If you're currently a Comcast customer, pick up the phone, call the company, and politely explain that you're considering leaving. You could potentially save a bundle of money.
There's no question that a Comcast representative went over the line when he aggressively confronted AOL exec Ryan Block when Block and his wife, tech pundit Veronica Belmont, tried to cancel their service. And there are certainly numerous anecdotes that you or I could use to substantiate Comcast's incredibly poor corporate reputation.
But you can still take advantage of Comcast's burning desire to lock all of America into service contracts. Why? Because Comcast has a secret: It's one of the few big companies that will actually negotiate with customers.
Yes, I said negotiate. Very few companies are as flexible with pricing. There's no way, for example, that a grocery store will give you a discount on two loaves of bread just because you ask for one, or will knock 10 percent off your bill if you threaten to go to the other market down the block.
Of course, as many of you are keenly aware, Comcast has established a de facto monopoly in some areas of the country, so there simply aren't any viable alternatives to the cable giant. But if there are other options, you're in luck.
Politely ask for what you want
First, full disclosure: I'm a Comcast customer, and have been for years. But I feel no particular affinity for Comcast, and made sure to explore my options when AT&T brought its U-verse service to my area. Likewise, I could turn to satellite service via the Dish network.
I have lots of options, and I've twice played them to my advantage during calls to Comcast. It starts with a customer service call in which I tell Comcast's automated voice assistant that I wish to cancel my service. This automatically switches me over to a customer retention specialist, a breed of customer-service representative who's specifically coached to keep me as a Comcast customer.
At this point, I politely explain to the rep that AT&T is offering such-and-such a deal, and that I'm considering transferring service to save money. Hearing this, Comcast's reps usually offer to put me on a promotional discount plan for six months or a year, or add additional services for free. (There may be even be a "secret menu" to get basic Internet service plus HBO for free.) At that point, I put a reminder on my calendar to start checking my bill at the end of the promotional period. If the fee goes back up, I place another call.
This isn't fiction. It's worked for me, and it can work for you if you're lucky enough to have service options where you live.
I'm happy with my Comcast service, but not so happy that I would never jump to another provider. If worst came to worst, my smartphone could provide 4G tethering for a few days. Plus, Comcast is likely sensitive about losing customers right now. It's already coping with security concerns about its Wi-Fi service, and customers are fed up with its high prices. This latest phone call fiasco only invites further public contempt.
So Comcast is motivated to keep your business, now more than ever. As long as you're on its subscriber rolls, it stands a chance of upselling you on additional products and services. My negotiating point has always been that I enjoy Comcast's service and would like to remain a subscriber, but that I would like to pay a lower rate, too. The company has always accommodated me.
Of course, Comcast's willingness to negotiate doesn't excuse its representative's attitude, tone of voice, and aggression toward Block and Belmont. But if Comcast is going to aggressively fight for your business, then let it. See how far it's willing to budge. After all, they can only say no.