Comcast’s business model is simple – sell to new customers on a good deal and then rely on their laziness and ignorance to increase average revenue per account to thousands of dollars a year. Over the last month I’ve upgraded the internet at my house, my office and my girlfriends house and saved up to 50% while getting up to 6x faster speeds.
In this blog post I’m going to show you how to do the same.
Loyal Customers Get Screwed
The first thing – and this is the most important thing – to understand is that loyalty is actually punished by companies like Comcast. When you’re an existing customer, a whole slew of plans and options just flat out aren’t available to you – as the South Park creators so successfully showed, when you’re an existing customer, you’re completely taken for granted (or, “their bitch”, thanks South Park).
The good news is, though, that you can overcome a lot of these problems just by being disloyal.
Saving on Internet
Before starting this process a month ago, the three specific monthly bills with Comcast were around $100 including taxes.
Initially, I followed the great advice of people like GE Miller and went through the “account retention” process – where you say you’re going to cancel your account and get immediately escalated to the Account Retention team. These are the people at the carrier who are rewarded and compensated for keeping subscribers, and who have a lot of latitude in what they are able to “include” or discount to keep you as a customer.
The rewards and bonuses must be pretty good, because some of them get pretty crazy.
While this is solid advice, there are still limits to what these people can and will do, and often their lowest price and best upgrade offer is still a much worse deal than you can get if you’re not a customer at all.
The solution, it turns out, is actually pretty simple. You become not a customer. Here’s the four-step process (with a bonus Step 5 to save another $500 a year).
Step 1: Choose a Plan
Providers are always running specials and deals to get new customers on board. I’m not sure what their Customer Acquisition Cost is (CAC) but given the number of advertisements I see it has to be in the realm of $500-$1000. For DirectTV, Selling, General & Administative costs make up more than 50% of its gross profit a few years ago – this is a lot of money.
This also makes business sense; they know through cohort analysis that if they can tempt you in with a good deal they’ll jack up the price and your laziness will keep you where you are.
Since I’m in America, the land of the free market and competition, there is almost no competition in broadband internet access. Being in San Francisco, that means I’m limited to looking at options with Comcast. At the time of writing, they were offering a 105Mbs internet plan for $44.95/month; the options change all the time though, so check out http://www.comcast.com/xfinity-internet-offers and decide on which plan suits you best.
When you look at the terms and conditions of the offer, you’ll note that one of the first conditions is that it is “available for new residential customers only”. That’s cool – you’re about to become a new customer, with some temporary help from a buddy.
Step 2: Enlist a buddy for an hour
Now you know what plan you want, it is time to start the process of becoming a new customer by getting some help from a buddy – it should only take an hour of their time, and you can actually return the favor for them if they want to do it at the same time!
The key is that your buddy is going to be signing up to the new internet plan at your house. They don’t need to live there – there’s no need for proof that they have anything at all to do with your address; all they need is some photo ID and a social security number.
To make it happen, you and your buddy simply show up at your local service center (Comcast ones listed here), and tell them that you’d like to cancel your service. Your buddy, standing next to you, would like to sign up for the “available for new residential customers only” plan you selected in Step 1 above.
You’ll want to bring your cable equipment with you, but you can hold onto it for a couple of weeks if you like (since you’re going to be coming back to do the same process in reverse in Step 3).
There is normally an account setup cost of $30, but if you ask them for a discount they’ll drop it down to $12 without a fight at all.
If you need a modem (and you should really buy your own – see further down this post) they’ll give you one on the spot. You’ll then be able to go home and plug it in (swapping out the one you already have) and once you go through a quick setup process (their phone number, 1-855-OK-BEGIN, works pretty well – just don’t do it on speaker phone because if the computer mishears you you’ll go into a never ending loop) and you’ll be online with your new faster cheaper plan in no time at all.
Step 3: (ab)Use The 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
Now, perhaps your buddy is a housemate or a significant other – if they’re happy to be the one with their name on the bill for the next 12 months then you can probably skip this step. However if they’re genuinely just a buddy doing you a favor who doesn’t want to run the risk that you won’t pay your cable bill and their credit report will be on the hook (or that you’re going to do illegal things online and get them in trouble as the legal account holder), you’ll want to do the process involved in Step 2 in reverse.
The good news is that Comcast has a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can head in after a couple of weeks and have your buddy cancel the service you set up in Step 2. They bring the cable box you got in Step 2 in and they’re done in about 20 minutes.
You, standing next to them, decide you want to become a new customer on the same plan. You sign up for the new plan/service at your own address, and you’re back in business, possibly for half the price.
Step 4: Set a reminder for next year
Most of the plans I’ve seen revert to their “normal” price after 12 months. So, you’ll want to set a reminder to go through this process again in a year.
Step 5: Buy your own cable modem
Comcast are currently charging you $10 per month to rent a cable modem (or wireless router). This comes to $120 a year, or almost $500 for the normal life of a piece of technology like this.
The good news is that you can buy your own from Amazon for around $60 if you don’t need wireless, or $100 if you do, which means you’ll be ahead in financial terms in as little as 6 months.
Now, some of you reading this will be thinking “hey, my time is valuable – is this really worthwhile?” You’d be right to think this way, but let’s look at specific savings and see how wrong you probably are.
Comcast Business to Xfinity Internet Plus Blast
Until this week we had Comcast Business at my startup. We’re not demanding enough yet to need WebPass or MonkeyBrains, and we were paying $84/month for 16Mbs.
In terms of changing plans, I didn’t even need “a buddy” because Comcast Business and Xfinity are very separate organizations inside Comcast. I simply walked into the Comcast customer service center and signed up for a new Xfinity plan as a new customer, came back to the office, and I was up and running – from walking out the office door to getting back and online – in under 60 minutes with 100Mbs internet for $45/month.
That’s a saving of $500/year – not bad for an hour’s work. If you’re legitimately earning more than $500/hour for every hour you work every week of the year (sure you are), then you might not get cash value in savings, but you’ll also see time savings by having your internet more than 6x faster.
Xfinity for Cable and AT&T for Internet
My girlfriend was running Comcast for TV and Xfinity for internet, due in large part because her apartment building told her she had to use AT&T (or another DSL service?) for internet access. Her total bill was over $100/month. I thought the instructions about using only DSL were a bit off because she was using Comcast for TV, and sure enough, it was possible to move her over to Comcast. Because she was an existing customer, however, she was stuck with paying over $100 to bring it all together – not a great result.
Through making the change to Xfinity for internet and cable box, she’s now paying $39/month. There’s still some frustrations with stepping back to non-HD cable, but we’re working on fixing that (I’ll have an update in a part two post about TV specifically).
So, while it isn’t apples for apples, she’s now paying $50 (when you include Netflix and Hulu) for basic cable, HBO and stacks of other streaming all through a super cheap Chromecast in high quality – a saving of 50% for internet 10x faster internet and all the content you can stream.