Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Don't Leave Money On The Table: Want A Discount? Just Ask!

This is one in a series of short articles about claiming all the benefits you are entitled to – be that discounts, freebies, or whatnot. I’m not going to go to the length of, say, extreme couponing, but I have found there are often discounts or bonuses you can easily take advantage of that can save you money without making major changes in your spending patterns or behaviors.

"It never hurts to ask for a discount."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that and failed to do so. I've read all sorts of blog posts about people just calling up their credit card company to ask for a lower interest rate, or calling their cable TV provider to ask for a discount. Most of the time, they get that discount. Sometimes they may have to threaten to quit or go to a competitor, but most times, they can usually score some sort of price reduction, if only for 12 months or so.

The recommended method is to research what the competition is offering and then call your provider's customer service number to see if they will match it. It's helpful if you are actually willing to switch providers so if your threat to switch companies doesn't bear fruit, you can actually do so, but that's not necessary. And because most of the discounts people are given expire after 12 months, it's recommended to call back again in a year and see if you can get the lower price extended.

There is actually a company that will do this for you - Billcutterz. I started the process of working with them, but I found their response time too long and the process was dragging out over a couple of weeks, so I got impatient and cancelled the process. I was also a bit nervous because you have to give them a copy of all your bills, plus any passwords or PINs you may have set up on your account so that they can talk to the companies on your behalf.

But the other day, I was downloading my monthly bill from my internet provider and noticed that they were offering new customers the internet package I had for an introductory rate of $59.99 a month for 12 months. I was paying the regular price of $73.99.

Hmm.. I happened to have some spare time that day, so on the spur of the moment, I called the customer service number on my bill to see if they would give me that price. I got an automated routing system and pressed the digits to talk to someone about downgrading or cancelling my service. (This is the department you want to talk to - the customer retention department. They typically have greater latitude on changing your bill than the normal front line order taker would.)

When I got connected to a person, I told them I noticed they were offering new customers my same package at a rate of $59.99 for 12 months and I asked if I could get that same deal. The man I was speaking with told me that was normally only for new customers, but asked if he could put me on hold while he checked to see what he could do.

Well, That Was Unexpected!

I waited on hold for about 3 minutes. When he came back he said he could reduce my price to $51.79 a month for 12 months and would that be acceptable?

Hell, yes! That was lower than I was asking for! I asked (twice) if my service would stay exactly the same. He said it would. He also said after 12 months, my price would go back to my standard $73.99, but that I should call back then to see if there was another deal going on.

So by making a phone call that lasted no more than 5 minutes, I saved $22.20 a month, or $266.40 a year. I did not have to threaten to cancel my account. I did not have to play hardball or resort to any negotiating tactics. I simply called and asked  for a lower price, and they gave it to me. Wow.

Update: Just did the same thing with my TV service. Noticed Dish Network was offering the package I have to new subscribers at $39.99 a month for 12 months. I'm paying $74.99. I called up and asked for a discount. The first time, I got some guy on a really bad connection and he told me that offer was only for new subscribers. Hung up and tried again. I noticed this time I got a totally different set of routing options for my call. I got a clear connection and a woman on the line. I asked if I could get the lower price and she said sure. So I'm getting a $35 a month credit on my bill for the next 12 months. Saved $420 with a 5 minute phone call! (I wonder if my first call was routed to some generic call center off shore somewhere.)

Do you have any tips for not leaving money on the table? Leave them in the comments!


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