Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Football, Persistence, and Television Failure

Remember a couple weeks ago when I charted my time in the Frequency Continuum over at the Cash Rebel blog, saw that I was watching way too much television, and decided I needed to cancel DirecTV? Yeah, about that. It turns out that I really like watching football. I saw a few preseason games, had some beers, watched my Steelers fumble and stumble their way to a loss, and I fell in love all over again. They are a terrible team this year, but they are my terrible team. Plus, my wife is leaving the country for five months. My friends love me and all, but there are only so many times they'll hang out with me during the week. Some evenings, I'll be happy to have a recorded NFL game to watch.

Still, our bill for DirecTV is a shameful $78...a month! Sure, our renter pays for a third of that.  But seeing how she cannot tell a first down from a fumble, she was definitely not going to pay for any part of a football package. NFL Sunday Ticket allows you to see all the pro games, every week, regardless of what city you live in. DirecTV is advertising the "Max" package, which includes the highly addictive RedZone channel, for $299.95. Yikes. I had no interest in paying $300, and that meant it was time to negotiate.

Prior Matchups
When we moved into our first home in 2010, we ended up getting the NFL Sunday Ticket for free when we signed up for a 2 year DirecTV contract. Free is pretty good. The following year, I negotiated the price for the Sunday Ticket down to $120. Then, last year, I was only able to negotiate the price down to $150, and that took multiple calls over weeks, until I finally reached the "Premium Sales" department: the one group that seems to have the ability to negotiate price heavily.

First & Ten
So, $150 was my baseline to start this year. A few weeks ago I called in to make my first attempt. I got transferred around by the automated system for a while, and finally reached the Sunday Ticket team. This is always the first stop, and the price they could offer was $225 for the basic package, and $300 for the Max package. I told them that wasn't good enough and, surprisingly, they said that was the best they could do. I tried to get transferred to the team I negotiated with last year, but I unfortunately couldn't remember the name of the department.

"A1 Team?" I asked. Nope.

"How about the Premium department? You know, the team that has the authority to negotiate. Can I talk to them?"

The rep didn't like that. "No team in the company can offer a lower price than $225, sir. I'm sorry."

I guess we'll see about that.

Incomplete Pass - Second & Ten
So I waited a couple weeks and tried again last Thursday. I waded through the automated system and again got the NFL Sunday Ticket team. I explained how in previous years I got the package for about half the price of what was being offered now, and I wanted the same offer this year. I asked the rep to look through the history to see which team I talked to to negotiate in the past.

"I see. Is this what you do every year? Call in to negotiate a lower price?"

Whoa now. I was not ready for that. Yes, clearly that's what I do, and I'm sure there are notes on my account that document my behavior patterns. But as a customer service rep you are not supposed to call me out, right? It's a violation of the social contract.

"The best we can offer you this year is six payments of $29.99."

So, this lady wasn't very nice, but $180 was the best offer so far. It was decision time, because the price was at least in the ballpark of what was offered last year. It wasn't a terrible deal. But a pattern was emerging: every year, even the discounted price I was able to negotiate was getting closer to the retail price. I decided to wait, to see if I could do a bit better.

"I can't do $180. Can you tell me which team I spoke with last year? I'd like to talk to them."

"Yes, sir. It was the Premium Sales team. Please hold."

Intentional Grounding - Third and Twenty
I was transferred to a pleasant young woman at the Premium Sales team and I knew, this time, we were in business. Sometimes you can just tell by the tone of the person you're speaking with that it's going to be a good conversation. I explained my situation, and stated I just couldn't pay the $180, especially since the first three years it was free, then $120, then $150. What could she do? I sat back and waited for the sweet deal.

"I see that you were just offered $180 for the package. Unfortunately, sir, $180 really is the lowest price we can offer. We don't have the authority to lower the price any more than that. Would you like me to sign you up?"

"I'm sorry but I can't pay that," I said. "Could you do $120?"

"$180 really is the lowest price we can offer."

Again, it was decision time. I could take the deal, which wasn't horrible, I could try again another time, or I could do the really smart thing and just not pay for television. If I could talk myself into skipping church most Sundays in the fall, I could watch at a bar for a lot less than I was paying for a year of DirecTV plus the cost of Sunday Ticket. Plus, then I get beer. Maybe wings, or those little jalapeno popper things. Maybe even garlic fries. Really, the sky's the limit.

