Even after my first Freedom of Information request (see Freedom of Information Request for East Coast Rewards) that proved that East Coast Rewards was both popular and profitable we're still hearing from Virgin Trains East Coast that most customers prefer Nectar and MD David Horne even recently said to a customer "It would be fair to say that the majority of our customers are in favour of the changes that we are making" when asked about the switch to Nectar. As you're probably aware Nectar is a bad deal for East Coast travellers and that even includes those that also use Nectar extensively elsewhere.
Back when we started this campaign in January one of my first articles was "Topping up your East Coast Rewards balance" it showed how you could add to your East Coast Rewards balance by buying gift e-vouchers before 1st March which you could then redeem for tickets anytime in the future. The idea also got a boost when popular frequent traveller website Head for Points reported on it in February. To see how popular this idea proved to be we decided to do a final Freedom of Information request just before the franchise handover at the end of February.
The results were surprising. The amount of gift e-vouchers purchased in February happened to be more than double the previous highest month (December, presumably for Christmas), the previous month, January was also higher than average for spending (the article was published on 25th January). This showed that enough people valued East Coast Rewards to cause a significant increase in voucher spending. There was no other reason to account for the spike in sales and I can't imagine a similar thing happening if they decide to scrap the Nectar scheme.
How to help
At Save East Coast Rewards we don't give up, Virgin Trains East Coast still have the systems in place to operate East Coast Rewards (that's why existing members can still spend their points) so reinstating Rewards is not technically a difficult task (although if they're contracted to offer Nectar points they could make East Coast Rewards an option alongside Nectar like they have done with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club).
Virgin likes to claim they're different and that they listen to their customers and Virgin Trains East Coast is no exception to that. Reality appears to be different with complaints about the rewards scheme regularly getting ignored. It's still worth making your voice heard though, the louder our collective voice gets the harder it will be to ignore.
Here's some things you can do to help:
- Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook
- Write to Virgin Trains East Coast either by post or email
- If you're not happy with the response from Virgin Trains East Coast (or you don't get any), escalate to Passenger Focus
- Respond to any posts on the Virgin Trains East Coast Twitter feed or Facebook page that mention Nectar (but be polite)
- Spread the word to all friends and family that also use East Coast. Here's a useful page to show anyone with doubts