Please keep in mind that I’m not advising everyone to haggle and negotiate with every single bill they receive. This is a light hearted attempt to remind people that sometimes it pays off to negotiate a bill that is unnecessarily high (e.g. electricity service provider, phone service provider, cable company)
Sometimes coupons are not enough.
Sometimes buying the bags of off-brand cereal instead of springing for the fancy boxes is not enough.
Sometimes not going out to eat for several years at a time is not enough, either.
Sometimes when it’s time to pay the bills, you’re stuck staring at one number that couldn’t possibly be so high, and another number that just couldn’t possibly be so low – I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one is the bill and which one is your bank account.
And when that time comes, you have to sit and stare at every item on that bill and figure out where the heck you’ll be able to cut back next month. Fear not, my frugal friend. I’m here to help.
When you’ve done all you can to lower the bills before you get them, it’s time to do your best to lower your bills after you’ve gotten them. Yes, I’m talking about negotiating, bargaining, haggling – whatever you want to call it when you tell someone, “You want me to pay this amount? I’m going to pay less than that.” If we try to channel our inner Morgan Freeman, we’ll be able to negotiate with a lot more success.
Here are a few tips to help you talk your way into some savings.
Find Out How Low They Can Go
Okay, I know I just said I’d show you how you can talk your way into savings, but I don’t have some magical incantations for you to utter to make numbers start disappearing on their own. If you want your bill negotiations to be successful, it’s going to take a little bit of work before you can get started.
One of the best places to go to figure out how low a company is willing to go with the price of their services it to their new customer pages. As you probably have learned from experience, businesses such as cable companies like to hook new customers with low starting prices that end after a promotional period. If you find a page that offers their new customers cheap bundles, it will give you some idea of what they’re capable of offering you.
Know What’s Available for Negotiation
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do much research for this one, because I’m about to tell you what type of bills are open to negotiation. The answer is simple: you should operate under the assumption that every bill is open for negotiating.
In fact, I urge you not to research whether or not a company is prone to allowing for negotiations on their bills, so you don’t get discouraged. You shouldn’t believe the “all prices are final” scare tactic until three people and their supervisors tell you otherwise. Heck, even medical bills are open for negotiation.
Do Your Best Morgan Freeman Impression
So you’ve done your research. You have a general sense of how much the company is capable of dropping from your bill. You’ve willfully ignored any warnings that they’re not willing to negotiate. You’re ready to pick up the phone and start saving some money. But before you say a word, knowing what you’re going to say is arguably almost less important than how you say it. And you should say it like Morgan Freeman.
Few of us have been blessed with the voice of God, but that’s okay. The goal here isn’t to convince the person on the other end of the line that despite the name on the bill, you’re actually a world famous actor or something. The goal is to channel, not impersonate, Morgan Freemen.
That means speaking in a measured, tranquil voice with as much warmth as you can fit through the receiver. The trick to do that is to smile while you talk. It may seem strange to worry about your facial expression when no one can see your face – except for maybe your significant other if you’re pumped for them to watch you knock some dollars off your bill – but the result is a friendly tone, which is a breath of fresh air for someone like a customer service rep who spends their days getting screamed at.
Open Apologetically and Ominously
Try starting with these words, “I’m sorry, this might sound harsh but…” This opening is doubly disarming. First, you’re demonstrating respect for them by apologizing. This essentially puts them in a position of power, which will make them feel good, lowering their guard a bit. Then you hit them with the second half of this sentence, and suddenly they have to brace themselves for something awful. Remember, these are people whose job is literally to listen to people complain all day, and they’re forbidden to indulge their natural impulse to tell someone to shut up. They’re now preparing for abuse.
Tell Them How Much They Mean to You
And that’s when you hit them with something they never expected: a compliment. Tell them how much you enjoy using their service, what it means to you and why you have it in your life. FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss recommends saying something like this: “Your company provides phenomenal service.
I’m getting a great bargain and I’m a little embarrassed that I’m calling in and asking for a better deal because what your company is providing is worth every single dime that you’re charging me.” Such a statement far from the normal call to the billing department.
Hit Them With the Comparison
Remember when you saw the deals they were offering to new customers? This is where you put that information to good use. After telling them how much you appreciate their company, explain to them that you’re a loyal customer. Then tell them you were surprised to learn that new customers who never gave their company anything are getting better deals than loyal customers like you.
Then ask them how you’re supposed to live with that. Remember: this is all being said in a calm, comforting voice. The effect should be that they’re left no choice but to believe that it’s eminently reasonable to give this kind, loyal customer the deal they’re offering to Joe Schmo off the street.