Virgin Trains respond to that sexist tweet

Posted by
Sonya Barber

Someone in the Virgin Trains social media team is getting in serious trouble.

When someone makes a complaint about sexist behaviour, the response from a company would usually be to profusely apologise and promise to look into the matter. 

However, Virgin Trains East Coast initially took quite a different approach when a passenger complained about being rudely called “honey” during a recent journey. Emily Lucinda Cole was travelling back to London on a busy Virgin train after spending New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh.

She explained to the BBC: “They were telling passengers at the front desk and on the platform that they can sit in the basically empty first class coach and pay the weekend upgrade.”

“It was only after the train set off that they told us they’d all made a mistake and we had to move to try and find seats with all our luggage in the packed train.

“The first person to check my ticket was very abrasive. His response to my explaining the situation, politely and honestly, and that I wanted to complain, was ‘you go ahead honey,” she said.

“In the context and given his aggressive tone I can only assume he didn’t like being challenged by a woman.

“I wouldn’t have complained if he’d used the term in a familial or affectionate way. It definitely wasn’t that.”

Cole was incensed to tweet at Virgin Trains East Coast but their reply just compounded matters and left her rightly “stunned”.

Within minutes of her original tweet, someone called ‘MS’ in the Virgin Trains social media team mocked her complaint, responding with: “Sorry for the mess up Emily. Would you prefer “pet” or “love” next time?”

“Their response was patronising and belittling,” she said. “Just the behaviour I was complaining about.

However, people had already taken to Twitter to express their outrage. Green Party MP Jenny Jones said that it was “Unbelievable that a railway worker is so out of touch. This was unprofessional as well as plain rude.” She also called for them to promise it doesn’t happen again.

Others called it ‘rude and snarky’ and pushed back on claims that it was just harmless ‘banter’.

Journalist Claire Phipps summed it up brilliantly saying: “There’s quirky social media customer service and then there’s condescending #everydaysexism customer service…”. 

Transport for London say that 90% of unwanted sexual behaviour on London Transport goes unreported. If you experience anything that makes you uncomfortable you can text what, where and when to 61016 or call 101 as part of the Report It To Stop It campaign.

Image: Fabbrizio Verrecchia