I blame Alice.
Because of her, I spent 30 minutes explaining basic economic theory to an AT&T rep this morning, and only got $10 for my time.
You see, Alice chewed the power cable to the wireless access point last night, effectively taking down the main cable receiver and TV just an hour before the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead. That’s an executable offense in some households. Luckily for her, I have the first world excess of having two receivers and DVRs, so I didn’t miss a minute of last night’s *SPOILER REDACTED*.
So this morning, I logged onto my Uverse account to request a new wireless access point so I can rewatch *SPOILER REDACTED* and various other slightly horrifying shows from the part of the apartment where the heat actually works. (This is an actual issue that I whine about a lot on Facebook, so I’ll spare you all the repeat. Just know that, while aesthetically charming, part of my apartment has 3 exterior walls and no heat.)
As with most days when I open up the internet, I got a bit sidetracked. This time, it was by my monthly bill, which had gone up $4 unexpectedly. $4 may not seem like a fight worth having with a company, but longtime readers know that I plan my budget down to the last dollar every month. I know where every cent goes, and nothing frustrates me more than when someone takes more cents than I allotted them. Uverse does this quite often, but they’ve been getting away with it because my health insurance company was being even more greedy.
But that health insurance plan was cancelled on December 31st. Which means I have the time for Uverse now. So instead of calling the support number, I called the billing department.
The representative quickly confirmed that the price for TV and internet had gone up, and that these were the new monthly costs. My explanation that there had been no notice given about the increase (which by contract should have come 60 days ago) was met with a genuine apology and a $10 bill credit for this month. 10 minutes in, and everything was going well.
But these calls never end well. At least not for me.
The rep then asked if I’d like to explore options for lowering my monthly bill. Like any sane person, I said yes. After all, I’d already gotten $10 off them this month with surprisingly little effort. Why not press my luck?
The sales rep then launched into a detailed explanation of just how upgrading my services could save me money each month. He threw out phrases like, “3 months free!,” “No fees until just prior to the promotion’s expiration!” and “Think of the savings!” His enthusiasm was almost contagious. I found myself starting to imagine a life with faster internet and more on-demand movies that I’d never actually watch. I ran potential bundle discount scenarios in my head, trying to determine how much and for how long I’d save by upgrading.
And then he used the magic letters: HBO.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to watch Game of Thrones legally. Suddenly, the opportunity was right in front of me. I could join the hundreds of people who actually subscribe to the channel, and leave behind the millions who just use their friends’ logins or torrent sites. I could be one of the elite.
With a rush of anticipation, I asked the question. “How much would my bill be each month?”
“Absolutely not a cent more than you’re paying now!” he gleefully replied.
And just like that, the spell was broken.
“Wait, you mean there’s no benefit to upgrading?” I asked.
“Oh no, there are so many benefits! Faster internet, more channels, more movies! it’s a much better experience!” he said.
“But there’s no financial benefit?” I repeated.
The rep seemed to sense that he was losing me. “There is. You’ll get upgraded experiences for no additional cost. It’s a savings of over $100 each month.”
“But my bill, which I called you about because it was too high, will remain at the current level.” I reminded him.
“But think of the enhanced speeds and channels.” the rep said, a note of pleading creeping into his voice. He could see his commission slowly slipping away.
“For 3 months. And then we’ll be having this same chat over unexpected fee increases again. It’ll end with me demanding to be downgraded and you offering me more billing credits. It’s not a good value to either of us if I’m just delaying unhappiness for 3 months. I’d rather stick with what I have now.” I said.
There was a short pause on the other end of the line. “Well Ms. Anderson,” said the rep who’d been calling me Katherine up to this point, “I certainly respect your decision to remain with your current un-upgraded services.”
You could hear the barely-concealed heartache in his voice. This guy was good.
But it takes more than 12 free weeks of HBO to sway my cold financial-oriented heart. It’s a TV package, not electro-shock therapy for a rabbit with uncontrollable chewing urges. Although as I learned last night, I can probably get that for free around here.
Which reminds me. I still need to call tech support.