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How to Stick It to Your Cable Company in 2012

Written by Gary North on January 2, 2012

Cable fees are expensive. Our entertainment isn’t free.

It turns out that cable companies are willing to negotiate. This is the thesis of an article in the Wall Street Journal.

We read this:

Every three to six months, when his most recent promotional deal expires, Carey Anthony blocks out an hour of his day to negotiate with his cable company. Each time, the president of a software company in Los Angeles says he can knock $20 to $30 off his monthly bill.

“Negotiating works every time,” says Mr. Anthony, 46, who estimates he has saved more than $350 a year over the past decade. “Sometimes you have to threaten to cancel service, or switch to another provider, or sit on hold for an hour, but I’ve never failed to get a discount,” he says. “You just have to be diligent.”

I don’t quite get this. If the average subscriber pays $128 a month, as the article says, in three sessions, the guy is down to free service. I am missing something. Or else the author was.

Here’s the real deal. He signs up for discount specials with time limits. When they run out, he does it again.

There is price competition, if you know where to look and how to negotiate.

Some cable operators and DirecTV also offer a family packages, which usually cost $30 to $40, and give households all the broadcast channels as well limited cable channels such as the Disney Channel and Food Network.

Other subscribers are dumping bulky packages of 190 channels or more in favor of the most basic service—often known as the “Lifeline” tier in the industry. These usually include public broadcast stations and the handful of over-the-air channels, and usually cost $13 to $16, compared to the $40 to $60 it usually costs to get the more widely-distributed level of digital cable service, which includes ESPN, MTV, TNT and other basic cable channels.

It turns out that a little-known federal law allows customers to get HBO or showtime for $17 a month, even if they have the cheapest package.

My advice:  do not do it. The real cost of TV is lost time. You can put this time to productive uses.

To get the new deals, you must call every six months. Threaten to cancel. You will be transferred to a negotiator.

The article says to give up the DVR. Don’t. The DVR lets you schedule the recordings, and you watch when you have free time. You fast-forward through the ads. I can think of no better way to save valuable time. Always get the DVR.

Set a reminder for when the six-month deal you signed up for expires. Re-negotiate.

There are other tips. Read the entire article.

Continue Reading on online.wsj.com

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28 thoughts on “How to Stick It to Your Cable Company in 2012

  1. Robin Miller says:

    I have tried to negotiate, even threatened to cancel. Comcast said, Go ahead and cancel, there are two two non-complaining customers for every one like you. When I have had problems with service, or have had outages, they offer me three free months of a premium channel of my choice. They always say NO to any credit to my account. They have me over a barrel, because there is no competition for cable. If I want a different cable provider, I will have to move!

    • bullrider says:

      "There are two non-complaining customers for every one like you." So… is Comcast saying they would be OK with losing 1/3 of their subscriber base? I have them for Internet and phone and if I had an alternative I would dump Comcast like a hot rock. They have repeatedly PROMISED me deals – to sign me up, to get me to stay, and when they don't materialize they say 'Oh, well you weren't eligible for that.". I have one of the ahem "dish" TV providers and would not switch to Comcast if it were free.

    • Rick Hanson says:

      Robin, I recently had the same problem with DirecTV. We threatened to cancel unless they renegotiated; they did not seriously counteroffer, just told us to stick it, in essence (they offered $5 off the monthly bill, might as well have been $0); so we canceled. We are TV free, getting news of the internet, saving money and redeeming lost time (like Gary said).

  2. This sounds like something us 'seniors' could benefit from. Just imagine getting on the 'horn' every six months or so, and yakking it up with a reverse 'tele-marketer'. This also reeks of revenge on telemarketers. LOL!

    • bullrider says:

      It sounds good but it doesn't always work that way. I was subscribed to Comcast Internet and phone (they are not TOUCHING my Dish TV, I told them to not even think about it) and was told I would get a specific promo rate for life. After six months or a year the price went up $20 or $30 a month and I called to inquire. I also sat on hold literally for nearly two hours as the rep came and went and said 'Just stay on the line, we're trying to get you that discount back' etc. Eventually they came back and said they could put me on a deal for X amount price reduction and I said OK. Three months went by and no change on my bill. I went through the same thing again, nearly two hours waiting on hold (how long can it really take to determine what your pricing should be?) and finally they came back and said 'Yes we do have a record of your call and what you were told but there was no deal like that available for you so we're sorry but you can't have that pricing.'

