High Cable Bill? It Pays to Complain

Many people gripe about their cable bill. But there’s a way to lower it—call and complain. Or threaten to cancel.

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I discovered this when my spouse and I canceled Comcast and went with DirecTV a few winters ago. Then spring came, a backyard tree leafed in, and we lost the signal. Back to Comcast.

When I called Comcast and said we might switch from DirecTV, the agent offered the same services we had had before—digital cable, HBO, and broadband Internet—for $62 a month. Before, I had paid $137 to Comcast for the same thing. The price would rise slightly after six months; after a year, we’d pay regular rates.

A year and a half later, a flier came in the mail offering new Internet subscribers better rates than we were paying. I called, saying: “Is this the best you can do for me? I’m thinking of switching to Verizon.” I got my broadband rate lowered by $20 a month for three months.

When Verizon Fios became available on our street last year, we were giddy—we’d finally be rid of Comcast. I scheduled Fios installation and called Comcast to cancel. No surprise, they offered me a rate better than Verizon’s—$40 a month less than what I then paid—and threw in three free movie channels.

An employee at a cable provider once told me, “Call once a year and threaten to cancel and they’ll lower your bill.” So I do. Not for sport: With their high rates, I mean it. And you have to: A friend who tried this, joking with the Comcast rep about what I had advised, got nothing.

I’m told the same tactic works for credit-card interest rates. It usually pays to ask.


This article appears in the August 2008 issue of Washingtonian magazine. To see more articles in this issue, click here.


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