Learn From My Mistake: Call Your Cable Company

by Julie on August 17, 2011 · 49 comments

This isn't our phone. Although I kind of wish it was.

This is a public service reminder to do something that every personal finance blogger has blogged about a million times: call your service providers and negotiate better rates.

Yesterday I called my cable company to see if I could negotiate a better deal on our combined phone/internet/cable service, which was costing us $155 plus tax each month. Phillip — the customer service rep — immediately said he could reduce our bill to $118/month.

Just for asking.

I pushed a tiny bit harder and got him to reduce it to $113 and to throw in an extra premium channel.

That’s a savings of over $500 a year for a simple phone call.

Now, in case you think I”m patting myself on the back for my prudent money management, let me put your mind at ease. The last time I was in the cable company’s offices, picking up a high def box, the girl who helped me actually suggested I call and ask for a better deal. She even told me the department to ask for: Customer Retention.

So what’s the problem?

That was last December. Eight. Months. Ago. So — assuming I could have worked a similar deal back then — my procrastination cost us $336.

A couple of details:

  • I had to agree to stay with our cable company for a full year, but we were planning to do that anyway. We’re pretty happy with our cable company, plus I made (another) mistake when I originally chose my email address and used the cable company’s URL. I’ve had the email address for years, so I really don’t want to go through the hassle of changing it.
  • We have competing cable companies in our area, which makes negotiating deals a little easier. Although, I think there are enough non-cable options for phone, TV, and internet, this is probably becoming less of an issue.

What I want to know is: Are you ever so busy looking for new ways to save money that you ignore some of the old, boring standbys? Has your procrastination ever cost you money? Tell me I’m not alone.

P.S. Please don’t tell me to get rid of cable or — heaven forbid — TV altogether. I know it’s not very cool or enlightened of us, but we really love our TV. Sports, news, educational shows, junk shows, pay-per-view movies…we watch it all. It’s a pretty cheap source of entertainment and information for our family.

P.P.S. We could save another $23/month if we got rid of our landline, but we’re old school and haven’t done that yet. I’d love to hear from others who have. Are you glad? Do you not have anxiety issues like I do that someone will be home alone and need to call 911, but won’t be able to speak, and the emergency crews won’t be able to locate them? Because that happens all the time, doesn’t it?

This post is part of Works for Me Wednesday @ We Are THAT Family and Frugal Fridays @ Life As a Mom.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

No Debt MBA August 17, 2011 at 9:00 am

I’ve never had a land line and don’t miss it at all. I don’t think it really improves safety much unless there’s a power outage and your phone’s out of battery.

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Good to know you don’t miss it, MBA. I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to pull the plug. Habit, I guess.

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brian August 17, 2011 at 9:13 am

As of 2005, 95% of cell phone providers’ customers are federally mandated to have e911 support, meaning you can dial 911 from your cell phone and the operator will be able to see location information just like a landline phone. VoIP phones have this functionality as well. Only software-based solutions like Skype and Google Voice are still a work in progress for e911 implementation.

Basically, you’re perfectly safe having no landline phone at your house. If you’re super cautious, keep a spare prepaid cell phone at home.

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Brian, that is good to know. Thanks for the info!

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Erica August 26, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Just thought I’d add something I discovered about a week ago.. I wondered the same thing about being able to be located from my cell phone. I also have an out-of-state cell phone number still!! So double-concern. Well I was at the mall with my 10 month old one afternoon and she picked up my phone out of my purse..you see where this is going:) I thought it was locked but apparently it wasn’t because later that night I noticed I had two voicemail messages. They were from the local police department stating that someone from my number had dialed them and they were just checking. You can imagine my confusion. I looked by through my outgoing calls and there was a *999 dialed. Pretty impressive! It wasn’t even 911, and local PD tracked my TX number in AR. Just FYI.

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Julie August 26, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Erica, very good to know. Glad you’ve been able to “test the system” without someone actually needing help. Tell your 10 month old thanks!

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Tessa @ CookSewGrow August 17, 2011 at 10:58 am

We got rid of our landline, and I regret it. Probably because I’m always losing my cellphone and lamenting that I don’t have a way to call it!

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 11:06 am

LOL Tessa. That’s one angle I hadn’t thought of. I’m notorious for not knowing where my cell phone is and not answering it. My family complains constantly. I would have to be a LOT better about that if we ditched the landline. Thanks for weighing in!

