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How I got a $480 price break on my cable bill

How I got a $480 price break on my cable bill

Sometimes ranting about bad customer service to your telecom provider actually pays off, especially if you have a legitimate beef and are so steamed that you talk about leaving for a competitor—and your threat to jump ship reaches the right ears.

That’s the upshot of my recent run-in with my cable company, which began with it missing a scheduled service appointment at my home and ended with a $40-plus-a-month discount on my TV, Internet, and phone bill for 12 months, a total savings of nearly $500.

In between came a wall-rattling phone call from me to the company, Time-Warner Cable, followed by the offer of a price break when I talked with one of the company’s “customer-retention specialists.” As we noted in our most recent report on buying a bundle of telecom services, reps who are charged with keeping you as a subscriber can be valuable allies in your fight for lower telecom bills, because they can often extend offers the regular reps can’t or won’t.

That’s especially true (as readers and I have found) if you happen to mention dropping your service or switching to a competitor. In my case, the biggest driver for the hefty price break was likely the company committing (and admitting to) a cardinal sin of customer service: failing to show for a scheduled appointment. But I suspect it also helped that my phone rant included a heated promise to remember this incident if and when I get the option to subscribe to Verizon FiOS.

As an AT&T executive recently told Consumer Reports telecom reporter Jeff Blyskal, and many reader experiences have verified, cable companies often pony up better deals if phone-company triple-play services come to town. FiOS—the all-fiber-optic TV, Internet, and phone service that scores high with readers in our Ratings—isn’t available to me now. But it’s currently offered in my Manhattan neighborhood at buildings that are only a few blocks away from mine, and Verizon assures me it continues to expand service. I’m guessing my retention rep knew about Verizon’s presence and considered it in her offer.

(By the way, the fact I work for Consumer Reports likely didn’t play a role in my price break. The Time-Warner account is in my wife’s maiden name. Also, as a matter of course, I and other Consumer Reports staffers never mention our employer when buying products and services, either professionally or personally.)

The bottom line: Give the retention rep a try the next time you’re unhappy with your telecom provider. The regular rep you first talk to may transfer you, or you can simply ask for one (we’ve even created a script you can use). Success isn’t guaranteed, though in our recent survey, most readers who bargained over their telecom rates did get at least something for their trouble.

If you strike out with the retention department, and the company has legitimately let you down, Consumer Reports financial reporter Tony Giorgianni recommends going public. Tweeting your complaint or posting it to the company’s Facebook page, he says, can often yield a rapid and satisfying response, even if your private negotiations haven’t.

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