Have you ever met someone who said they loved their cable company? I haven’t. We pay them a lot of money to watch television, surf the internet, and give us access to entertainment options we otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Most of them hold monopolies and they all act like they do.
One of the best things you can do for yourself, when it comes to negotiating monthly fixed costs, is review your options when it comes to cable and internet services and go with whomever is cheaper. The services are near perfect substitutes so why not pay less for the same thing? The only thing really stopping anyone is how much of a pain in the ass it is to switch. We recently switched from Verizon to Comcast in part because Comcast offered us cheaper service, plus faster internet, and around two hundred and fifty bucks in statement credits. You can’t go wrong with cheaper and free “cash,” so I switched.
With cable bills, you actually prepay for service. So you that bill you received in March goes towards April’s monthly payments. When you cancel, the cable company actually owes you money and you need to get that back (it’s almost like a security deposit on their equipment). I returned their equipment, saw they owed me $135 and now goes the annoying process of getting my own money back.
I called them up, was given the run around, but basically told that the balance would be sent to me in 4-6 weeks. 4-6 weeks pass, no check, so I go online to use chat… and here’s the transcript:
Chat Subject:Payment Arrangement / Final Billing
Your Question:I canceled service and have a balance, Verizon owes me money, how do I get that paid?
A Verizon Service Representative will be with you shortly. To help us handle your request in a timely manner, please have your customer account number ready if available. Thank you.
Agent Shelia has joined. (08:29:07)
Shelia : Chat ID for this session is 04161338655. (08:29:07)
Shelia(08:29:17): Thank you for choosing Verizon’s chat service. You have reached the Payment Center. I will be happy to assist you today. Please provide me with only ONE of the following:
1. Verizon account number
2. Amount of your last payment (to the nearest dollar)
3. Exact amount of your last paid bill in full
4. A contact number you may have listed on your account, such as a cell or work number
JIM(08:29:30): 4. XXX-XXX-XXXX
Shelia(08:30:45): Do you know the account number?
JIM(08:31:06): i can try to find it hold on
JIM(08:31:37): final balance was -xxx.xx
Shelia(08:32:18): Thank you,Jim, for securing your account with me. Please give me a few moments to review your account details.
Shelia(08:35:50): I am showing your refund was processed on 04/13 in the amount of $134.65 for prior indebtness.
JIM(08:36:07): So I will receive a check in the mail soon?
Shelia(08:36:29): I am not showing check was issued.
JIM(08:36:38): how will I be paid?
Shelia(08:36:58): It went for prior indebtness.
JIM(08:37:06): what is prior indebtness?
Shelia(08:37:26): Did you have another bill with verizon?
Shelia(08:38:06): Please contact our billing department at 1-800-837-4966 about the bill.
JIM(08:38:31): I don’t understand, the balance is negative, so Verizon owes me money right?
Shelia(08:38:56): It show that the credit to prior debt.
JIM(08:39:13): what does that mean?
Shelia(08:39:18): I apologize, it went to a prior debt.
Your session is now closed.
Thank you, have a nice day.
I could’ve been talking to a robot for all I knew but the end result was “call billing.” So I call up billing and the automated system says that my account balance is $0. Fantastic.
After a quick chat with a billing representative, who was very helpful, it turns out there was fraud in 2006 that resulted in a negative balance on an account associated with my name. Here’s the kicker – their fraud department already determined that the account wasn’t mine! We covered this back in 2006 when I discovered it on my credit report and they still tried to put the credit towards that negative balance. It took all of two minutes for the billing representative to release my funds and a check will be here in 3-5 days.
The gist of this is that the reason why people hate cable companies, and this is in addition to the high cost and poor customer service, is that simple things are a hassle. Why is the install window four hours? Why can’t they communicate if they’ll be there at 8 or there at 12? Why do they make you call them when they owe you money?
This is why these types of companies win Worst Company in America  (though Electronic Arts has won it two years running…)
Please feel free to add your own personal cable company rant below. You’ll feel better, I promise.
(Credit: Phu Son )