of my balance – about $168. I was told the TOS did not allow for this. When I explained I was looking at the TOS on the VM web site and that nothing like that was in there, I was told it was. I asked for a supervisor and waited on hold for 20 minutes. When I finally got to talk with the supervisor, I was told the same thing – refunds were not possible. When I pushed the issue, saying that there was no mention of this in the TOS, the supervisor said there was, but was unable to find it. He then pointed the the situations I noted previously. When I told him they did not apply, he hung up on me! In subsequent calls back to VM, I was told that I could be reimbursed for the last 2 or 3 “top up” payments and that I could use my remaining balance to purchase phones and accessories. While on the same call, I was also told by other VM customer service reps that doing either of these was not possible. Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right is doing! Actually, I think they do this deliberately to keep customers in the dark and frustrate them into giving up.

    Anyway, to make an already long story short – in the course of over 2 hours of calls to VM customer service, I was blatantly lied to on multiple occasions, hung up on twice, transferred to the wrong person or department 4 times, put on hold for over an hour and basically treated like crap.

    I will NEVER, EVER use Virgin Mobile again and i urge anyone reading this to avoid them like the plague.