Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beware of Promotional Periods... and the value of sleeping on it!

A little over a year ago we decided to save a little money by switching to Direct TV. We weren't 100% pleased with Dish Network's Customer Service, so we had no problem leaving them. Less than 2 days later we were regretting that decision. The DVR system didn't function the way they told us will, but they said we missed our 24-hour window to cancel our contract. You can imagine how angry that made us, but we toughed it out because we weren't going to pay some ridiculous cancellation fee.

The real fun came last month when our 12-month promotional period expired and our base price went up. We were anticipating it going up a little, but weren't nearly as prepared for the sticker shock that came when we got our bill. Our monthly charges went up over $30 per month. We used to pride ourselves on the fact that we were able to get out of debt and still keep our TV, but this was even too much for us. Frustrated and unwilling to dish out that amount of cash each month for TV, we started making phone calls.

It took several phone calls before I could even get an answer as to what our cancellation fee would be -- $20 per month left on the contract. For us that would be just over $200. OUCH! B-U-T... If we switch back to Dish Network, we would be saving $30/month so we'd still be ahead of the game... at least for the first 12 months anyway. But then we would probably be right back where we started. We really want AT&T U-verse, but it's not available in our area yet.

Finally, after several attempts, I got on the phone with a customer service representative that was actually very helpful. They had a couple packages that weren't advertised on their website. It took a lot of debate between Tim and I - what channels do we want, do we tough it out and adjust our budget, do we cancel and switch? When it came right down to it, the Family Package would be almost $40 cheaper a month. When I pointed out to Tim that would be $400 over the remainder of the contract, even he couldn't justify keeping sports and news channels that could be seen on the internet. Ultimately, the kids won since the cheapest package still included all their channels.

There are some many lessons here that we needed to learn (or be reminded of) - do your research, know exactly what your rate will be after the promotional period, budget accordingly, read the fine print, and take time to evaluate all your options. Had we gone with our emotions when we first got our bill we would have ended up with a new 2-year contract and been in the same situation a year from now. So, when it's all said and done, we're still paying about the same amount we were 2 months ago with a fraction of the channels. We haven't really run in to an issue yet. Many of the shows we'll "miss" are available on the internet.

Have you been caught off guard by promotional rates?

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