Cable bills rising in 2010, how to lock your rate in today

The next cable bill that comes in your mail could contain a belated bad start to 2010 in the form of higher prices.

Not only are new offerings, like 3-D programming, on the way later this year but networks in general want more money for their programming. Fox, for example, threatened to pull its stations from Time Warner unless it was paid more per subscriber, with an undisclosed last minute deal being the only thing that kept New Year's Day college bowl games on the air in many homes.

What this mean is that cable operators will face higher costs and they will work as hard as they can to pass the additional costs on to the end consumer. The good news is that if you act now you may be able to lock in your current rate for the next few years and price increases for 3-D TV will likely be offered first as a premium rather than an included service in your cable package.

With cable costs already rising 7% at Time Warner and Comcast for the coming year, you should act now to lock in a lower rate.

Thankfully, lowering your bill or just locking in your rate is easy and can even be done online in many cases. When Time Warner increased my cable bill $65 this month, to $177 per month, with no additional services added I was able to renegotiate with an agent of its online chat using the transcript below and lock in a much smaller increase for two years.
Sharmin: Thank you for Contacting TimeWarner Cable, My name is Sharmin, How may I help you today?
Josh_: Hi Sharmin
Josh_: Thanks, I am trying to make my cable bill a bit more affordable today after it increased $65 this month
Josh_: I was just on chat with an analyst named Jeff who offered me Jeff: if you would like to be put in to a price lock guarantee package the price would be 117.80 the first year of service then just a 5.00 increase in the second year of service
Josh_: but suggested I call in to the sales number for a better deal since I had been considering dropping a service or switching to U-Verse.
Sharmin: yes, if you call our retention team, they can assist you the best
Sharmin: Our Retention Group can be reached by calling 866-681-9272.
Josh_: Unfortunately Retention's price is higher than chat and they suggested I try here again before shopping around
Sharmin: I can see what I can do for you
Sharmin: seriously
Josh_: Thanks Sharmin, I really appreciate the help
Josh_: The best retention offered was 127.75 per month
Sharmin: let me have your phone number, I am sorry they keep bouncing you around....i also do retention backup, so I can give you the best rate
Sharmin: thanks, one moment, let me take a look
Josh_: OK take your time
Sharmin: I see the two year rate for the $117.80 rate, but it looks like Jeff missed your dvr service code which is $9.95
Josh_: gotcha
Sharmin: now, I can lock in the rate for 2 solid years with no $5 step up
Sharmin: 127.75 per month would be your rate for 2 solid years
Josh_: Sounds like a plan!
Josh_: Thanks Sharmin
Sharmin: not a problem, I can also backdate it to the date your last bill printed
Josh_: Wow, you rock!
Sharmin: so you will get a larger bill in the mail than what will actually be due, because the bill just printed on the 15th of December
Josh_: OK, I got that one in the mail yesterday; will my account just be debited for the new rate?
Sharmin: yes
Sharmin: if you have automatic billing
Josh_: Yes, I do. Are we good to go or do you need anything else from me today?
Sharmin: we need to actually get permission from you verbally via phone to put you into the contract...I can call you now to complete that process, it just takes a few minutes
Josh_: sure
Sharmin: is there a number I can reach you at?
Josh_: yes, redacted
Sharmin: Thank you, one moment please.
Sharmin: Thank you for Contacting TimeWarner Cable, Have a great day!
Sharmin: Analyst has closed chat and left the room
The end result of my chat session was that instead of paying $177 a month for cable, phone and Internet I am now paying $127; savings of $50 a month, or $1,200 for the two-year period, for 10 minutes chatting online.
You can take advantage of the same method by contacting your cable company: Unfortunately if you aren't ready to quit cable yet you are at a disadvantage when calling the cable company so don't make the same mistake I did and pass on the first reasonable offering in hopes of securing a better offer by calling the retention department. Unless you really are ready to quit, stick with the first person you call and try to get them to lower the price rather than calling different agents and mentioning your calls. This gives the cable company more power in the negotiations because you look less willing to walk.

In order to lock in a price you'll likely need to sign a contract that comes with an early termination fee (ETF) like your cell phone.

At Time Warner this is known as PriceLock and lets you lock in your price for up to two years but if you cancel early you will have to pay an ETF of $150. Since this fee decreases by $15 a month and I am saving close to $50 off the raised price I felt the fee was worth it in the even that I do cancel.

For more tips you should read how to be a customer service ninja, which will better prepare you for the negotiation and let you win the support of your customer service representative.
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