No one really understands how it happens. One day, you’re on the phone with a friendly sales representative for a cable and internet provider being told about a sweet deal on a service bundle that you just cannot pass up, and then all of a sudden you find yourself digging underneath the couch cushions, dipping into the beer fund and eating bologna sandwiches every night just to afford it.
Every month it’s the same old thing. “How in Howard did my bill go from $89.95 to almost $200 a month?” You do your best to assess the situation, analyzing pages of the paper menagerie they call a bill in hopes of tracking down the reason for the hefty increase. But you soon learn that no one really has a fucking clue what the hell a broadcast fee, a universal connectivity charge and technology fee really is. It all sounds like a bunch of technical jibber-jabber designed to give couch-surfing Americans the proverbial deep-dicking, that’s what it sounds like — just a shifty way for the cable companies to impose a dumbass tax on customers too afraid to call them on their shit.
But is there anything we can do about it?
A recent article from Popular Science suggests that a person just needs to do a little research and prepare to go to civil war with their current provider to secure a more reasonable rate on cable and internet services. The suggested method, however, goes a step beyond just calling the toll-free customer service number and reading some unfortunate bastard the riot act. A cool, collected head will always prevail over screaming at someone on the other end of the line and threatening to meet them in the parking lot at the end of their shift to collect on that ass-whooping tax.
Still, it is important to understand that these customer service reps are loaded for bear when it comes to dealing with an unhappy customer. They are the foot soldiers of the cable war. Not only are they privy to all of the other deals going on around town, they are trained to do everything in their power to keep you from your canceling service and going with another provider. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure you have the upper hand before trying to con them into giving you a new deal.
“Before you dial, do some research on the alternatives in your area. Knowing how much those other options cost will give you some extra leverage, writes Whitson Gordon for Popsci. Annoyingly, TV and internet providers frequently have very little competition, but if you’re lucky, your area may have at least one other option. Usually, a different source will use a different technology—so if you currently have cable internet, you should look at the costs of DSL, satellite, and fiber services.”
But don’t be easily persuaded to take the first offer that comes your way. Customer service reps are authorized saw off a few bucks here and there to calm those angry customers complaining about their expensive bills. But beware of their clever tactics. Often times a customer will call in bitching about the high cost of their bill, only to end up getting upsold a more expensive package. “Mr. Smith, for only a few dollars more a month, you’ll be getting 12 more channels and faster internet.”
With the right ammunition, a customer can weasel their way into more significant savings. But you had damn well better know that the voice on the other end of the phone is not going down easy.
No matter what they offer, “confirm your commitment to your goal price,” Gordan says. “At this point, they may say that’s the best they can do—they’re hoping to call your bluff. You can take the deal, or you can skip straight to Expert Mode and let them know you’d rather cancel your service and go with their competitor. The more willing you are to walk away,” Gordan adds, “the better your deal will be.
This level of negotiation, of course, is easier to do if a person lives in an area with several internet providers. But by maintaining the attitude of “I don’t give a shit if that’s the best rate you can offer, I’ll walk away from it right now,” a person could conceivably get their cable and internet bill down to somewhere closer to their introductory rate. But again, it is imperative to stay cool, be polite and unwavering to have a fighting chance at getting it done. In some cases, a customer may be forced to actually cancel their service and opt for another provider. It all depends on how badly they want to save a few bucks every month. In the case of Gordan, the article claims that all of this back and forth with customer service led to savings of $240 per year – or $20 per month.
If you’re eating out of garbage cans for dinner or struggling to buy beer every month, perhaps going through the hassle of haggling a better rate might be worth it. But eventually, those soulless bastards are just make up the difference by implementing another ambiguous tax or fee. It’s a never ending squeeze.
Long live the ass-whooping tax!
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