Give Me the Best Deal, Too
Starting about five years ago, service providers became hell-bent on selling consumers a triple-play of TV, phone, and Internet service. The all-in-one deal was supposed to save us money and simplify our bills. But competition to sell the bundle has been fierce, and service providers continually offer new and better deals to steal customers from each other.
Try getting one of these deals from your current provider, though, and you'll be told that your contract is "locked in" at a certain rate for a certain period--and that you're not eligible for the advertised "promotional rate."
If you complain loudly enough, the service may reduce your bill slightly, as sales trainer Laurie Brown from Ferndale, Michigan, found out. "I discovered that I was paying double for my cable bill [what] my friend who had the same service four blocks away in the same city [paid]," Brown says. "After many angry calls I got my bill reduced, but I will never trust them again."
To the service provider, the "lock-in" pricing strategy may make perfect business sense; but to many customers, it seems like an unfair punishment for their unwillingness to jump ship. "The cable and satellite companies would never think to reward customer loyalty by lowering prices," writes Judy Nichols from Wilmington, North Carolina. "They are far more likely to announce a rate increase because they've expanded the basic service by offering more channels that you will never ever watch."
You usually have to be willing to go to the brink of changing services to get a better deal from your provider. Clear evidence that you are prepared to cancel your service outright seems to be the only thing these companies understand. But if the service provider doesn't blink, you'll have to deal with the considerable hassle of actually switching your service to another company.
"If they would give you the best deal to begin with, you probably wouldn't consider leaving, as it's a huge hassle to change providers," concludes Lindsey Slattery of Clarksville, Tennessee.
How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?
The scenario is reminiscent of Fatal Attraction. You have a brief affair with a big company and sign up in just a few heady minutes. But if you try to break things off, it clings obsessively through endless rounds of bureaucratic buck passing and phone tag. (See our investigative feature, "Just Cancel the @#%$* Account!")
The preternaturally perky customer associate kicks you over to the tired billing representative, who transfers you to the guilt-tripping account retention and disconnections team ("Why are you leaving us? Why? Why?"). Five operators later, you think you're home free--until you notice that your online account says the disconnection will take effect at the end of the next billing cycle, not immediately (as you requested).
"Dish Network makes it extra difficult for customers to cancel--a lot of waiting on hold and dealing with pushy customer service reps," says Stephen Hansen, a marketing director from Lombard, Illinois. "First, they tell us there's no cancellation fee, and then turn around and bill us $175 cancellation fee (we had 2 months left on our contract). When asked about it, no one could explain why, and that phone call was an hour and 45 minutes long."
Lost Love and Telemarketing
And don't for a minute imagine that the day of your final bill is the last time you'll hear from your ex-service provider. The company already has your information and its minions will use that data to try to reel you back in (or worse).
"We got inundated with calls and mailings from Dish TV promising all sorts of bells and whistles--including the dual receiver we wanted replaced in the first place," reports Anne Zeise of Milpitas, California. "I had to talk to a whole lot of people before I could get off their spam lists."
Some services even robocall you--or sell your information to other companies so that they can bother you.