Sunday, December 12, 2021

What's the "real" price?

 The fun started with my annual pilgrimage to Spectrum's "retention" department.  The game goes something like this - Spectrum provides a "promo" rate for a year, the rate runs out and you are shocked with a crazy high bill, you complain and eventually are given another promo which is usually about $10 higher than your old "promo" but looks good compared to the "regular" rate (whatever that is).  This has become such an annual passage that I've now placed it on my calendar to try to avoid the price shock.

This year's round added a few curve balls.  First, there is a Spectrum store conveniently located in a nearby mall.  In the past I've found it best for me to go there and see someone face to face.  This way they can explain my options and it is much easier to ask questions.  Apparently, Spectrum caught on that there customers enjoyed this option as after waiting about 20 minutes this year to see a representative, I was quickly advised that they are no longer allowed to work with the customer on promotions.  The representative related to me that the powers that be indicated that the locals were giving away too many good deals.  I was directed to call in to the 800 number and ask for the retention department.  Thereafter, I attempted to call into the retention department and after working my way for the rat maze that resembles a call routing system I landed in the retention department to be told that I was calling too early and needed to call when I was about a week away from my promo ending... ugh.

So, I waited until around a week to the end of my current promotion and called.  I will confess, I was pleasantly surprised by the retention agent I got - we were able to get down to the bottom line and she was able to provide another year's promo.  While I was connected, I thought I'd ask about the pick 15 channel deal that I had been told of in prior years.  The representative related that it was still available and computed that I would save around $30 if I wanted to go that option. I asked the agent where I could go to get the information about this plan online; she advised that this information is not available online - you have to call in and ask for it to get it, but you can go online to see what channels are available to select as your 15.  Once again, I will state that this representative was extremely helpful, but what would be more helpful would be if all the information was provided online and easy to find.

My next match up was with the Albany Times Union.  It has been a few years since I've contacted the Times Union as I had delivery only twice a week and just accepted the increases as they came.  Regardless, my rate had climbed to about $8 per week (over $400 annually).  Our primary reason for a paper subscription was for the coupons and sale ads; however, over time plus COVID, the coupons have dwindled and many stores have introduced electronic coupons and all stores have ads online.  We were finding that the electronic version of the paper was suiting our needs for the news portion.  In looking online, the subscription for the digital versions reflected a promotion of $.99 per week for 4 weeks then the rate would be $3.99.  OK, I understand the promo is for new customers, so I thought $3.99 would be great, after all it was half of what we were paying.  I advised the Times Union that I was interested in this digital subscription and the representative (on my third attempt/representative) proceeded to advise me that my rate would be $5 per week and related that the promotion was for new customers...blah, blah and that they would be increased also.  I asked when they would be increased from the $3.99 to the $5 and the representative had no idea how long they would be given the $3.99 rates and reiterated the promo for new customers spiel and asked me, "is that ok?"  My response was "no, that's not ok.  I've been subscribing for about 15 years and the reward for my loyalty is to pay more?"  I asked for a supervisor and asked, "well, can I cancel and then restart?"  Ultimately, the supervisor related that he would provide the promo to me... we'll see.

This reflects a couple of my ongoing peeves.  1.  Why can't these large companies be required to clearly state the prices and options that are available to everyone?  2.  Why are these large companies permitted to treat there loyal customers so poorly and continue to advertise these crazy teaser deals that are available to only a handful of "new" customers?  Perhaps our elected representatives (ahem Chuck Schumer), could spend less time trying to forgive thousands of dollars of student debt and focus on something that impact most of us?  Sadly these issues are widespread - not only impacting cable and newspaper but also cell service providers and many more highly used consumer products.

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