Want a Quick Discount? Threaten to Cancel From These Businesses

Portrait of a customer service representative smiling with her colleagues in the background

The other day, I called up ESPN to tell the company that we were breaking up.

A month prior, I had signed up for a free trial month of ESPN Insider, a subscription service that provides premium analysis and fantasy sports advice. I made an account prior to my fantasy football draft to get an extra edge, and set a calendar reminder to cancel the service before it rolled over into a paid membership.

That day had come, and while I'd enjoyed my free month, I decided it wasn't worth paying $40 a year. After poking around the website for information on how to cancel, I found that I'd need to call the company's dedicated customer service number.

A customer service representative picked up after just one ring, and after inquiring why I'd decided to cancel, he quickly offered me a 50 percent discount to stick around. I hadn't negotiated or haggled for a lower rate, I didn't ask to be escalated to a manager, and I didn't even give an indication that I would stick around for a lower rate. All I needed to do was call up and say I wanted to cancel, and within 60 seconds I was offered a 50 percent-off deal.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%While it was a compelling offer, I ultimately decided to decline. But it's a good reminder that if you want to save on any sort of subscription service, just call up and say you want to cancel your account. Whether you're a full subscriber or someone on a free trial, the cost of customer acquisition tends to far exceed the cost of customer retention, and that means that companies will bend over backwards to keep you in the fold.

"It is better to call with an actual reason for canceling and not just call and say 'lower my bill or I go,'" says Max Levitte, co-founder and CEO of frugal shopping site Cheapism.com. "Another option is to actually cancel, and then they start sending you offers to come back for much less."

There are numerous companies and industries where this tactic is effective. Here are five of them:

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.