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5 steps to negotiating a lower cable bill, cracking down on serial negotiators

Companies claim they're cracking down on serial negotiators, but these bargaining tactics work

Published: March 28, 2014 08:00 AM

TV, Internet, and phone service providers have been talking tough lately about cracking down on serial negotiators who regularly try to bargain for better deals. Haggling with a company to lower their bills makes some consumers uncomfortable, but it has no downside. Here's how to do it right.  

Ask for a better deal

It might sound obvious, but the first step is to call customer service and say your bill is too high. Ask whether you qualify for any promotions, including their best deal for new customers. Stress that you’ve been a loyal subscriber and want to stay—but only if they can do something for you.

Fight price hikes

Even if your promotion has expired, ask whether you qualify for a new one: 43 percent of Consumer Reports subscribers in that situation negotiated a new discount. If you encounter a helpful representative, note his or her name and, if possible, extension. One Facebook contributor facing a $20-per-month hike recontacted an agent he’d dealt with previously, who was able to cut that to $5.

Check out the competition

If your requests fall on deaf ears, see what other local providers are offering new subscribers, then ask your current provider to match it. Several Facebook followers said their company was willing to meet or beat a competitor’s price. Note that you might have to sign a contract to get the sweeter deal, so decide whether it’s worth being locked in.

Threaten to disconnect

Still no luck? Call to say you’re planning to cancel your service because it costs too much. You’ll be directed to a customer-retention rep, who might be more willing to work with you. But be warned: Over the past few months, we've found that telecom providers are more likely to skip the discount and offer a small perk, such as faster Internet speed or a three-month freebie on a premium channel.

Also, if you’ve called a number of times in the past, you might not get concessions. One Facebook respondent said his provider offered nothing but thanks for his previous business and the comment, "Sorry you will be leaving."

Be ready to walk

At some point, you might have to switch if you can’t get what you want. Before you move to another company, check its website for the best deal and request a written quote that includes all equipment charges, taxes, and fees. Find out how long the promotional rate applies and what the bill will be after it expires.

Once you put in the disconnect order, you might find that your former provider wants you back. One Facebook poster said his company offered him a better deal when he arrived to turn in his equipment, and another got a call offering the deal she wanted a day after she terminated her service.

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