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Alexis August 26, 2011 at 12:34 pm

tessa…. if you have internet close by just google “where is my cellphone” There are plenty of websites that will call your phone for free! I use it all the time since my husband and I don’t have a landline. The only thing I hate about not having a landline is not being able to fax things. But, thats why you find a friend who can’t get rid of the landline lol!!!

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Julie August 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Alexis, I didn’t even think about faxing. I don’t do it often, but I have to occasionally. Now you have your friends wondering if you only keep them around for the fax line. :-)

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Mary August 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Fax can be done via computer…scan item in and fax away! Just a littel more complicated-but possible without phone line

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Julie August 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm

That’s so true, Mary. That’s how I do it most of the time anyway.

Alex | Perfecting Dad August 17, 2011 at 11:19 am

two things. #1, we have a virtual land line. A one time payment of $50 to get the phone number, then we bought a voice-over-IP box off craig’s list. After that we have phone for free forever. Additionally, you can take that box anywhere there is internet and have your phone # with you, even if you don’t take the phone there are software phones. Additionally you get your voicemails coming in over email and automatic forwarding if you don’t answer the VOIP phone. So that’s how you get a home phone for very little money.

#2 is you can get the best deals for your cable by leaving. Just wait until a competitor offers some awesome deal then you call you cable company and say you want to shut off the service because the alternative is cheaper. That’s when they pull out all the backroom deals they have. Usually they have something that beats the competition.

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Alex, thanks for both of those pieces of info. My brother-in-law uses #2 every year with his satellite radio subscription. He calls to cancel and they always offer him a rock bottom rate to stay.

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Alex | Perfecting Dad August 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Yes, and to what Saved Quarter said … although it costs the cable company more to get new customers, the people who deal with existing customers are often incented differently. The customer service call centres are usually responsible for saving money to the cable company, while those who get new customers are incented by gaining revenue. A lot of these call centres have scripts or decision trees. When you say you want to quit then they will often forward you to someone who is incented differently and so get a better deal. If you stick with the customer service person, they will likely not go as far. You have to get to the right side of the house, and the magic words are “I want to cancel” and not “Can I get a better package?”

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I like that, Alex…magic words. I’m going to share that on The Family CEO’s Facebook page. Wish I would have tried that tactic this week.

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The Saved Quarter August 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

YES!! It really pays to call ALL of your service providers every 6 months or so to see if they can offer you a better rate, more services for the same rate, etc. It costs them more to find a new customer than to lower your bill and retain you as a customer, so if you’re polite and diligent you can benefit.

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Sounds like a good thing to put on our calendars, SQ.

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anotherhousewife August 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Every time my hubby calls we pay less and get more. I guess it helps that he negotiates for a living. We just added NFL Red Zone and our bill went down!

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I love it! Just goes to show how much room they have to negotiate if they want to.

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retirebyforty August 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm

My 6 months discount expired and they want us to pay $45 just for cable. I called and got discounted to $40 for cable + basic TV. $5 is not much of a discount, but better than nothing. I’ll probably cancel after 6 months.
We have Ooma. The old version is free and we don’t have any problem so far. Haven’t had to call 911 yet though.

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I’ve heard of Ooma, but never used it. And hopefully you won’t have to call 911. Ever.

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krantcents August 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I did that nearly two years ago and locked in my lower rate for 2 years! It will be time again soon. I routinely check my regular expenses for a lower rate.

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Julie August 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Good for you, KC. What other expenses are you able to negotiate?

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SB @ One Cent At A Time August 17, 2011 at 11:00 pm

This is great advice, I am going to call Comcast tomorrow.

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Julie August 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Let me know how it goes, SB.

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Financial Success for Young Adults August 18, 2011 at 10:10 am

I currently don’t pay for cable. I watch most TV and movies through free services like Crackle and Hulu. But I’m glad you finally called and got that reduction!

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Julie August 18, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Thanks! I think the fact that there are so many viewing options these days will make things cheaper for all of us, no matter what we pick.

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Jesse @ BP August 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

My procrastination has cost us money many times…but I don’t want to get into that :)

We did the whole negotiation with the cable company too and I actually did it over live chat support instead of over the phone. You don’t even have to ‘talk’ to anyone! I got my bill almost cut in half for 9 months (promo rate, but it went on for almost 3 years and took another chat to reduce it back once the promo ended)

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Freddie @ Invest With Passion August 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Congrats to you. My wife did this a few months back, so we are good for now.

