A couple weeks ago we got a notice in the mail that our Comcast (XFINITY) cable bill was going up at the beginning of 2013 by about $50. Apparently they had mistakenly extended our promotional period (I don’t know how that happened) and needed to start billing us what they should have been charging us the last 6 months or so.
Of course – we knew this letter (or one like it) would be arriving at our mailbox soon. It’s just a bit of a surprise when it comes. I guess what I thought was most troubling was they disguised the increase as a mistake of theirs and assured us they wouldn’t be charging us for that error (Thanks!).
I’ve written before about my attempts at lowering my Comcast bill by touting our good customer status and loyalty. But, it didn’t really go as planned.
Then, I happened upon a special that Financial Expert Jean Chatzky did on the Today show. She polled her readers what one thing they most would like to save money on. The answer: how to lower my cable bill.
The answer didn’t surprise. Getting a good rate (and a consistent one at that) is no easy task.
So, using Jean’s suggestions, here’s how I got our cable bill lowered and how you can too:
Be sure you have some time to negotiate
From when I first picked up the phone to call Comcast, to when I hung up – the whole process took 1 hour. Be sure you have a little time carved out of your day for this phone call. Of course, I did call at the end of the year and Comcast was likely a bit short-staffed given the holidays. Still, know this could take some time.
Do some research
One of the things I did before calling Comcast was to check around the neighborhood to see what folks where paying. In particular, I wanted to see what a competitor of Comcast was charging folks. In this case, it was Dish (or DirectTV). My next door neighbor, was getting a package that was considerably less than what I was getting with Comcast. You’ll need this information to make the case for lower rates.
Ask for the Retention Department
Jean Chatzky recommends that when you get on the line with a billing customer representative, that you immediately ask to be transferred to the Retention Department. This was my first mistake. I didn’t. I had a helpful and courteous rep who tried their best to offer me a cheaper package, only to come out with about $6 less/per month. I wasn’t happy with that and finally asked to be transferred to Retention. Ask for this department right away.
Be polite – but to the point
I never think you have to be rude or inconsiderate to negotiate a better deal. At the same time, you don’t have to be a pushover. When you get through to the Retention Department, state the reason of your call: “I see that Dish is offering considerably lower rates than Comcast – and would like to see if there is anything you can do to lower our bill before we decide to leave.” Of course, you could eliminate that last part “before we decide to leave” – but I’m just giving you a script that worked for me. When you get to the Retention Department, they already know you’re about to leave.
Be prepared to negotiate some
The first offer the customer service representative gives you may not be to your liking. Don’t settle. Ask if there is anything further they can do. They’ll likely go through a checklist to see what services you are using. In our case, the rep asked us what channels we were using.
I didn’t need to spend a lot of time negotiating. The rep gave us a deal to get us back to our original promotional pricing and included an upgrade to our landline (which we use for faxing).
There will likely be a “catch”
To give you the starter promotional prices, Comcast does something similar to what the cell phone companies do. They “lock” you in. To get our bill back to the promotional rate, Comcast required us to stay on for two years. They ensure this by a $150 early termination fee (which goes down by $15 every 3 months after the new rate goes into affect). I don’t really see this as a terrible catch – as we won’t need to re-negotiate on the pricing every 6 months when the promo expires.
Hope this helps. You should be able to lower your Comcast cable bill too. Please let us know how it worked!
Update (1/11/13): In addition to the lower monthly rate – Comcast also gave us a credit on our account (which amounted to a free month of service. Nice.
Update (8/12/16): If you qualify, you may be able to get Comcast at a much lower rate depending on your income. It’s called Internet Essentials and folks can get home internet starting at $9.99/month.
Update (10/12/16): After a year of no-cable, our friends at Comcast (Xfinity) have again raised our rates for internet service AND will be limiting data usage (right now set at 1TB – which is quite a bit). We had been paying $45/mo for our high-speed internet and they raised it to $70/mo. They’ve changed a lot of their bundles now so that for $70 / $80/mo, you can get cable AND internet together. This is probably a play to get more cable subscribers. So you think, “if I’m paying $60-70 for internet – I might as well pay the extra for cable again” (this is their hope at least).
After negotiating again with them to lower the rate to what they were, I cannot stress that you will need to stand firm. If you do not ask for retention right away – you will have to deal with their first line of employees who do not have much freedom to offer you any savings. Again, they count on the fact most people give up or do not like confrontation – so they will hang-up or accept the first offer given to them. You will need to speak with the loyalty dept or retention to get what you want. After speaking with retention, I was finally able to get my old price back + $5 (so, $50/mo). Not bad.