When the hell did my internet bill become $80 a month?
That’s not for some fancy bundled internet-TV-phone combo thing, you understand, although they would like me to do that (oh, yes they would!). No, that’s just for the internet service. We’ve been without cable TV and a home phone line for years.
We have just have this one service with Comcast, a fact that drives their bundle-happy sales people kinda nuts. It wasn’t always this expensive, the same service was $39.99 a month when we first started. But then the special new customer discount expired, $10 got tacked on for some kinda boosty super-fast internet, some other discount expired, and the rental of the internet modem went up to $7 a month.
Viola, $80 a month or almost $1000 a year.
Your Mini-Money Challenge
Two synergistically happy things occur when you do No Spend Month.
- You think more about your spending.
- You have some extra time on your hands because you aren’t going to the store to buy shit.
Together, these things mean you have time to look at your bills and pare them down a little.
Your Mini-Money Challenge for today is to pick one of your monthly “opt-in” services like your cell phone, cable or internet bill – something that’s not a straight usage-based utility bill like water or electricity – and get your monthly payment down.
Now, I’m not much of a wheeler-dealer. I don’t even like asking my neighbors to chip in for my kid’s school walk-a-thon. But today I’m going to tell you how taking this Mini-Money challenge earned me the equivalent of $1440 an hour.
Data/cell/cable/etc. type companies always seem to give their best deals to new customers. So if you have been a good customer and stuck with the same service provider for awhile, chances are you are paying more than you need to. I see this with my parents. They are paying almost the same amount for their two dumbphone cell plan while using maybe 200 peak minutes a month that Homebrew Husband and I are paying for two monster iPhone plans with generous data packages. They are long-term, loyal customers, and they are getting screwed for it.
The Simplest, Most Effective Way To Lower Your Bill Without Giving Up Service
Call up your service provider and ASK. It is that simple, and doing so doesn’t make you a douchebag.
First, you are probably paying for more than you use. We were paying for internet speed designed to keep online gamers happy and when all we needed was enough for me to post photos to Facebook and the kids to periodically watch a streaming show. The company that sells you the service knows how much you use, whether that service is measured in kilowatt hours, megabits or talk-minutes.
Second, there is almost certainly some good-deal internal promotional code available that will lower your rate. All you need to do is get to the person who can apply that discount code to your account.
Do not be an asshole. Don’t call up some hapless customer service rep making $8.95 an hour in a warehouse full of other call center reps and start accusing her of cheating you. Instead, be the nicest person in the world. You are, after all, asking a customer service rep to help you pay less money to the company that gives them a paycheck.
Here’s what I said. You can use this as your script if you want.
“Hi, I was looking over my most recent bills. I’m paying $80 a month for internet, and I think we can get that rate down.” (Happy, smiling voice!) “I’ve been a great Comcast customer for years, so can you help me get this rate down or would it be easier to transfer me to customer retention?”
Note that last part. It’s very important. In almost all companies, Customer Retention is the department that is actually allowed to give you the internal “good deal” rates. The front-line customer service people are often not empowered to discount (and may not even have that option on their computer) so your goal is to get to Customer Retention as quickly as possible. By mentioning Customer Retention, you’ve also very subtly implied that you are ready to jump ship and go with another service provider if necessary.
After looking up my relevant info (reps often have to go through this step even if they are not actually empowered to help in order to log their call resolution time) my nice customer service agent transferred me to Customer Retentions.
I made sure to say thank you and wished the agent a nice day. It costs nothing to be nice.
Total Call Time: 3 minutes
Customer Retention picked up right away. After all, this is where they send customers who are about to cancel service. Most people who get here are really fucking mad about something, like a bill that was screwed up for 8 straight months and the 47 hours of their life they’ve already wasted trying to get it resolved.
Because of this, Customer Retention people get yelled at a lot for things that are out of their control. You, being a bright shining beacon of polite cheerfulness, will make their day and so they will be happy to help you.
Here’s what I said:
“Hi! I’ve been a great Comcast customer for years. The only service we use is internet and we’re not interested in bundling. But my bill for internet is more than I want to be paying. What can we do to bring it down?”
Customer Retention Guy (CRG) did attempt to tell me about the benefits of bundling, and how most of their specials are designed for that.
“I know,” I laughed, “You guys love to bundle. But for our family, internet is all we need.”
At which point CRG agreed that internet streaming was the wave of the future and we moved on to business.
After taking a look at the last six months of our usage, CRG said he would definitely recommend a lighter-weight plan that would still give us enough for everything we actually do. He gave us the best promotional rate available for that service for existing customers, $49.95 a month for 12 months (at which point the rate will increase to $60-something and we get to do this dance again).
I finished the call the way I do all such calls: “Thank you very much. That sounds great, but let me just confirm – is this the best available rate you can offer?” (Always ask this if you make hotel reservations too! It’s like the secret line to easy savings.)
He confirmed that yes, indeed, $49.95 was the best he could do (this is almost certainly true. He only has access to the discount codes he has access to). I verified that there would be no additional charges for changing my service and that the rate plan change would be implemented same day and with appropriate pro-rating. I thanked CRG and went on my way.
Total call time: 12 minutes
Here’s the bonus info I learned from my nice chat with CRG. The internal promotion codes that companies give out are constantly changing. The best deal this month may not be available next month, and the month after that something altogether better may come down the pike. The moral of the the story: it pays to periodically call up and just ask about the best available rate.
How One Phone Call Earned Me $1440 An Hour In Savings
When’s the last time you made $1440 an hour?
Total call time: 15 minutes
Total annual savings projected: $30 per month x 12 months = $360 savings
Savings per minute = $360 / 15 = $24 per minute savings wage
Savings wage per hour = $24 per minute x 60 minutes per hour = $1440 hourly savings wage
So, go take the Mini-Money Challenge. Call up your cable or internet provider or your cell phone company and see if you can negotiate a better rate. Be careful that in negotiating your humongo hourly savings wage you don’t inadvertently lock yourself into an expensive two year contract or something, unless you don’t mind being on contract.
How often do you evaluate your expenses for services like this? Have you saved yourself money with a simple phone call? What are your best tips?