      I think the idea is to wear you down, discourage you from calling for service or billing complaints, waste a bunch of your time, and make you just give up. Comcast is the WORST company I have the misfortune of dealing with and when I have an alternative they are HISTORY with me.

      • Get yourself a Roku and drop cable all together. Then you can stream more content than you will have time to ever get through. The one I have cost $99 and no more costs unless you want Netflix ($7.99 per month) or Hulu Plus. I get Netflix so that is my only additional cost but you don't really even need that. Movies, tv shows, news, documentaries, games, etc.

  3. barbpatton says:

    I have done this with Direct TV and with a lot of talk and threatening a Phillipino and holding on and getting hot under the collar I have had on occasion been offered 3 months of a free channel. Frankly I dont have the energy to get thru to these people and explain myself. That is why Direct TV outsources their office side of their business. because they KNOW WE GET FRUSTRATED HAVING TO TRY AND TALK TO PEOPLE IN THE PHILLIPINES AND BANGLADESH. In 10 years with Direct TV the fee has gone up from $29.99 to $100 and over for the same channels. Frankly I am sick of all this over charging. My s.s. has not gone up like that at all, yet they have the freedom to squeeze every penny out of us withou a senior citizen discount.

    • Mike Knight says:

      You can see everything eventually for next to nothing on Netflix, Hulu, and other websites. TV is pretty much dead now anyway. Most of the shows blow. I haven't watched TV in five years. Let the archaic and over priced world of TV fall into the dark ages where it belongs.

      • bullrider says:

        I've had only so-so luck at viewing movies over the 'net. Watching them stop and start and re-buffer is frustrating. TV is not dead, it's just getting more expensive. I'm not willing to settle for the picture "quality" and herky-jerky viewing over the 'net to save money. That's just my .02.

        • Get a roku. I bought two of them and it's money well spent. As for a poster talking about hulu….the hulu premium runs commercials and costs more than Netflix which doesn't. I'm going to downgrade my Dish as low as I can just so I can have FOX…I just wish they would let us stream it live for the same price they charge Dish (.50 per month)

    • I have DirecTv too. I'm getting ready for the day I can go to the VERY basic service. I watch most shows here: http://watchseries.eu/ It's free but you have to click through a couple ads. Most of the time, just aired shows are online to watch just a couple hours after it airs on TV. I do this with NCIS, CSI and other shows.

      If you go to that link, scroll all the way to the bottom and click on "Watch Movies AZ" to watch a lot of movies. There are a lot of older ones but lots of newer ones too.

      Those require a few clicks to get to the movie/show but since its free, it's all good. I also save the movies to my hard drive so that I can watch them whenever I want, internet or not.

      Hope that helps you save a couple bucks.

  4. Bob's your uncle says:

    Or just cut the cord. I have no monthly cable bill, I have an internet connection and watch OTA or stream.
    The only thing I pay for monthly for viewing is Netflix.
    I have two sons, 15 and 11 and they have not missed cable at all for the 2+ years we have not had it.
    We have more free time and we watch what we want, not what gets crammed down our throats by the cable companies.
    Try it, you might like it.

  5. Writing from NYC suburb area serviced by Cablevision. I have a large house with multiple TVs just for convinience not because we are glued to them. I have the triple play and save somewhat. What twarted my jaw last year when Cablevision started requiring a receiver box for even broadcast TV where none was needed before. Reicever boxes and remotes must be rented from Cablevision and cannot be purchased, I had 2 receiver boxes and 5 plug in the wall units for news etc. I do subscribe to the minimum package at $ 39.95 plus taxes to no end, but lately as I have discovered how to set up bridges and the various Media extenders as I find a unit on sale I buy it to receive video streaming and get rid of a Cable box at a time. I will keep two boxes only and maybe even go down to one to watch broadcast and some over the air channels.

  6. senior viking says:

    We gave up TV years ago; and we have not missed it one bit.
    We have saved a BUNDLE.

    We get every bit of our news (live streaming) and entertainment on line.
    All we pay for is our high speed internet.

    I even bought all the hardware and installed it myself (including burying dedicated lines); so, there's also no equipment fees.

