Prior to 1995, the average cable bill was only twenty or thirty dollars per month. But with the rise of the Internet and ubiquitous streaming, it’s now not uncommon for cable bills to be in the $130 range or higher.
Why are cable bills so expensive? Like most things, the answer is simple: because telecommunications companies can get away with it. Economically, the marginal cost of an additional one hundred gigabytes of data is perhaps a fraction of a fraction of a cent for Comcast. But for you, they’ll happily charge an extra $29 — which translates to profits of well over 99%.
As someone who routinely gets 50%-60% off of their cable bill each year, I’ve been on quite a few “customer service” calls. Many times, I’ve been passed from supervisor to supervisor like a hot potato, with no one willing to budge and give me a discount.
But, given enough time, I always eventually get my way. And it’s not because I’m incredibly charming — although, let’s be honest, I totally am — it’s because I follow the same, incredibly simple process each time.
Over the next few minutes, I’ll teach you how to negotiate your cable bill step-by-step so you can receive discounts of 30% or more every month. Ready? Let’s get started.
Prior to making a call, it’s imperative that you do a little bit of research. In the week leading up to your negotiation, begin logging any cable or internet service issues. This could be bad reception, a slow connection, or a loss of signal. Write down the dates & times, and provide detailed information of exactly what is happening and how it’s different from what you were promised. You’ll be using this in later steps.
Don’t lie or fluff the truth — many times, they’ll find out and this leads to poor negotiations and a bad taste in every party’s mouth. Most cable companies have enough problems as-is that you can probably find one or two major issues every few days, so stick to the truth and you’ll be fine
Once you’ve tabulated a handful of service issues, you’re on to the next step.
I won’t lie: being kind and frustrated is a tough balance to maintain. But if you want to maximize your discount, you need to maintain courteous, respectful discourse while also making it clear that you’re not getting what you were promised in your contract.
A note: telecommunications companies get hundreds (if not thousands) of customer complaints per day. The vast majority are never resolved. This is due to the simple fact that most calls are rude, disrespectful, and drawn out, and the speaker forgets the golden rule of negotiation — that the customer service representative is a person just like them.
Remember that the representative you’re speaking with likely had nothing to do with the quality of service you’re receiving. Being mean to them won’t help, and is actually the most counterproductive thing you can do during a negotiation.
Most customer service staff have more power than you realize; they can both blacklist your account (preventing you from ever receiving a preferential rate) and also provide you with a massive discount (if you play your cards right).
To maximize your odds, you need to be kind but firm. Express how, firstly, you know that this has nothing to do with them. Mention how you were promised a certain speed or availability, and that over the term of your contract you’ve noticed huge interruptions to service quality. List the last few such instances using the sheet from the previous step, and tell them you’re very unhappy with their service. Tell them things need to change, and that the most important thing to you is that you receive the right value for the price you’re paying for.
If you know that another service provider offers a better rate, use that in your negotiations. Let the customer service representative know that ‘x’ company offers the same thing for significantly less, and that it doesn’t make sense value-wise for you to keep paying them instead of ‘x’.
If the other service provider offers things that are non-monetary, but still negotiable, feel free to mention them. If you get an extra few channels at the same price, for example, let them know that you want that too. Keep the conversation around getting the right value for the price — most customer service representatives understand this concept deeply, and it helps frame the discussion in terms of compensation.
Next, ask for a refund on your prior service. You don’t have to be mean about it — a simple “the quality of service that I paid for was not what was promised, so I would like a refund on my last x months” is fine (and completely understandable). You probably won’t get the full refund, but, once again, this frames the discussion in terms of compensation. Don’t be surprised if you get a few months back as a result.
The first time I did this, I received my next three months fully paid-for. Since my contract was on a one-year term, this alone represented a discount of 25% — which I then increased substantially by lowering my rate using the next tip.
Lastly, mention that if you can’t get the right value for the price, your only option is to leave for another company. Make sure they understand that t’s not personal, and you know it’s not their fault — but you don’t pay good money for poor quality service.
This shifts the conversation from compensation mode to loss-prevention mode, which authorizes most customer service representatives to provide massive discounts in a last-ditch attempt to keep you hooked on their cable plan.
It’s not exactly rocket science, and you won’t win any awards for innovation in negotiation. But it works. Because of their fantastic margins, most telecommunications companies still turn a profit, even if you pay just 20% of what you’re paying now.
Well done! If you’ve followed the steps in this guide, you’re now likely receiving discounts of 30% or more on your cable bill.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in life, it’s that everything is negotiable. The above guide doesn’t just work for cable — it applies to your mobile phone or internet provider too. And similar principles will save you money on rent, your lease, and your mortgage. Hell, you can even negotiate your order at McDonalds (not that I encourage it, but out of principle)!
Pick up the phone, make the call, and start saving money. Your wallet (and television) will thank you.