Smart Buying

The Game I Play With the Cable Company

I have to haggle every year to keep my rates from rising -- but it's worth it.

During a Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine story-planning meeting last week, we (the editors and reporters) were discussing financial headaches. Several people mentioned that dealing with their cable company always was a pain. I couldn't agree more.

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I get a discount from my cable company for having a bundled package of cable, Internet and phone services. But every year I have to haggle with a customer service representative to keep that discount.

Why? Because the discount is what the company gives "new" customers when they purchase all three services. So I have to take time out of my busy day to call the cable company and complain when my bill increases -- sometimes even threaten to switch to another provider (which I wouldn't do because I can get the best deal from my current provider). The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: I noticed that I'm being charged more for phone and Internet service now.

Customer service rep: Yes, it looks like you had a one-year introductory offer with a special rate for those services.

Me: What can I do to keep that rate?

Customer service rep: Well, we can rebundle your services -- basically put you into a new contract.

Me: Is there a charge for that?

Customer service rep: Yes, $25.

Me (after doing the math and figuring I'll still come out ahead because I'll save $35 a month by keeping my phone and Internet charges at their previous level): Okay, let's do it.

I have automated bill pay, so it would be easy to overlook these annual increases. And I'm sure plenty of people don't bother to contest the price hikes. But think of all the money they (maybe you, too) would save by enduring the headache of haggling with the cable company -- or any service provider -- to get a better deal.

And the next time I have to play this game with the cable company, I'll try to haggle my way out of the $25 charge I usually agree to pay to get better rates.

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