Those Damn Bills
They just seem to keep coming don’t they? When the founding father, Benjamin Franklin, stated two things are certain in life, death and taxes, he must not have had to worry about bills because at 26, those are seeming pretty certain as well! However, unlike death and taxes, we at least get to have a larger degree of control over those things.
I know, I know. There are like five companies that provide internet in the U.S., but they all split their territory so we, the consumer, are kind of screwed into paying their ridiculous, monopolized prices for crap service (countries like Latvia, Norway, and South Korea put us in our place). Here you have a choice of one utility company for electricity that provides to your area, one internet company, etc. Competition is rather stifled when it comes to our utilities (rarely, this can be a good thing), but when it comes to internet, cable, etc., specifically, those companies which provide telecommunications and entertainment services have gained quite the poor reputation…bad reputation…or really, an awful reputation.
Bad customer service, price gouging, poor internet speeds, random channel blackouts, etc. Trust me. No one hates these giant telecommunications conglomerates more than That Learning Guy. Despite their awfulness though, like most companies, they don’t want to see their customers leave their service for another provider. This presents the consumer, you and me, with a small chip in fighting their ruthless injustices! (*steps down from soap box*).
They Don’t Want to Lose You
There is incentive for customer service or the customer retention department to do their job. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc., spend billions of dollars a year on advertising to all of us would-be chumps. Case in point, Comcast spent $3 billion in 2014 to get you to use their services. That’s a pretty amazing number.
Now, after all of that expensive advertising, and finally getting you on the hook as a customer, do you really think they want you to start giving your $50, $100, $150, or even $200 per month to a different company? Absolutely not, they will do what they need to so they can continue to steal the money out of your wallet like the greedy monsters they are, and that my friends, is where your power comes from.
Arming Yourself and Fighting Back
Now, if you know anything about these companies, you’ll know that if you’re a new customer, you have the ability to sign-up for multiple different promotional packages. These promotions along with your willingness to bend the truth or threatening to leave (not the people) will allow you to get the best rate possible.
The first thing you need to know is when you sign up for any service, you NEED to sign up for a promotional package/rate. Besides saving you a butt-load of money right out of the gates, this is going to be integral to your ability to get the best rate possible going forward. If you don’t get one of those packages, there is a potential chance it will be harder to keep your rate low, or lower it in the future.
The following are the two main methods you may want to elect for that will increase your chances of success with keeping your current price or finding a lower price for potentially better value:
1. “The service doesn’t meet our budget (or we can’t afford it) anymore. Is there any way we can keep our current price?”
Don’t start off complaining or saying that the price is unfair or that it is too expensive. Being rude and angry will get you nowhere, and a lot of times will have the opposite effect. Didn’t your mom ever tell you you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? Bend the conversation to your needs and that the new price makes it hard to meet them.
This is a great way to go because it allows for sympathy, but if you’re shooting for FI and/or trying to be as frugal as possible, it is true! You are trying to budget as low as you can go, and that is whatever they are able to give you. Just because someone may be making $40k per year or they are making $200k per year doesn’t mean their budgets have to be different, or that the $200k person has to pay more.
2. “We saw an offer from XYZ, and the offer is extremely tempting. Is there any way you can meet the offer?”
This is the cannon ball of your armaments. This is the card you want to pull out if the representative you’re talking to is obstinate to the first point. As I stated above in why they don’t want to lose you, this will be the main driving force behind trying to keep you. This representative doesn’t want to be the person that lost a valuable cash cow, if they can help it.
However, if this doesn’t work and the representative sticks to their guns, you could go two routes, asking for a manager if you are desperate and you really want to keep your current provider. If that really doesn’t work, which is always possible, I would recommend moving forward with just walking away. There is the chance the rep will see you are completely serious with leaving and cave in, but if they don’t then you are going to find cheaper service with a new provider a la promotional packages.
All of these scenarios eventually end in a win-win. If the company caves, they still get your money and you get cheaper service. If not, you get cheaper service from somewhere else and the new company gets your money.
You’ve Won the Battle, but You Still Have to Fight the War
Things may seem rosy right now, with your discounted internet, free HBO, and 200 basic cable channels, but you have to continually watch your bill and your promotion or discount period.
For me, I was going along minding my own business, and ignoring the problem of my promotional period ending. Foolishly, I stuck my head in the sand and decided meh, the problem isn’t really worth the time it would take to save a few bucks.
Well, when the price changed, I wasn’t losing “just a few bucks”, I was losing an extra $27 per month, or $324 per year, all because I was too lazy to get in an online chat with a services rep, or call customer service and ask for the retention department.
Don’t be like me, be a boss and take care of this stuff before it pops up. I sure as hell won’t make that same mistake again. Like I said above, we got a new year promotional period with the same internet speed, basic cable channels, and HBO for $50 per month! That is a hell of a deal, but if I let that deal lapse without doing anything, I will pay dearly. The next month will jump to over $100 per month. That will be a minimum of doubling our monthly bill. That will be a minimum of an extra $600 per year. Holy crow.
This is exactly what these big companies count on though, someone getting the promotional package and then allowing apathy to kick in and let the cable company own their first born child. Then with each passing year, taking pieces of their second (too dark? Nah, sounds about right). Don’t be a That Learning Guy. Don’t let these conglomerates take advantage of you! Turn those tables, reverse that ridiculousness, commandeer those costs…alright, you get it, get off your ass and get your money back.
Now, since I’m feeling extremely generous, I’m going to give you a near, word-for-word transcription of my conversation with a Comcast representative (removing some fluff) so you can see how the conversation began, played out, and ended. As an FYI, this conversation in its entirety took place over online chat in about half an hour.
