OK – I had a post a while back where I was going to explain how I lowered prices/got deals on various “optional” services – stuff like TV, Internet, phone – that type of thing. I wrote the first one (Internet) and kinda never got around to writing the rest because, well, it was half bragging and mostly boring. It’s something that could be easily written up in a sentence:
“Threaten to cancel.”
But it’s not as easy as that. You’ve got to do a little legwork first, and there is a little risk involved.
- Do your research
You’re threatening to cancel, right? Why? If you’re threatening to cancel your TV service, you can get away (nowadays) with “I’m cutting the cord”, but if you’re threatening to cancel your Internet, you’re probably threatening to go to another provider – if you say you’re going “off the grid”, they’re just going to assume you’re nuts and moving to Wyoming to make pipe bombs or something, so they’ll let you leave all nice-like. Do the research. Look for emails or promotions from competitors. If you have cable Internet, look at DSL. Cable television? Look at satellite.
But here’s a key – don’t just make up crap. Don’t say that your local DSL provider is offering you 10x the speed for only $20 a month if they can’t do that, because when you’re on the phone with your current provider saying that, they’re on the Internet checking to see if this is legit or not. If it’s not, you’re not going to get anything out of it, and if you get called out for it you might as well hang up the phone right now.
Find an offer that you would take if your service provider suddenly went out of business today and be ready with it when you call. You can still fudge a little with certain things (like additional channels, or waiving install fees or covering termination fees), but if the website says $39.99, don’t tell the rep that it’s $19.99. We’ve all got the Internet.
- Don’t “threaten” or “ask”
You’ll read online or see things on those morning programs that tell you just to ask for a better rate. “Just call them up and see what they can offer you!” I made that mistake once in the past – I called my Internet service provider (ISP) and “asked for a better rate”. ISP said “nah” and told me I already had a great rate. You might as well hang up the phone at this point.
The main issue that comes from this is that when you make this call, you’re generally calling something like customer service, whose job it is to listen to people complain and then have them reboot their devices. They don’t care that your bill is high. If your service is working, they’ve done their job.
When you call, tell whomever answers the phone, be it human or automated system, that you want to cancel. Canceling service (or at least threatening to) gets you to a retention department, not customer service. These are not people who are dead inside already because they’ve been telling people for the last seven hours to turn it off and on again. These are people who are more skilled at being sympathetic. They want you to believe that they care that you’re leaving. They are the people that can make changes to your pricing, because it’s their job to keep you from canceling. This is who you want. They’ll ask how they can help, you tell them that you want to cancel your service, and you’ll get the “oh no, I’m sorry to hear that, maybe there’s something we can do!” and the game is on.
- Know how much you want to spend and what you’re willing to take.
There are some saving websites where people report back what they’ve “gotten” and while that’s all well and good, your mileage may vary. Know how much you want to spend and be prepared with a pencil and paper to see if what you’re being offered is actually a “deal” or not. My Internet provider tried to sell me on how the deal they were offering me had “free in-home wi-fi”. Since I have my own wireless router, “home wi-fi” isn’t something I would pay for either way, but the rep insisted that this was a tremendous deal and that the competitor may charge for this if I went to them.
At the same time, you may be offered lots of things that may appear to have value, but don’t to you. If you hate football, DirecTV offering you NFL Sunday Ticket (a $300 value!) isn’t worth anything. Don’t take it if you don’t want it. Let them know that it isn’t a selling point to you. If you don’t watch sports, that offer of the NFL package might turn into free movie channels. If you’re willing to dedicate the time, you can get something that you want, instead of something they want you to have.
Also extremely important – when you receive a promotional offer, usually it requires a contract. Ensure that the contract runs no longer than the promotional price you’re receiving. Usually both run a year, and then the following year you do the dance again. But sometimes, you can get roped into a contract that’s longer than your promotional rate, and when you call and go through your threat to cancel, you’re met with a brick wall. If you’re still in a contract, a company will not negotiate, and you’re stuck with full price service.
For most people, that should be enough, but there is an extra level of difficulty you might hit, especially if you’re stuck in a contract like described above. Then you may have to take drastic measures.
- Actually cancel the damn service. (Sorta.)
I had done everything by the book. I had done the dance with my television provider every year for the last several years (man, my notes in my customer profile must be pages long). But when I went to do it this year, I got brick-walled. I still had over a year left in my contract, because I had recently gotten new receivers and with those came an additional two year commitment. My bill was back to my usual price, and all the rep could offer me was $5 off my bill a month, while threatening me with a $300 early cancellation fee if I did in fact cancel.
I bitched. I complained. I called them deceptive (true) and dishonest (well, maybe not), but I knew I didn’t really have a leg to stand on. Despite that, I followed through on my threat to cancel. I told the rep that I still wanted to cancel – two weeks from that day. The rep told me that they’d note in my account that they’d try to get my early cancellation fee waived, but I hung up that phone with a final resolution that I would not be a customer of theirs in two weeks, and the order was actually in. It was real. It wasn’t a threat.
Two days later, I received a promotional email “regarding my recent call” that read “Give us a chance to make it right” and offered a different phone number and code to mention. I called and immediately got a rep. I told the rep that I had scheduled my cancellation but had received this email and was curious to what they were offering. I quickly got a generous offer that knocked like $40 off my monthly bill while getting some free channels at the same time for only a one year commitment, while would overlap (not add to – I asked twice) my already existing commitment.
Better prices are out there, you just need to fight for them.