Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Save Money on Your Cable / Phone / Internet

After 4 years, I finally entered the 21st Century with Digital Cable. Having never watched a lot of TV, I do realize I'm now paying a premium for a few channels. Some (including my conscience) might also suggest my disposable income would be better invested in a tax-free savings account or RRSP's. For now, I'm enjoying the luxary that is HGTV, Food Network and Discovery. That works for me.

I'm actually considering my digital as a free upgrade. Hence, the subject of this post.

My July bill was $30 more expensive with no service change. I was annoyed because I thought it was HST, then annoyed when I wasn't. What can I say? I wanted to blame HST.

Customer Service explained the promotional pricing I had expired. Oh right. I thought, A year ago, I called to cancel my TV and they discounted my rates so it was essentially free.

Coincidentally, Bell has been calling harassing me for several weeks. If you're not a Bell customer, you know what I'm talking about. They want me to 'come back to Bell' . My interest was piqued... except they failed to notice I never left. Not only have I never been a residential customer, but to this day, I am still a corporate wireless customer. I was never there, and yet, I have never left. Confused? I guess they are too.

Anyway, I managed to copy down the details of their deal and use some aggressive tactics of my own to buy some 'thinking time'. I relayed the offer back to my current company and noted that I expect the same pricing, if not better, if I keep my services and upgrade my cable. The rest is history. My bill is still higher than it was, but I had essentially been getting cable for free, so I am okay with the increase. Not to mention, I don't have to switch companies.

So, I've seen several bloggers cover this topic, and there are lots of good tips out there if you do a quick google search. Here's my advice:

Call Customer Service and explain your situation or what you want. Suggest you'll have to cancel your service(s) or you may switch to X Company. In my experience, providers can't stand the thought to lose you. Casually threatening to cancel or switching providers seems to open the doors for negotiation. What's the worse thing that can happen? They say no. If you have a better deal elsewhere, then say 'see ya'!

2) Don't get angry. Be nice. Avoid calling when the unexpected, hippo-sized bill comes. Wait a few days, so you can cool down and collect your thoughts. Then you can also decide what you actually want from the provider.

3) Do your research. What is everyone else offering? Are there other features you could use, which they may be able to add into your service for free. Again, it's about knowing what you want, before you call.

4) Pay attention to the fine print. How long is the contract? Is there a cancellation fee? If you switch companies, sometimes there are hidden installation costs or fees to keep your old number. Ask about these, and ask for them to be waived. Switching can be enough hassle; why pay for it?

5) Password protect your wireless router! This will ensure you pay just for YOUR use. A neighbour was using my wireless connection and the data charges were delayed by almost 2 months. By the time it showed up on my bill, I was on the third month of exceeding my bandwidth limit. I called my provider, and this was the first thing she suggested. I set up a password that evening, and I haven't had a problem since.

Good luck!

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