Virgin Atlantic Shops Away – Is It A Scam or Just Bad Customer Service?

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Virgin Atlantic scam

Virgin Atlantic Shops Away – Poor Customer Service Or A Scam?

Virgin Atlantic Shops Away ran a promotion a few months ago that you could earn up to 18,112 miles (strange number) if you became an AirBnb host for the first time and hosted a guest. I thought this was a cool promotion. Though we stay at AirBnb semi-frequently, we’d never hosted anyone, and it was worth doing for the points. This has turned into the biggest nightmare of horrendous customer service and flat-out refusal to interact with me about my missing points. I can’t decide if it’s Virgin Atlantic Shops Away poor customer service or a scam at this point. You be the judge.

Virgin Atlantic AirBnb promotion

In mid-May, a promotion on Virgin Atlantic’s site appeared: become an AirBnb host and earn points. The terms were simple: link your accounts, host someone, get points. About 2 weeks later, we hosted someone for 2 nights and thought the points would come soon. The promotion was here but has since been removed.  I have attached a screen shot I took of the offer, though.

Virgin Atlantic Shops Away

Missing Points & Contacting Customer Service

3 weeks after hosting our guest on AirBnb, I hadn’t received any points, so I reached out to Virgin Atlantic on Twitter. They replied quickly but were entirely clueless that this promotion existed. They told me to contact the Shops Away team directly by phone, which I did. That agent was also clueless the promotion existed, telling me there was no such thing. I had to email him a link to the page. I was told to wait a few hours for a phone call after he talked to someone. A day later, I called in again and had to re-explain everything.

This next agent wrote down the information and said they’d get back to me. Within 24 hours, the link was removed, then they called to tell me there was no such promotion. Good thing I had a screen shot, because it was obvious at this point Virgin Atlantic Shops Away was up to something funny. They had just called to tell me I’d invented the promotion.

I reached out on Twitter again, but they’re not empowered to help with anything related to Shops Away, plus they kept swearing they weren’t receiving any emails I sent. I became annoyed, especially with how patronizing their messages were (“thanks for your outstanding patience” – never send an annoyed customer this email).

Virgin Atlantic Shops Away specialist makes everything worse

I originally contacted Virgin Atlantic on June 26 via Twitter, and they directed me to fill out a missing points request over a week later, after all of this previous confusion. A full 3 weeks later, I received an automated email saying they were still looking into it. I wrote back immediately saying this is insufficient and asked if they were sending messages in a bottle. Agent Clara was assigned to my case, and I have never met someone less familiar with the idea of customer service. Clara took an average of 7 days to reply to any of my emails in our multiple exchanges. I also found her emails patronizing, which frustrated me even more.

They asked me to provide my AirBnb account information, booking confirmation code of our guest, receipts, my Virgin Atlantic account information, etc. Clara’s response was to tell me to wait 90-120 days for an investigation and then a response, hinting to not bother her until 120 days had passed. I pointed out that this is 2019 and shouldn’t require 4 months to ask AirBnb if this transaction actually happened.

Virgin Atlantic

No Longer Hosting Becomes a Problem

During this time, we didn’t host anyone else on AirBnb. In our home, it’s just not convenient, both because of the layout and size but also because we have to wake up super early in the mornings for our schedule. We just aren’t good candidates for hosting. A full 2 months after my original contact to Virgin Atlantic, I reached out again. I called, emailed, and messaged them on Twitter to say I’m not satisfied with Clara’s handling of my inquiry. I asked for someone else to handled my case. Within 24 hours, I had an email from Clara saying she thinks I want to just drop my points inquiry, since I’m unhappy.

This is when I really started to believe that Virgin Atlantic Shops Away is running a scam and refusing to give me points for this promotion. They’ve not only removed it and denied it ever existed, they’ve mentioned canceling my inquiry several times. All signs point to them not wanting to cough up points for the promotion. I replied that I still want the points and wouldn’t close the inquiry.

