Virgin Mobile has been jockeying their pre-paid, no contract personal hotspot service fees for a few months now in an effort to gain market share. The Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 varies in retail price from a low of $88 to a high of about $199, and frankly are a bit hard to find as most of the retailers, including the Virgin Mobile USA website themselves are out of stock more often than not.
I purchased a Virgin MiFi about four months ago for affordable, on-the-go Internet access, and paid $149 for the unit from Best Buy. At that time there were about four different plans, the lowest being 10MB for $10, which is good for ten days, and a high water mark of 2GB of data transfer for $40 good for 30 days. Recently Virgin changed their plans and customers were limited to two choices which are 100MB plan and an unlimited option for $40 for 30 days. This seemed to be pigeon holing customers into the outer reaches of the spectrum, but I typically opted for the higher plan so it was a welcome change.
Well, as of Nov. 19, 2010, Virgin Mobile is yet again changing their pricing structure, for some of its customers anyway. Get a load of this, customers that bought their Virgin MiFi or will buy their Virgin MiFi at Walmart will have an additional plan to choose from, a $20 for 1GB good for 30 days option. Now before you get to excited remember it’s only for customers who bought, or will buy, the unit from Walmart, all other customers will not have access to this pricing option.
This maddened me to say the least as when I bought my MiFi I would have preferred to purchase from Walmart, but as mentioned before never had any stock either online or in a physical store. Really though, that is beside the point, why should there be different pricing plans depending on where you bought the MiFi unit? There are not different calling plans from cellular providers depending on where you purchase you phone.
As a loyal customer I am disappointed and confused, so I sent out a tweet to my followers to see if I was misunderstanding the new pricing program. To my surprise I received a twitter response from Maria (@VMUcare) whom is a care rep for Virgin Mobile, instead of explaining I will put the twitter conversation below:
Virgin Mobile USA (@virginmobileus):
Starting today, Broadband2Go customers who purchase/have purchased the device from Walmart can pick a $20/1GB plan for their device.
@virginmobileus how about customers that have had devices for a while who bought them before walmart had them in stock?
@nerfsqueezer Hi there! If the device was not purchased at walmart, you would not qualify for the promotion. Sorry!
@VMUcare thats a shame I guess I will go with some other company and ditch Virgin as it is discriminating against its loyal customer base
@nerfsqueezer We are very sorry about that, but unfortunately this promotion is only available for devices purchased at Walmart.
@VMUcare that’s too bad because WalMart never has stock
@nerfsqueezer Have you tried going to Walmart.com? The devices are available online for purchase.
@VMUcare last night they were out of stock but I already have a device so why should i need to buy a new one? So, that’s where the conversation ends as of the writing of this piece. Needless to say as a loyal Virgin Mobile customer I find it highly offensive that a company run by such a dynamic, customer oriented executive such as Richard Branson would discriminate against the customers it has work so hard and spent so much money acquiring. Honestly, the $40 unlimited plan is one of the best values out there, that I have access too considering I did not buy my MiFi at Walmart, yet I am seriously considering taking my business elsewhere even if it means paying a higher monthly cost for similar service.
I just don’t understand how this decision could have been made and none of these, supposedly, ultra-smart people thought existing customers who did not happen to buy their device at Walmart would be okay with this lack of plan availability. It’s either simple stupidity, or a blatant disregard for their current customers and what results to a big slap in the face.
So readers, am I over reacting or would you be as upset as I am on this issue? Would you switch providers considering the service is pre-paid and contract free or do nothing and stay with Virgin? Oh, how I anticipate your responses to this issue.