Fourth Down, Time to Punt
"You know, the only reason we are still with DirecTV was the NFL package, and we can't swing that payment. Can you please transfer me to the department for cancellations?"

I was pretty happy with the plan, at this point. Most shows can be streamed online, I could now get food and drinks with my football, and I'd now have even more money to invest. What's not to like? Sure, I might miss a couple sermons on Sunday. But ours is a forgiving God, and I prayed for first downs and defensive stops during the games, so that probably counted for something.

A woman picked up in the cancellations department and said she was sorry I was leaving DirecTV. She asked for the reason why, and I explained the many benefits of just watching shows online, saving money, and getting pitchers of beer for less than the cost of their service.

"How about this. I can give you the NFL Sunday Ticket Max package, for free."

I had to bite my tongue not to say, "Deal!" right then but, like any negotiator knows, silence is your friend.

"And, I realize your bill is high so I can lower it by $15 every month. And rather than signing up for a new two year contract, would you be willing to sign up for just a one year contract? That would take you until this time, next August."

"That sounds great. Thank you!"

Post Game Analysis
What do you think, readers? Did I get swindled by the DirecTV agents by signing up for a year of service again? Surely I am still paying more than I could be paying by simply cancelling, so that part seems pretty cut and dried. But since this is a recurring cost save compared to our current spend ($63 a month instead of $78), and now I'll be in church every Sunday praying for my forgiveness instead of Steeler touchdowns, should this be viewed as a win?

So, which was it: a fake for a first down, or a blocked punt?


*Photo is from drewzhrodague at Flickr Creative Commons.

36 comments:

  1. That's a little strange the customer service rep called you out. You were super persistent though - I'm not sure I would have made it that far. Great job managing to get the package for free along with a little discount! Honestly, with your wife being away for five months, and your dedication to football, it may be worth it for you. If you're happy, I would consider it a win.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I was a little taken aback. She was a weird one but as she was offering a decent discount, I tried my best to not get offended or angry.

      My wife being away so long makes television seem like a little better of an option. I can definitely spend my time with more fruitful activities but I think I'm going to have a lot of downtime in the house, regardless.

      Delete
  2. sounds like a win to me! I hate negotiating but I hate wasting money even more. I recently was transferred to the cancellation department for our internet, and was finally able to get the deal i wanted. Just takes some persistence!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      Nice work on the bill! I like negotiating with all our service providers -- it's great reducing your monthly rate because the savings keep on pouring in.

      I'll have a longer post on negotiations coming in the next week or two, too.

      Delete
  3. Haha! This had me cracking up through the entire post! I absolutely loved this article. Leslie and I renegotiate our internet bill every year or so, and almost always get the best deals by being super nice to the cancellation people. When we called this year they lowered our bill to even lower than it was the previous year! Rock on with your bad self.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kyle. If I made someone laugh, that's a pretty good day.

      Good on you for lowering your bill even further this time around. That's a hard feat as most companies will use your last deal as the "floor" for negotiations going forward.

      Delete
  4. You may only need to hold out another year or two. If we are lucky, Google will go through on it's plans to acquire NFL Sunday Ticket. Then you can haggle over the price of the only item you really care about...football.

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/100977669

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That'd be great! There is already an option to watch online but it's delayed by a full day and there's no way I'd be able to keep ignorant of the score on a consistent basis.

      Paying for just football would be pretty sweet. Though somehow I'd think that negotiating with Google might be harder...

      Delete
  5. I think they're catching on to people calling back every year for a discount! We had a hard time getting ours this last go around. =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I had a much harder time this year but ended up getting lucky with the cancellation route. I think they're noting my file though as that one customer service rep knew what I was doing right away. :)

      Delete
  6. Ha I love how you broke this blog down into football segments. Your "football" is my netflix (but thankfully it's cheap), and although I don't watch real football, I am addicted to the tv show friday night lights, so I understand how it's really important to you. :) I think you just scored the game winning touchdown...OK maybe more like a field goal. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tonya! Yes, I agree that at best this was a field goal, but sometimes that's good enough to win.

      And I love, love, love Friday Night Lights. Maybe the best show of my lifetime.

      Delete
    2. By far! It's AMAZING. I'm literally on my fourth round of watching that series. It's the best show no one ever watched when it actually was on TV.

