#Virgin Trains may wish to more careful about who they put in charge of their social media after today's #Twitter faux pas. Earlier this morning, a young female passenger tweeted her displeasure at the customer service on her train:

Thanks to the immediacy (and very public platform) of social media, Emily Lucinda Cole received a response in just a few minutes. The perfect opportunity for the company to make a swift apology, right any perceived wrong and maintain the goodwill of the customer and the public at large.


Unfortunately, in what can only be seen as a colossal miscalculation of the mood, the response was this:

Showing an astonishing disregard for the feelings of their customer, Virgin deemed the best route in this instance to be casual mockery, dismissing Emily Lucinda Cole's entirely justifiable concerns over casual sexism with more of the same.

An offhand term of endearment from a train manager in person is understandable to most people, but the calculated ridicule of a young woman seeking respect from one of the UK's dominant businesses is completely unjustifiable.

Public Outcry

While Virgin Trains EC's ungainly response received a handful of likes, presumably marking the approval of a portion of the public for their brusque response, many were quick to rush to the defence of Emily Lucinda Cole.

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This user highlighted the sexism demonstrated in the reply:

Others commented on the remarkable speed with which 2018 was tainted by #everyday sexism:

One savvy user even correctly anticipated Virgin Trains EC deleting the tweet, adding:

Marketing with Humour

If I were inclined to rush to the defence of Virgin Trains EC, I would say that humour has become a popular method of deflecting criticism. #James Blunt does this with admirable panache on his own Twitter account:

Indeed, entire brands have been built up on their ability to have a giggle.

Take Innocent, for example:

The clear (and key) difference between the marketing humour of James Blunt and Innocent and of the mistake of Virgin Trains EC, is that, while these brands are having a good laugh at themselves, the latter appeared to be mocking their customer. Although bad enough on its own, the fact that it specifically followed a complaint into their treatment of female customers makes the slip up frankly absurd.

At the start of a year following #MeToo, it's surprising that anyone could have misread the tone this badly.

An Overdue Apology

Following a tide of public condemnation on Twitter, Virgin Trains EC released this statement:

Suitably contrite given the offence caused, it's a shame this couldn't have been their response the first time.