Rep: Hello, thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. Please give me one moment to review your information.
TLG: My Issue: Hi, there! I have a question regarding our prior promotional rate that just ended last month.
Rep: I understand that you have concern with your bill. Please tell me more about it.
TLG: So, time flies, and I realized our promotional rate ended last month when I received the billing statement.
TLG: Things have been tight in our budget the last few months, and it looks like they will continue on that way into the future for a little while. I was wondering if it might be possible to continue being billed with the promotional rate? We’ve enjoyed our Comcast service so far. I understand if it isn’t possible, but I thank you either way!
Rep: I know how important it is for you to be able to manage your finances and keep your expenses within your budget.
Rep: I’d be glad to check options to lower your bill today.
TLG: Thank you very much for your understanding. It means a lot, and I sincerely appreciate the assistance!
Rep: Thank you.
Rep: Please give me 2-3 minutes to check your account and to provide you the details.
Rep: Thank you for waiting. I am seeing that the standard rate for performance internet has already applied which is for $66.95 per month on. We can lower the bill by downgrading to performance starter with 10 mbps speed for $49.95 or taking advantage of the Double Play promotion which is for $49.99 per month for 12 months.
TLG: Yes, the promotional rate we had expired last month, unfortunately, and that pricing was working perfectly. With work, I don’t believe 10 Mbps would be sufficient. What is offered in the double play promotion?
Rep: The Double Play promotion for $49.99 per month for 12 months includes Limited Basic cable, HBO, Streampix, rental for the first standard cable box and Performance internet with 25 mbps download speed (which is your current speed).
TLG: I think that could work! So, that $49.99 per moth would also include all of that listed, in addition to the rental of the cable box for 12 months, correct? Sorry, just wanted to clarify.
Rep: Yes, the $49.99 includes the Basic cable, HBO, Streampix, rental for the first standard cable box and Performance internet with 25 mbps download speed.
TLG: Okay, I think that should work. Based on that, I have a couple of questions. Would you send us the cable box, and we can just hook it up ourselves, or will a technician need to be here to do anything? We didn’t need one to hook up the internet.
Rep: I can see that your address is already cable ready, which means that you can self install the cable box. We can send the equipment to your service and this will be delivered after 3-5 business days.
TLG: Ah, that’s good news! Also, does this promotion require a contract? If so, is it just for the 12 months? After these questions, I think that should just about do it.
Rep: The bundle is not under contract and any prorated credits applied on your account after the service change will not yet reflect online or on your current bill as Comcast generates the bill in advance prior to this. This will show on your next billing statement.
TLG: Ah, I see. All of that information is very helpful! I believe we are ready to switch to the double play promotional offer.
Rep: Perfect! Shall I go ahead and process your request for Internet Plus bundle?
TLG: Yes, please! Thank you very much for your help. I sincerely appreciate your willingness and ability to help enhance the value Comcast is providing to us.
Rep: It is my pleasure.
Rep: By the way, there will be a one time fee for the shipping fee for $9.95 and self installation kit for the cable box for $15. No worries, I will check for the available promotion for you for these charges.
TLG: Thanks for checking on that. Getting those additional fees dropped will help all the more.
Rep: Donald, I am seeing free kit fee. That means, you will only be paying for the shipping fee for $9.95.
TLG: Wonderful! That is good news. It is much appreciated!
Rep: Perfect! Let me go ahead and complete your request, Donald.
Rep: While waiting, would there be anything else that I can assist you?
TLG: I don’t think so. That should be about it!
Rep: In summary, we have discussed options to lower your bill and I have processed your request for the Internet Plus bundle for $49.99 per month for 12 months. One time fee is for the shipping fee for $9.95 and I also advised you to enroll to Autopayment once you have installed the cable box that will be delivered after 3-5 business days from now.
Rep: Wonderful! Thank you so much for your time. It is really my pleasure to assist you today.
TLG: You’re very welcome, and thank you as well, Jenifer. You have been a big help!
See how easy that was? That is the abbreviated, paraphrased conversation. No skin off my back, and now I will be saving money and getting a lot more bang for my buck. Use the same plan and save yourself some scratch, my fellow personal financiers!
Want to Save Even More Money?! Some Last Minute Tips and Tricks
Alright, to wrap up, I’d like to give you some more information that will save you big in the long run. First, if you didn’t already know it, you can save upwards of $10 per month if you stop renting your router/modem from the internet company. I went out and bought a modem for $110. I then got on ebay and bought a router on the cheap for $20, then installed some different, free software to give it a little extra umph.
So, to recap that really quick: I spent $110 on the modem from Best Buy (which I could have probably gotten off of ebay for cheap, if I would have looked)
$20 on the router from Ebay (w/ free third party software to make the router run waaaay faster and more reliably)
That comes to approximately $130. What is $10 times 12? Why $120! Purchasing those two pieces of equipment nearly pays for itself in one year, and the great thing about that equipment is you can have it for many years! If you are able to keep the same equipment for six years? Well, you just saved yourself $600 over six years!
Combine your savings between getting cheaper service and not paying for the equipment, and you could be looking at over $7000 in savings over ten years. If that were invested instead? With so little effort for so much to gain, why not take the day and earn some cold, hard cash?
- What kind of bills have you all had to pay in the past? What is your Comcast, AT&T bill, etc.?
- Have you ever lowered your bill? What was your experience?
- How much were you able to lower?
- If you try this out after reading this post, did it work for you? How much did you save?
Let’s talk about it in the comments! I’d love to know.