We did ditch our “Land Line”. I put it quotes because it isn’t actually a land line. These are phones that run through your cable operator for those with bundled packages. We had this package through ATT and comcast offers the same thing.

They are ran through your Internet connection which makes them the same as Magic Jack. We thought about getting Magic Jack, which is only $19.95 a year, but decided to cut off the phone line all together.

Everyone in the house has a cell phone. My wife and I, plus our two children. There is no need for a land line…and 911 can trace your cell phones location.

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Julie August 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Good for your wife, Freddie. You know, I’ve thought of Magic Jack too. It’s good to know that you’re surviving without your “land line” and that 911 isn’t an issue anymore.

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Christa August 18, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Great job saving the cash! I’ve procrastinated my way to lost savings, too, in the past. Recently though I was proactive and saved myself $500 on cell phones we just didn’t use! Now we have Vonage ($14.99 per month) and an emergency cell ($20 every 6 months). Not too shabby :-)

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Julie August 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Good work, Christa. I think it’s good to question things that we think we ought to have, but don’t really need. Then we have more $$ to spend on the things that are important to us. Thanks for the comment!

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Hunter @ Financially Consumed August 19, 2011 at 8:31 am

Great post, and again, the timing is amazing. I had the same conversation with my cable company yesterday. Crystal’s Mom wrote about this on BITFS yesterday too.

I have a different outcome. Our bill was $148, way too much for our TV, phone, internet bundle. They also agreed to drop the price to $118, with an annual contract. I dropped the TV and phone altogether and now only have internet thought them. I’m off to buy some HD rabbit ears today to pick up free TV. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m just excited to be saving $100 per month.

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Julie August 19, 2011 at 8:55 am

Yes, Hunter, let me know how the new arrangement works. And enjoy that $100/month!

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femmefrugality August 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I recently did this, too! I had to threaten to cancel before I got results, but I got results! About the same as you…a bit over $500 a year!

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Julie August 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

Congrats. It appears that “cancel” is the magic word.

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World of Finance August 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Nice site. I saw you over at Yakezie and wanted to check out your site. :) Very nice. BTW, I love the customer retention department :) Great job. Calling now is better than never. :)

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Sara August 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Just wanted to offer a tip about your email address. Grab yourself a new gmail account (it’s the best). Then set it up to import all emails from your current cable company address. So slowly over time you can start using your new address naturally instead of making a big deal out of it, and meanwhile you’re still receiving and reading all emails from your old address. You can even reply to emails “from” your old address within your new address’ inbox if you need to. Hope that makes sense. I manage 5 email addresses through one gmail inbox. My personal address, my old personal address, my family blog contact email, my business email, and a charity email that I help with. I sign into one and can receive and send email in all the others.

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Julie August 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Sara, you are my hero! I’m going to look into that right away. I may choose to stay with my cable company but I’d like to have the option. Thanks for pointing all that out.

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DD August 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I am just beginning to find alternatives to cable tv and land line. I think you can stream just about anything from your Internet to your tv for free.

I am looking into blue ray players with wi fi and apps already on it to compare with the roku I just got. The roku I purchased is the $99 one that gives you the option of wireless or ethernet and free angry birds game and gaming remote. I think you can also hook up a storage hard drive to it too to keep movies and pics etc.

So far I ahve only used it through a wireless connection and not the ethernet. I think I will eventually hook up the ethernet if I decide to keep it – so there aren’t any “glitches” and lost signal. It has many many different free channels and also offers some pay channels like hulu plus, netflix, and games. But there is WAY more than this on it. It is such a tiny little box with SO much content! I am going to find out though if I can get the same or even more if I just stream from the Internet and what other device there is to do this.

As far as my land line – I can’t get rid of it. I am too paranoid that if there is a major storm and the towers are out my cell won’t work. But I did call and get the lowest possible land line connection which costs $14 pr month and gives me 300 minutes. After 300 minutes I am charged $.02 per minute. Kajeet is a cheaper alternative from the big guys like Sprint and Verizon for cell phone service.

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Julie August 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Wow, lots of good info there, DD. Thanks for sharing.

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Oren January 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Wow. I am impressed with how much money you saved so easily.

I have never had a land line and I don’t plan on getting one. I see no need for it. Both me and my wife have cell phones and are perfectly happy with them.

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