On August 21, I received a response saying that since I’m no longer hosting on AirBnb, they believe I didn’t actually host anyone. They implied this was a fake claim, ergo no points. Despite receipts, an active profile (I didn’t delete my profile, just closed the bookings calendar), and other forms of proof, Virgin Atlantic and its Shops Away team are now giving me radio silence. They will no longer reply to my emails or inquiries.

Virgin Atlantic Customer Service Lacks Oversight of Shops Away

On September 5, I received the following email from Virgin Atlantic customer service:

I’m so sorry for the extended investigation by our partner’s Shops Away. I can completely appreciate being told you’ll need to wait up to 120 days would be inconvenient. I too would feel frustrated, especially as you have already sent in your receipts and proof of the offer.

While there is little I can do to speed up this process, in the meantime, as an apology for your disappointment, I’ve credited your Flying Club account with 5,000 bonus miles. I hope this goes by a way of making amends for the time you have had to wait for Shops Away.

This came after my several calls, Tweets & emails saying I’m unhappy with Shops Away and their handling of this situation. Virgin Atlantic has clearly outsourced this customer service aspect for Shops Away, and they have no control over what’s happening here. While I’m glad someone answered my email, it doesn’t fix anything. 5,000 points doesn’t do much, and the real issue isn’t being addressed.

Final Thoughts and Seeking Data Points

At this point, I can’t get any updates that matter. Shops Away agents are third-party employees and not actual Virgin Atlantic employees. It seems like Virgin Atlantic has absolutely no supervision or control over them. These employees also take the “make the customer go away, give nothing” approach to customer interaction. There’s no customer service happening. I was hoping for some Virgin Atlantic points that are quite valuable, but this has been agonizing and surprisingly bad.

Have you participated in this promotion or other promotions with Virgin Atlantic Shops Away? Did you get your points? Did you have to contact their customer service? How did it go? I would love to talk to literally anyone other than the agent I received. The Twitter and phone people seem decent enough, but they’re not empowered to help my situation. The Virgin Atlantic Shops Away team is either horrifically bad at dealing with customers or running a scam. Training or firing can fix the first. I’m not sure how to fix the latter. If you have data or experience to share, I’d love to hear it.

It’s been more than 2 months since I originally contacted Virgin Atlantic. No issue for missing points should take this long in 2019. Multiple times over these 2 months, I’ve told Virgin Atlantic customer service that I think Shops Away is giving me the brush off. Virgin’s customer service swears this isn’t happening. Is it bad customer service at Shops Away, or this is a scam? I’m thinking the latter at this point.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Have you considered talking to a lawyer about arbitration? Alexander Bachuwa helped me out big time when I was shorted points that I was promised. Just a thought.

      • He’s a Boarding Area blogger. He runs The Points Of Life blog. As a lawyer, he specializes in arbitration. I made some comment on his blog once about getting hosed by Amex. It was not instant, but he took it from there. While I didn’t get my promised points, the money I got was worth more than the points. Alex was awesome, and I don’t toss out praise lightly. You can contact him at alex@bachuwalaw.com. If you have any other questions on this front, please feel free. It’s nice to potentially help someone else out for once.

  2. I’ve had points fail to post on AA Dining and their shopping portal. The dining program was very fast and fixed it within an hour of emailing the receipt. The shopping portal took about a week. The AA FTD Flowers bonus once took a while to post. I chatted with them and let them know I had more flowers to buy but didn’t feel comfortable using them because of the points delay. That worked. I’m still waiting for my Back To School
    bonus points. But all and all I like using the AA shopping portal. They have Raise as a vendor so I can get extra points for some monthly spends like Jiffy Lube, Netflix, Spotify, etc. I got 12X from Penney’s for some new shoes. Backcountry had a big point bonus we used to get some Yeti water bottles. Sorry for rambling. I could talk about points for hours.

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