      Delete
    3. Our running gag is that we just need to give Tim Riggins a hug. Dude just needs a good hug.

      Delete
    4. We're an FNL household too - the box set just came out here, so we're about to watch it for the second time!

      Delete
    5. I think a trip to the library is in order. "Friday Night Lights" Friday Date Night might be happening today...

      Delete
  7. This proves one thing: if you don't give up, you get what you want. It's a really nice story and I did something similar with our phone/internet bill, just that I called directly to tell them that I want to stop using their services for moving to a different company. They agreed, but hours later they called and offered a super deal, which was exactly what I had in mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Way to commit to the bit! Actually cancelling and getting a call back is pretty awesome.

      Delete
  8. Good job saving some money! It's always worth asking. We aren't sports people so I wouldn't pay for it...but to each their own! If you watch it a lot then it's probably worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I do watch a lot of NFL. It's the only sport that I follow to that extreme...but I'm okay with it. When I left Pittsburgh my interest in the Steelers really spiked. They're my connection to home.

      Delete
  9. I would say this as a win situation which fetched you a little discount also. If you are a sports loving person then it is definitely worth paying

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sam! I'm pretty happy with the result though I do wish there were an easier way to watch the games without also having to subscribe to the service.

      Delete
  10. "Ours is a forgiving God" haha! Honestly, I still have TV simply because I want to watch football and hockey. Otherwise I'd cancel, so I can't blame you for keeping TV. Way to negotiate with them even after they refused a few times. It's way more profitable for them to keep a cheaper customer than have no customer. nice job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blackhawks fan? Hockey is my 2nd favorite sport, though the Penguins kind of let me down this year. The Bruins were on a mission.

      Delete
  11. Well you are a lot better than I as I don't deal with the people on the phones. I have my secret weapon AP(the wifey) do all of that. She pretty much does that exact somethings you did but I have yet to see her lose a game. There have been some close quarters and losing at half time but for the most part people like working with my wife. Shes just got that personality. Silence can surely work but you also have to be willing to know when to throw in the towel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I think our roles are reversed, as my wife uses me as her secret weapon. When we got married she and her bridesmaids had me call up the store and negotiate. We did get a discount but it felt odd negotiating for dresses...

      I love the extension of the metaphor, too!

      Delete
  12. Yes, it is always when you threaten to cancel that you get the best deal. I think the retention or cancellation department has the most power to give you a deal. Sadly it looks like I won't be watching much football. There is a dispute between CBS and Time Warner so I won't get CBS. It is an over the air channel but I live in an apartment and there's no antenna so I use a splitter for my cable modem. I don't have cable TV.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Andrew,
      For years I used an indoor/outdoor HDTV antenna in my home. You might get a pretty decent picture if you get lucky, depending on which way your window is facing. Sorry to hear that you're having a conflict but I'm amazed that a cable company would tangle with a major network, like CBS.

      Delete
  13. LOL loved this post - I didn't start watching football until about 2.5 years ago when I started dating B, and secretly proud of myself that I understood most of the terminology. :) I think you got a pretty sweet deal, especially considering most people would probably just pay the cost and not take the time to negotiate. We go the sports bar route, though we pre-eat so it's not as expensive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's great that you're football savvy. I'm ridiculously proud that my wife knows the game. I think your fiance and I are lucky guys. :)

      The sports bar experience is pretty fun and if you can manage to pre-eat, it can be affordable too. I miss Bub's in San Diego...that place is the best.

      Delete
  14. That was awesome!!! Way to go!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Love your tenacity! Perhaps you can justify your renewed year of pricey television with the fact that purchasing beer in bulk from the grocery store is a heck of a lot cheaper than paying $4-7/bottle at the bar. The frozen jalepeno poppers and homemade wings are also quite a bit less expensive AND taste just as good, especially from your lazy boy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great point...the bar can easily get out of hand. In my younger days my friends and I would spend all day Sunday at the bar, and then look in horror at the tab we had to split up. Not good times...bad times.

      Delete
  16. We tried negotiating a better deal a few months back, but it didn't work! They called our bluff! What you gonna do...have to watch the football! In the words of Buddy Garrity: Everybody loves football! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Yes, everyone loves football...they just might not know it yet.

      If they did just let me walk, I'd definitely be in a bar on Sundays. Because football will be watched one way or another.

      Delete