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You can ask for the deals new customers are getting

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By Kara McGuire
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Published:
Jayne Hergott is sick of jumping through hoops to receive the best price for services, including her cable TV.
The longtime resident of Chaska, Minn., knows that if she calls to complain, the company will probably cut her a deal.
"Why is it that I have to beg to get the best rates for these services?" asked Hergott, 54.
It's a vexing part of being a consumer in America. Companies roll out the hot deals to lure potential customers, leaving existing customers in the cold.
"New acquisition looks good for investors," explains David VanAmburg, managing director of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which tracks how happy customers are with everything from TV service to pet food.
Unfortunately, shareholders, not customers, rule, VanAmburg said.
Eventually the discount disappears, the customer is disappointed, the customer disappears, and the discount reappears. And the cycle continues.
So what's a price-conscious consumer to do?
Ask for a better price: Do your homework first and learn about current deals for new customers and the introductory offer you'd qualify for if you went with a competitor.
Don't be surprised if the company tries to offer you more for the same price instead of lowering your bill. If the customer service person you're speaking with won't budge, ask for a manager, or call back and try again later.
Calculate the hassle: The time, energy, and, in some cases, money that it would take to go from one company to the other.
Banks, insurance companies and cellphone providers know how cumbersome it is to switch.
Before jumping ship, estimate the time it will take. Put a dollar value on that time based loosely on your current wage. Take that number and divide it by the amount of anticipated monthly savings to determine how long it will take before you break even.
Cancel the service: Ask yourself if you really need the service. There are plenty of alternatives to cable TV today, and many Americans have cut the phone cord at home. Instead of a cellphone plan with a long-term contract, opt for prepaid, pay-as-you-go plans.
Story tags » Personal Finance

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