Thursday, June 22, 2006

cingular: lowering the bill (a howto)

This is something I else I learned from my father that I've had to call upon (pun not intended) more times than I'd like to admit ever since I started paying for my own cellphone bill.

Growing up, my mother had lots of family back home in Germany who -- despite the stereotypical German fondness for succinctness -- loved to chat. Every now and then (during particularly eventful months, or uneventful depending on how you look at it) a particularly high phone bill would send my father to the phone. He'd explain to whomever was on the other end that we'd gone over what we'd expected for the month and a "please" and "thank you" later we'd be credited a nice chunk of cash.

He told me that phone companies were adamant about keeping customers and would be willing to shave off a few bucks if it meant retaining a client (presumably because the cost to get a new one is higher than the cost to reimburse? I didn't figure that part out until I was older).

Today, we don't have a landline. We haven't had one since we started (there was a brief period at the outset when we were forced to use AOL in lieu of a real internet connection). We do have cell phones, though, and a family talk plan with Cingular. We started with the most basic plan they had because we had few people to be talking to (Steve's girlfriend is also a Cingular user, so her calls were free) and we could let the rollover minutes pile up.

Last year, we weren't spending any time on the phone with companies and individuals who operated during the typical workday -- now that we are, we've drained the reserves. Our first overage cost a little over $150. That's a lot of pizza.

Of that, we got about $100 credited back using the same technique explained earlier, which was employed just a couple days ago to remove another overage fee (about $54).

Once you've navigated through the push-a-button menu (mashing 0 until you're connected with a human usually works for me) and are speaking with a billing agent. Simply explain your surprise with your most recent bill and ask if he/she would please credit the overage back (if you've been good about paying regularly it wouldn't hurt to bring that up, too). You should only be a thank you away from getting reimbursed.

On this most recent attempt, I was told that "it was already in the system and there's nothing we can do". Curious, especially because I'd just asked to upgrade the plan by an extra two hundred minutes. Maybe they'd caught on? Undeterred, I called back and found myself speaking with another agent. It was credited within a few minutes.

Nothing fancy here, no lines or strategies, all that's required is politeness and a few minutes of your time. Don't let the wireless carriers win, especially not Cingular.


masukomi said...

on the voice navigation system there are usually two options to get to an operator. One obvious, one not.

The first is to just say "operator". Sometimes you may have to say it twice.

The second is to swear at it. One of the major makers of those voice nav systems puts in reconition of the major swear words so that really frustrated customers don't sit around stewing and getting even more upset before getting to an operator. I'd bet that most of the voice nav systems have this built in but you probably have to actually Sound upset when you say the words.

kn0thing said...

Ah-ha! I knew those curses under my breath weren't totally going to waste...

I'll have to try that next time, it'll give me something else to blog about.


Suryavanshi said...

Guys, I'm new to reddit and all. I noticed the Reddit buttons available for Website Integration. Is there a wider selection available anywhere than this ?

kn0thing said...


Right now, all the buttons that we've created are at spreddit.

If you've got something in mind, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Gabor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gabor said...

Wow, this worked in Germany? Deutsche Telekom used to be a government-run monopoly well into the 90s so I'm surprised this method was successful (they coulnd't really 'lose' a customer if there's no other company to switch to). Whenever I dealt with them, they seemed less accomodating. You guys must have really good persuasion skills!

Suryavanshi said...

Thanks kn0thing.

Amjad said...

ya I read this a while back and decided to try it as I've gone $20 over on making international calls from the US. I had no luck, I tried to use the simple strategy: surprise, apologetic request.
But nothing. Ahh well, worth a try.

I have noticed that this strategy works EVERYTIME at my bank when I ask for reversal of transaction fees.