    If cable companies allowed us to chosse cafeteria style I may have been more interested in subscribing.
    I will not subsidise networks either I do not like, watch or approve of.
    If we all bail on cable and Direct hundreds of useless programing will evaporate.

    Yea!!

    Power to the people.

    • 1Vote1 LG 1Vote1 says:

      Amen Brother, That is what it will take. PEOPLE always REMEMBER it is " WE THE PEOPLE " are the one's with the "MONEY" why are we letting any businesses tell us what to do or what to buy. All you have to do is remind them who is REALLY in charge here. Are you that hooked to where you can't do without TV or any service you have for that matter.
      JUST SIMPLY LET THEM KNOW WHO IS SPENDING THE MONEY & WHO IS REALLY IN CHARGE !!!!!!!
      That is all it will take, if you have the nerve (backbone) to follow through with it. They will be suffering much more than you in a few weeks or few months at the most. Get netflix streaming or do things with the family for a while & you will not miss TV that much. Go to another service for a while if you can't do without it.

  7. John Lilliquist says:

    A better deal: Ditch the cable and ditch the dish and buy a VHF antenna and get FREE over-the-air (OTA) channels. You won't get cable, but the uncompressed OTA channels are superior to the compressed signals of cable or dish. OK, so I don't get ESPN and HBO. I'm also not paying for 150+ channels that aren't worth watching anyway. Missing ESPN is a good reason to go to a friends's house or a sports bar for the big game and some camaraderie. I'm saving at least $80 a month and have much more free time for more productive enfeebled.

    • bullrider says:

      "I'm also not paying for 150+ channels that aren't worth watching anyway". That's definitely a true statement. They list all these scores of channels you get (and pay for) but many of them are worthless – endless infomercials, sometimes days on end for the same product… channels where you can buy ugly wristwatches, channels that offer other selling programming, much of what they call 'channels' is just crap. It's like if a restaurant said "We have 150 items on our menu to choose from" and then included "Loaf of bread heels", "Waitress order pad cardboard backing", "mens' room paper towel", and "saccharine packet", things they DO have but nobody on Earth would count as an item they'd actually want.

    • senior viking says:

      I'll drink to that. Meet you down there.

  8. That's, "…more free time for more productive endeavors.".

  9. senior viking says:

    Their prgramming is not worth the expenditure.
    If customers demand better choices and be willing to pay for only the programs they watch cabel companies will see demand for their product soar.

  10. senior viking says:

    sorry for the spelling

  11. Bill Baerg says:

    Stop paying !!! Don't write the check !!! Walk away !!! Have the inner strength to let them know YOU are the customer and they are the provider. It's amazing how quickly most will back up and re-think their refusal to deal. We are just too weak to put our money back in our pocket and walk away ! ! !

  12. an old lady says:

    They are barracudas and most people let them pick their pockets. I gave up direct t.v. months ago I could'nt cope with reruns after reruns for months even years. My GOD, John Wayne died 38 years ago and for that time they play and replay the same thing. Do not think that I do not like John, but enough already. That is just one exemple. Boy How would you like it if I invited you for dinner and fed you the same stew every day ?…. would you came again and again??????… I rest my case.

  13. I got an even better deal. I simply stopped the cable/satellite/etc bills completely by not buying them at all. I quit watching TV several years ago. I don’t even bother with the over-the-air stuff, since I regard sewage as something I want to pipe *away* from my house, not into it. As a result, I have more free time for actual productive pursuits, I sleep better, my blood pressure is lower, and I am better informed about what is going on, both locally and nationally. Everything I want to see or read is readily available over the Internet or in my local public library.

  14. nicenecouncil says:

    Most of what you would watch can easily be found on Netflix for $7.99 a month or many shows appear on the television's own website for free! Any news casts are uploaded to YouTube as quick as they happen, so I'm guessing you can save a ton by not even having cable and still get pretty much all you want:)

  15. Maybe this will get censored, but you can dowload most TV programs for free if you know where to look (see Vuze, ThePirateBay.). Most TV episodes posted even have the commercials edited out for you. Better than a Tivo in the sky. You can buy a player that will play AVI files directly into your big-screen TV. Video quality is usually better than analog cable. A lot off Fox News is also available.

  16. I walked away 8 years ago. I, and my family, are better for it. Don't forget, they need your eyes and slackened jaws. They are pushing a lot of BS and if no one is buying it then they are forced to come to the table with a better product.

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