is there a way to get a better deal (I am now paying a lot and the service could be better especially in the evenings) without doing the whole comedy of threatening to cancel and then getting the retention offer?
You shouldn't have to threaten to leave and those that think they do usually just get a polite response along the lines of "OK, I've put your cancellation request through."
There is a limited about the Customer Relations team can do. I.E. put you onto a current price deal and offer a loyalty discount. And n some cases they can throw a little gift like a Netflix voucher (depending on if you go for a triple play bundle.) They won't be able to offer you new customer prices unfortunately.
______ Any opinions expressed by myself are entirely my own and do not represent Virgin Media in any way.