How to Negotiate with Cable Companies

By Matthew McCabe

If you are noticing an ever-increasing monthly cable bill, you may be a victim of "rate creep." You may not know that you can actually negotiate with a cable company to get a more reasonable rate on your services. Good negotiators can expect to save around 10 to 30 percent off their monthly cable bills. The first step is to pay attention to your bills so you are aware of any increases.

Step 1

Look at your last three cable bills and review the itemized charges in detail.

Step 2

Underline any charges that have appeared some months but not others; also note whether you had a promotion that expired. Take time to recall any outages you had with your cable television high-speed Internet or cable telephone.

Step 3

Call your cable company's customer service line, and ask to be connected with the retention department. This is important, as the typical customer service representative is not empowered to offer concessions on your monthly bill. The retention department is authorized to make concessions -- in fact, that is their only purpose, to "retain" you as a customer.

Step 4

Tell the retention representative that you are unsatisfied with the price value proposition his company delivers and explain that would like a discount on your currently monthly bill or you will consider leaving them.

Step 5

Prepare yourself for a small but well-rehearsed counterattack. Most representatives in the retention department have convincing bullet points ready to discourage customers from leaving for another provider. The retention representative may also ask about your favorite cable shows in an effort to show you how much you would miss those shows if you were to leave. If you had a pleasant experience with a satellite TV company in the past mention that, and give details about technical problems or outages you have experienced with your cable TV, Internet or phone.

Step 6

Ask for a discount and be direct. Most likely the cable company will offer you a three- to six-month "promotional" rate. If the promotional rate is decent, consider taking it, but ask for a longer term -- six months to a year is preferable. If the representative is not authorized to extend the promotion six months to a year, ask to speak with a supervisor.

Step 7

Review with the retention rep exactly what your monthly bill is now, what it will be after the promotion kicks in and when exactly the promotion will start and end. Also note the name and contact information of the representative you spoke with in case your bill does not reflect the new rate and you have to call back.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make a calendar entry to note when the promotional pricing expires so you can call back in six to twelve months for another promotion.
  • If you still don't feel like you are getting a square deal, and you have a Twitter account, search Twitter for the cable company. Often, cable companies are quick to appease the technically savvy because they know how viral digital complaints can be. For example, Comcast Time Warner and Charter have Twitter response teams (see Resources).
  • Don't fall for the "lock-in" promotional price that is only available if you agree to contract of one year or some fixed time period.
  • Beware of the bundle promotion. If you currently don't have your phone service bundled in with your cable company, the company may offer you a great promotional price if you bundle all of your services with them. The problem with this approach is that the cost will usually go up significantly when the promotional period is over.
  • Once your telephone is tied into your cable company, they know you are a "lifer" because the moment you try to unbundle your phone from the cable TV and high-speed Internet, you will see the price of your TV and high-speed Internet skyrocket.