We've already touted the benefits of negotiating with your telecom company to save cash. But how does a savvy consumer go about it? Though Americans are less experienced than other cultures in the art of haggling, we recommend that even the shy give it a shot. A Consumer Reports survey last year found that buyers who haggled over various purchases were successful much of the time.
If you're not good at improvising, you can model your conversation loosely on our script, which we came up with after listening to stories from readers and fellow staffers:
You: Hi, is this customer service? I just got my new triple-play bill and my rate has shot up. I'm just not sure I can afford to pay this much. I checked with my DSL provider, and I could switch my phone and Internet back to them and save $20 a month over what I'll pay you with this new rate. I'd like to stay with you if you can meet those savings.
Rep: Well, I could offer you a rate of $10 less a month for two years with our price-lock program.
You: But that's a contract, correct? With a termination fee?
Rep: Well, yes, but it guarantees you the same price for two years and gives you peace of mind.
You: No, thanks. I'm really looking for you to meet that $20 gap, much as I'd like to stick with you.
Rep: Well, you'd save $12.95 a month by dropping your premium channel. And $7 a month more if you dropped your Internet speed from the 10-Mbps you have now to a 7-Mbps maximum.
You: No, thanks. I like the service I have now, but I really need it to be cheaper. Is there anyone else who can help?
Rep: Yes, I can send you on to someone.
Rep 2: Can I help you?
You: Yes, I'm looking to stay with your company but my rate has shot up. Can you meet the $20 savings I'd get if I switched to your competitor for phone and Net?
Rep 2: Actually, one of our current offers would cut exactly $20 from your new bill. It also gives you an extra premium channel for two years. How does that sound?
You: There's no contract, right?
Rep 2: Correct, no contract.
You: Sound great. Sign me up.
Remember to do your homework on pricing and services before you attempt to negotiate. Be assertive, but nice. (A drop of honey...)
For more tips on trimming your TV, phone, and Internet bills, be sure to read our story on telecom bundling from the February issue of Consumer Reports.
—Nick K. Mandle