Last week, I wrote that you can negotiate anything. This guest post by G.E. Miller gives a real-life example of using negotiation to save money. For more from G.E., check out his personal finance blogs 20somethingfinance.com and microfrugality.com.

For the third of the country who has no choice but to turn to Comcast for cable television, the thought of price haggling is about as appealing as a root canal. Comcast has a notorious reputation for being unwilling to make their customers happy. Customers of other monopolistic cable outfits across the nation know the feeling.

However, the potential savings that can come from limiting a monthly subscription expense can be enormous – that’s money that goes straight to your online savings account. What’s a frugal personal financier to do?

Dealing with your local cable superpower doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. And as evidenced by the ease in which I recently cut my cable/internet costs by a third during a short online chat without losing any service whatsoever, you may have similar success.

With television service competition increasing and unemployment rates still trending upward, consumers are looking to slice discretionary expenses and service providers may be feeling the pinch to keep them on board. There’s no better time to ask than now. Here’s my actual chat with a Comcast rep (whose name has been altered to Rizzo to preserve his anonymity). Afterward, we’ll discuss some universal price haggling techniques to better prepare you for your interaction.

My Comcast Chat Transcript
user G.E. has entered room
analyst Rizzo has entered room

Rizzo: Hello G.E., Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Rizzo. Please give me one moment to review your information.
G.E.: Hi Rizzo
Rizzo: Hello G.E., I will be happy to assist you today. How are you?
G.E.: Fine, you?
Rizzo: How may I assist you today? I’m good. Thanks for asking.
G.E.: I need to lower my bill. U-Verse is much cheaper. Thinking of switching
Rizzo: Alright. Let me check my resources for this.
G.E.: A buddy of mine was able to get $39.99/mo. for digital preferred for a year.
Rizzo: Can I have your account number please.
G.E.: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Rizzo: Thank you for that. I will now check on the account. Please bear with me. Thanks.
Rizzo: G.E, I have checked the account. You have our Digital Preferred package for $74.94, DVR for $9.99, Internet $42.95 and Modem Rent for $5.00. I will now check on my resources to lower your bill.
Rizzo: I have checked my resources. I can offer you Digital Preffered $54.99 for 12months and Internet for $19.99 for 6 months.
G.E.: Can you do $44.99 on the cable or 1/2 price DVR and extend the internet to a year?
Rizzo: With this your new monthly charge will be $89.97. Thats the best promotion available G.E.
G.E.: Rizzo, we’re so close! =)
Rizzo: Thanks. Do you want me to process this one for you?
G.E.: Can you extend the internet to a year? That way the cable and internet are both a year
Rizzo: The Internet Code is only good for 6 months. That’s the best price I can offer you for internet. However, you can check back on us again next quarter to check if there’s another promotion available to you. Would that be okay?
G.E.: What’s my TOTAL bill now, and what would it be after your offer?
Rizzo: Your current monthly charge is $132.88. With this offer your monthly bill is $89.97.
G.E.: Preferred is what I presently have, correct?
Rizzo: Yes, the offer that I have is also a Digital Preferred package. Do you want me to proceed and process this one?
G.E.: Yes, can you send me an email confirmation?
Rizzo: Unfortunately, I cannot. The process will take effect immediately. You will see this rates adjusted on your next bill.
Rizzo: Shall I process this now?
G.E.: yes
Rizzo: Alright.
G.E.: thanks Rizzo, you’re a good man.
Rizzo: You’re welcome. I’m still processing. Please bear with me.
Rizzo: G.E., I already have processed the order. The new charges includes Preferred $54.99, DVR $9.99, Modem $5.00 and Internet $19.99. Your new monthly charge is $89.97.
Rizzo: Do you have other concerns for today? I will be glad to assist you further.
G.E.: Nope, that’s it. thanks
Rizzo: You’re welcome. By the way, to properly close this chat room please click on the END SESSION button. Thank you. I hope that you can find time in answering the 3 question survey after this chat. Thanks.
Rizzo: Bye for now.

So what can you take away from this chat transcript? There are a few universal haggling techniques that are applicable to just about any price haggling scenario.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask. Asking to cut my bill worked. Amazed at how simple it was to cut more than I was aiming for from my bill immediately, I asked for an even bigger cut. That request was denied (not to my surprise or dismay). Truth be told, I’m not sure that any of the techniques I used triggered the better offer, but I do know one thing — had I been afraid to simply ask for the price break, I would have never gotten one. Rule number one is to overcome your fear and just ask.
  2. Be pleasant. Congeniality is king when interacting with CSRs. Being rude only infuses CSRs with the desire to deny your request. CSRs aren’t paid near what they should be, and probably don’t have the highest job satisfaction levels. If you can appeal to their gentler human-side, you win. Spit fire at them, and they will slam the door on you with pleasure.
  3. Refer to the competition. I had heard that Comcast was motivated to be a little more giving with the entrance of AT&T U-Verse cable into the marketplace (at lower prices). I’m not sure that it helped in this specific case, but referencing the competition specifically or generically (if its offerings are weaker) rarely will hurt you.
  4. State the facts. More than anything else, I wanted to lower my cost, and that’s what I asked for. Someone I know had received a better price than I was paying and I stated that fact.
  5. Do your research. Knowing what kind of promotions the company is offering to new or exiting customers is essential to getting the best deal. When it comes down to it, if you can quit your service and then re-start it the next day at a cheaper price, the company knows it has little incentive to let you leave without matching that offer.
  6. Look for special circumstances. I’d heard that working with Comcast online chat representatives often yielded better results because the reps weren’t actual Comcast employees, and therefore had lesser incentive to play the hard line. That’s why I chose the online chat route versus the phone.
  7. Let them make the first move. Before the chat, had I not received a cost break, I was willing to cut my service levels. I didn’t offer that right away, and it turned out that I didn’t need to. Don’t show all your cards right away.

When I need to call back in, I now have two additional pieces of information that I can take into the negotiation process based on this statement form the CSR: “The Internet Code is only good for 6 months. That’s the best price I can offer you for internet. However, you can check back on us again next quarter to check if there’s another promotion available to you.”

I now know that Comcast has promotions available on a quarterly basis. I also know that there are “codes” for both Internet and cable. Both pieces of info should help me in future negotiations. Hopefully, they’ll help you as well.

Have you had similar success haggling with your cable company or ISP? What do you attribute it to? What kind of a break did you get on your bill?

Previously at Get Rich Slowly, G.E. has shared articles on the compound return marathon and what to look for when buying a home. If you’d like more cost-savings tips, check out 20somethingfinance.com or microfrugality.com. If you liked this article on how to cut your monthly subscription costs, check out G.E.’s Ooma review. The Ooma has allowed him to cut his monthly phone bill by $30 per month.

This article is about Frugality, Hints and Tips, Money Hacks, Real-Life