Michael on August 12th, 2009
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I don’t want you to wait any longer to negotiate your cable bill.

Personally, I waited too long to try to lower my cable bill.  I try my best to follow my own advice.  But, as a long-time reader named Jeff recently pointed out, I, like nearly everyone, can lose the forest for the trees when dealing with my own financial issues.  Heck, it’s one reason why financial planners should review their own major financial decisions with another competent planner.

You: Do you?

For big decisions, absolutely.  Of course, I can handle the minor stuff myself – as can you.  It just takes commitment to periodically tackle them.  Quite recently, this has happened three times recently.  Today, I’ll share my experience with the cable company.  Next week, I’ll  discuss two other vendors.

You:  Why are you doing this?

I’m sharing my experiences for four main reasons:

  1. To demonstrate that you can almost but not always save money and get more value if you’re willing to put in just a token amount of effort.
  2. To show you how inconsistent customer service is and why one phone call can go incredibly poorly only to be followed by another that has you shaking your head asking, “Why can’t they all be like that?”
  3. To illustrate that there are as many answers to your service and billing-related questions as there are potential people who can answer your phone call.
  4. To prove to you that I go through the same process I advise you to go through, and ensure that I never become just some talking head who ignores my own personal issues, instead relying on experiences reported to me by others or from my memories of how it worked in the increasingly distant past.

Rubin v. Cable Company

When I first moved to New Hampshire, we signed up for the cable company’s “triple play” which, for $99, got us cable TV, phone, and high-speed Internet access.  It was the best deal I could find for the services I desired and so all was good.

A year later, of course, the deal expired and I began to pay full-rate (total bill including taxes was about $162).  On my perpetual to-do list was to call and haggle another deal.

Too much time went by before I made the call.

You: Why?

I’m human. I didn’t really want to deal with this and I am legitimately busy.

You: Excuses.

No argument whatsoever.

You: So what finally happened?

My wife called the cable company.

You: How’d she do?

Not bad, but not great.

You: How so?

Well for starters, she actually called so she was ahead of my pathetic performance.  But her results were mixed.  She was able to get the rate down just by calling.  The representative actually told her “Based on your account history, you’re certainly due for another package discount.”  She offered my wife about a $50 discount from where we were, a savings of about 30%.

You: Sounds pretty good to me. Did she take it?

She couldn’t.

You: Don’t tell me you’re one of those guys who doesn’t empower their wife.

Nothing could be further from the truth – I have to get permission to buy milk that isn’t organic.

You: So why didn’t she take the deal?

Turned out that when I set up the account, only my name was put on it, so only I could make changes to it.

You: So did you just call back and take the deal?

I did call back, but I didn’t just take the deal.  Instead, I thanked the representative for the offer but then told her I really need to get back under $100 a month for all three services.

You: How’d the representative take that?

She told me I had been offered the best rate possible unless I upgraded my cable package.

You: That doesn’t make any sense.

I agree. Furthermore, I didn’t want to upgrade my TV package. (The truth is my wife and I have discussed removing cable completely because we watch so little TV.  However, my desire to watch the Red Sox won the day.)

Nonetheless, the representative made it very clear that if I were willing to upgrade the cable package, I could get to the number (under $100) I wanted to reach.  Although it was counter-intuitive, I allowed her to explain further.  Shortly thereafter, it became clear what the cable company was trying to accomplish.

You: What was that?

By upgrading my cable deal they could afford to charge me less on a monthly basis because they figured I’d be tempted by all the new “On Demand” or “Pay per View” programming now available in my home.  That’s a deal I could go for, because, knowing myself, we wouldn’t be tempted; we barely make enough time to watch “The Office” together.

Although not necessarily by design, looking back it is clear that we negotiated very well.  A classic negotiation strategy is to have two individuals on one side; one that can make the decision but isn’t very accessibble, and the one that is actually doing the talking.  My wife the latter role.  By introducing me later, I could start at the point that the cable company had already agreed to and negotiate down from there.  As a result, our bills will be about 45% less than they were for a slightly better package.

You: Until that deal runs out.

Next time I won’t wait so long to call.  If you’re still waiting to make your call, end the procrastination.  Operators are standing by and they are ready to make a deal. Make your best deal today.

Then, share how it went.

Next  up: bank feees and billing errors.

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2 Comments to “Negotiate your cable bill – How I lowered my cable bill”

  1. Brian says:

    I’m on the phone with Comcast now. My bill for 2 TVs with Digital Classic Package, 2 converters with DVR and HD programing is $124.46 a month.

    I told the guy I have to reduce my bill or go to DirecTV or Dish Network.

    After a 4 minute hold, these were the options he gave.

    1. Same programing and options with a $15/month reduction for 12 months. That is a $180 savings.

    2. Upgrade to Encore movies and get a $10/month reduction for 12 months. A $120 savings.

    I asked if I could have both, the $15/month discount and the movie channel for 12 months.

    He said OK and a few minutes later it was a done deal.

    I just hung up and forgot to look at the phone to see how long it took! About 15 to 20 minutes total.

    Thanks Malik at Comcast, located at “cancel my service” option!

  2. Michael says:

    @Brian: Thanks for sharing your experience. Seems there’s a deal for everyone out there somewhere . . . but not until you start dialing.

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