My monthly Internet bill arrived on Friday. It showed a price increase of another $4.00/month — the fourth increase in the past 26 months.
When the price went up a year ago, I contacted my ISP (Internet Service Provider) and asked for a better deal. "We can't give you a better price," I was told. "You're getting the best we have."
I was frustrated, and not really confident that I was being told the truth. But I opted to pay up.
Faced now with yet another increase, I decided to contact my ISP again — but this time, I did some research first. I discovered there are three internet providers where I live. One of them offers a level of service that would save me $10-$15 a month, although switching would require a downgrade in my upload/download speeds. I could live with that. My wife and I aren't online gamers and our use of web-streaming is modest.
With that pricing information in hand, I contacted my current ISP via online chat. "I'm not happy with the price increase," I said. "There's another company in town and I'll switch unless you can give me a better price." Again, I was told, "You have our best price. We're sorry you feel like you must leave. Thanks for being a customer."
That was not the result I was hoping for.
I began to plan my switch. I went to the website of the competing internet company and made a choice about which level of service I would order. Then I called my current ISP to cancel.
"Before I process your order," said the phone rep, whose name was Jerry, "do you mind telling me why you're canceling?"
"Well, Jerry, my monthly bill has gone up 55% since I started with your service 26 months ago. I had a chat with one of your online reps this morning, and I was told that the new price I am being charged is the best deal you have. So I've decided to switch to another company."
Jerry seemed genuinely surprised. "I don't know why one of our people told you that. I'm looking at your file and you're eligible for a promotion that will give you a $20-a-month discount for the next year. I can't apply it until next month's billing cycle, so I'll toss in a $10 discount on the bill you just received."
I did the math in my head: $20/month discount for 12 months, plus another $10 discount. That's a $250 savings. So for less than I would pay if I switched, I could maintain my current service and current speeds. "All right, Jerry. You've got a deal. I won't change companies."
"Oh, and a year from now," Jerry said, "when the price goes up again, call back, and I'm sure we can find another discount promotion for you."
Try, try again
Why didn't my call a year ago result in a discount? I don't know. Maybe I hadn't been a customer long enough. And why didn't my online chat lead to a discount? I don't know the answer to that either. Maybe you just have to get the right person.
All I know is that sometimes it pays (literally) to try, try again.
There's more. I discovered from the phone rep, Jerry, that my ISP recently launched a mobile phone service that could save me about $70/month when compared to my current service with another provider. Unfortunately, as it turned out, our phones (my wife and I each have an iPhone 6) aren't compatibile with the ISP's mobile network, so we'd have to buy new phones — costing at least $400 apiece. That means it would take about a year for the monthly savings to equal our upfront cost, so we decided not to change our phone service right now. But we may do so in the future.
I thanked Jerry for helping me save some money, saying something about how cutting expenses helps the bottom line. Jerry readily agreed. "Many people don't realize," he said, "how much they could reduce their cost of living if they just looked for ways to economize." (Maybe he's a budding radio financial-advice host!)
A penny saved...
My takeaway from all this? In many areas of the country, competition in the phone and internet (and cable) businesses is keen. So shop around. You might get a better deal by switching companies, or by asking your current provider(s) for a better price. A savings of $10 or $20 a month (or even more!) really adds up.
Remember, as Ben Franklin said, saving money is as good as earning money: "A penny saved is a penny earned."*
(One other point about price negotiation: Many local business owners — e.g., sole proprietors and other small businesses — don't have much leeway in their pricing, so take that into account if you're dealing with a local company. Your goal isn't to take advantage of a business owner, but only to come to an agreement on a fair and reasonable price.)
Have you saved money by shopping around or by asking for a lower price? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.
*Actually, saving is better, because earnings are taxed!