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Five Tips for Dealing With Bad Service from Cable/Satellite Providers

Recently, I experienced something that you all likely have at one time or another: lousy customer service. Upon discovering that the bill from my satellite provider was set to double next month, I immediately called their customer service department. What followed was a three-day odyssey that left me seriously considering cancelling my service altogether. I spoke with no fewer than seven representatives, spent hours on the phone (much of it on hold) and was getting nowhere. It wasn't until I spoke with their retention department and told them I was cancelling them and taking a promotional offer from their competitor that they finally, through adjustments on my bill and discounts on certain programming, satisfied me enough that I chose to keep my service.

Many of you are reading this and can think of similar experiences that you have had. Cable/satellite providers are notorious for luring customers in with promotional offers only to raise their bills over time. As large media conglomerates get bigger and merge with other companies, options for consumers begin to dwindle. We have probably all had the experience of looking at our cable bill and wondering why it was so much and how it got there. It can be frustrating, but there is hope. If you are proactive and pay close attention to your bill, you can save yourself some money. Here are some ways you can do that:

1. Study your bill, and ask questions if it doesn't sound right. Companies will occasionally take channels that are already included in your package, spin them off into a separate "package" and begin billing you for it. This has happened to me on multiple occasions. In each case, they were channels I never even watched. Pay attention to any messages that say that certain networks have new channel numbers, this is a pretty good indicator that they might be shifting their package and price structure around.

2. Get plenty of information. Check out the competition's prices and promotional offers. If you are unhappy with your service or monthly rate, tell your provider about the offer. Ask them what they are willing to do to keep you as a customer. You don't have to be rude, or even raise your voice. Simply lay out the facts for them. Make them work to keep you as a customer, which leads to the next point.

3. Ask for the retention department. Retention departments are exactly what they sound like. Their job is to make sure you stay with their company. This Comcast agent recently made news, showing how far some of them are willing to go to keep customers. If you call to cancel your service, there is a good chance your call will eventually be transferred to a retention agent. Let them know you're not happy. Ask them what they are planning to do to keep you as a customer. You'll find that suddenly "I'm sorry there's nothing I can do" becomes "let me see what I can do for you" real fast.

4. Be firm. Again, I'm not going to tell you to curse or be rude, but you don't have to put up with lousy service. Don't simply accept what the first person you speak with tells you. Ask to speak with a supervisor. I've literally been told three different things by three different representatives about the same issue. If what they're telling you doesn't sound right, it probably isn't. You should be able to tell fairly quickly if the person helping you has some common sense or is simply reading from a script. You don't have to yell and swear, but be firm enough that they have to take you seriously.

5. If you threaten to cancel your cable service, be willing to do so. We have more entertainment options than ever. Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services have made cable expendable for a lot of people. Cancelling cable altogether is harder for some of us than others. Watching live sports is very tricky for sports junkies like myself. Be that as it may, cancelling cable/satellite service may ultimately be the best decision for your family. And if you do cancel, you can expect that within weeks you'll be getting mail from your former provider with special offers to come back.