My first complaint letter

Richard Branson in the Student magazine office
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Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 4 February 2016

Many of you will remember the time we received what is widely thought of as the world’s best complaint letter. Some of you will also recall when I shared a complaint letter to Caribbean airline LIAT, which was just as brilliant in my view. Now, I’ve been digging through the archive and found a new rival to those famous complaint letters.

In 1968 I was trying to get Student Magazine off the ground - or should I say above ground, as we moved premises across London from a scruffy basement in Connaught Square, to a flat in Albion Street. 

A young Richard Branson on the phone with a woman in front of him holding a mug
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The stream of visitors coming and going was constant, with contributors, interviewees, friends, relations and random strangers popping in and out of the house. It was manic, exciting, and one big adventure. To the uninitiated it could have looked like a 24/7 party – but we were also managing to publish a national magazine every quarter.

We were a bunch of kids with aspirations of changing the world, and I’m sure we made a fair bit of noise in the process. That was certainly the view of a neighbour. On August 16th 1968 they wrote a delightfully polite yet passive aggressive letter to my mum, who was renting the flat:

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"Dear Mrs Branson,

I really must complain about the noise in the house caused mainly through the lack of carpet on the stairs and the printing or money press that you have working all hours of the night.

The main problem of course, is that my little girl is continually woken by the thoughtless banging of people in the house and I think this very unfair and I am appealing to you to either ask the kids to wear slippers or many some other arrangements.

Incidentally, it’s no concern of mine, but your front door is ever open, day and night."

I can only apologise for the noise affecting their family, and fully understood the complaint. I’m afraid we tended to go barefoot rather than wearing slippers in those days. The machine was indeed a printing press (we had no money to use a money press!) As for the entrance? Well, our doors have always been open.

These days most of our feedback comes in through social media, and it’s always great to hear any views from our customers. Do get in touch via social, and if you have a question then tag it #askrichard – I’ll answer as many as I can.