How to negotiate with your cable company

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175212-angrycustomercareThere was quite the reaction to my piece on whether 2014 will be the year that cord-cutting becomes viable. Several people told me I was  full of it when I said that buying a bunch of shows (like the $40-a-year Mythbusters) off of Amazon or iTunes can break the bank, because they were already dropping $150-$180 a month for their cable needs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you put a little elbow grease into it, you can negotiate your rates down with your cable company.

The cost to the cable company to maintain you as a customer after installation is relatively small. The cable company pays pennies for the license fees to the networks. Even if you’re paying the minimums, the provider is still cleaning up $30 to $40 a month from your subscription. Those $149-a-month bills exist because they can, and consumers don’t often fight them. In this piece, we’ll give you the ammunition to knock  dollars off your cable bill so you don’t need to cut the cord.

Step 1: Get Ready

First, arm yourself with what the local competition, including DirecTV and DISH, are offering new customers. The provider would much rather have your $30 than have it go somewhere else, and knowing that is half the battle. Once you’ve loaded up on that info and packed a lunch, it’s time to make the call.

Now take a deep breath, and remember these things:

1- You have the power.

2- Don’t lose your cool.

3- The person on the other end of your line is your best friend.

In these situations, the old saying about catching more flies with honey is true. Phone service reps are terribly abused. So if you treat them nicely, they will be far more inclined to do the same to you.

Step 2: Wade In

Once you are transferred to the correct department, start off with something like: “My cable bill is getting overwhelming for me, and I’m thinking about downgrading my package or moving on to another provider.” Statements like that bring one word to the mind of your new friend: “retention.” If he or she can keep you from going to another provider, from dumping HBO, or losing that third tier of channels, that goes in their “win” column for the day.

If the rep seems dismissive and moves right on to processing your cancellation, politely get yourself out of the conversation with, “Perhaps I’m being hasty” and call back. Sooner rather than later, you’ll find someone who does want to help, is having a bad day in the “wins” category, and will bend over backwards with his or her bag of tricks to help you out. Many of my friends have used these techniques to keep themselves on promotional pricing for years.

Step 3: What If It Still Doesn’t Work?

You know all those prices you found from the competition? Be prepared to take advantage of them, and use them as a weapon. If you still aren’t getting satisfaction, set a cancellation date for two weeeks in the future. Why then? Not only does this give you a chance to set up an appointment with the competition, but it gives a chance for your issue to percolate and for the cable companies to make every effort to retain you. A few days after you set your cancellation, you’ll get a phone call from someone with a lot more power than the first person you spoke with. As long as your requests are realistic, this new representative will likely grant them. If not, you have a brand new home in another company’s ecosystem, and a brand new start, if you so choose, with your current cable company down the line.

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