How to lower your cable bill, your internet bill, or your phone bill…
If you feel like you have been the victim of an unfair charge or a shady sales or billing practice, and the company you are dealing with seems unwilling to rectify the issue, you are not without options. Cable, internet, and phone companies are famous for enticing you with low teaser rates that will run for six or twelve month terms, only to increase your bill drastically once the term expires. Cell phone companies love to milk customers with contracts and early termination charges. It is possible to renegotiate a lower rate or get an unfair charge removed, however. Here are a few tips that you can employ to negotiate a lower cable, internet, or phone bill, or get an unfair charge taken off your account.
1. Threaten to cancel your service
Even if you don’t think you would actually take things this far, sometimes the threat of losing a customer is enough to get a company like Comcast or AT&T to lower your bill. Odds are, you’ll be transferred to some sort of retention department, where the customer service representatives have more authority to modify bills and terms.
When you do this, it helps if you have some tangible information at your fingertips. Let them know you were offered $X rate at Y company, and you want to cancel your service to take it. Don’t just dangle it out there as a possibility; make it seem to them that you’re intent on doing it and they need to try to win you back.
2. Actually cancel your service and reopen it in your spouse’s name
You could debate how ethical this is. You could also debate how ethical internet, cable, and phone companies are in their billing practices. I have heard this works with mixed success in terms of actually getting them to lower your bill back to a promotional rate. The service is typically in one person’s name. Call up, cancel service. Then call up the next day and request new service with the other spouse’s name. Let them know you’re aware of the promotional rate and expect to receive it. If they question you, simply state you’re a different person. If they question you further, only you can decide how far you’re willing to take it. I have heard from one female customer who responded with feigned emotion, “we’re getting a divorce, I’m a separate family now. Don’t you dare treat us as one.” She got the promo rate.
3. Forum shop
Odds are, if you simply call up the 1-800 number, you’re never going to talk with the same person twice. How many notes they place in your file about the contents of your call varies dramatically between companies, and even within them. It has also been my experience that how successful you are is very dependent upon how friendly and agreeable whatever representative you end up connecting with feels like being that day. So if you get one that’s stubborn and unsensitive to your complaint, ditch him and try another. In order to hit the lottery, you may have to scratch a lot of tickets.
4. Insist on speaking to a supervisor
The first person you talk to is likely to tell you they don’t have the flexibility to change the terms of your service, especially if your first stop is the billing department. Gently request to speak to a supervisor. Don’t be threatening, simply request it. As you work your way up the ladder, the company may recognize you as more serious, and you’ll likely be dealing with people who have more flexibility to keep you happy.
5. Drop legalese
This one is really tricky. It is as likely to make them intractable as it is to make them bend to what you’re requesting. But if you’ve tried everything else, you might as well try this to. Research a few basic concepts like fraud (the deliberate misrepresentation of fact for personal gain), “bad faith,” and “bait and switch” sales tactics (internet service providers and cable providers are famous for skirting around that one). Let them know that you think they are behaving in an unethical manner, and you don’t intend to stay quiet about it. it’s possible this will get you more attention.
6. Inform them you’re intent on filing a complaint if they don’t rectify an unfair bill
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is your friend. So is the state Attorneys’ General office of the state that you live in (they often have a consumer advocacy office of some sort). Both of these groups have established mechanisms for you to issue complaints about unfair dealings. A big company like Comcast, Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T probably doesn’t care about a single BBB complaint. But they do care about the total number received because that’s the statistic by which companies end up on these “10 worst companies for customer service” lists that you’ll often see on sites like msn.com.
I once was the victim of an improperly applied $175 early termination fee with Sprint. I called several times, was transferred to over a dozen departments, and literally logged over 20 hours on the phone with them. They refused to take it off. I had written proof that they had applied it wrongly, and filed a BBB complaint. Two weeks later, a very apologetic Sprint rep called me on the phone in response to the BBB complaint. In less than a day, I had been issued a full credit for the termination fee.
7. Be nice
Don’t misinterpret the tone of any of the advice I’ve just laid out. If you act belligerent or angry on the telephone, you’re less likely to get what you want. Remember that these are people who, in large part, get yelled at for a living. Let them know you’re sympathetic to their situation and you know that they aren’t the ones in charge of setting policy. As the saying goes, you can catch more bees with honey than a fly swatter.
So here are a few tips for negotiating with your cable, internet, or telephone provider. Do you have additional tips that aren’t mentioned here? Contact me at the link above and help me get the word out!