Cox Gives a Discount, Then Extends your Subscription

Mr. Nguyen knows that you can get a cheaper cable bill just by asking, and he did just that. What he did not ask for was to be signed up for a contract plan because of this discount, and he especially would have preferred to be told this before he received a big nasty warning. His letter, inside.

Dear Consumerist,
I’ve been a reader for quite long time now. I almost wrote to you ranting about how I got Cox Cable(Fairfax, VA) to give me discount by simply calling them. But I could not maintain that excitement for so long. Yesterday, Cox surprised me with a notice (attached) saying that by accepting the discount offer, I have to maintain the subscription for 12 months or early termination fee of $168 will be applied. The funny thing is that I was never informed of that contract during my previous call to Cox.
Here is the full story. On 01/13/2009, following Consumerist’s advice, I called Cox asking to reduce my bill. The Cox rep. offered me a $14 per month discount for the period of 12 months. I tried to ask for more discount but was not successful so I decided to go with the offer. The rep. told me that everything would be kept the same. (By the way, I currently have Expanded Cable Service and Preferred Internet Service without contract). At no time during the call did he mention any contract or commitment. I should have asked for confirmation of no contract involved but somehow I forgot (silly me).
My thought is either he “conveniently” forgot telling me about the contract or he, in a deceiving way, tried to get me into a contract. In any case, I was so upset when receiving the notice. I would not mind had them told me about the contract since I will be staying here at my current resident for a long time. I will try to call them up this weekend and give you updates. I think it is fair for me to ask for that same discount without the burden of a contract, don’t you think?
Please remind other readers to always ask for no-contract confirmation. By the way, the confirmation email that the rep. promised to send to me, never got to my inbox either.
Have a good day!

Sounds fishy to me, Mr. N. It’s always a good idea to make very explicit the terms of any offer given to you by a CSR – make sure they note the specifics where applicable. In Mr. N’s case, this is nothing a quick shot to the BBB or a nice EECB couldn’t patch up.

Comments

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  1. PunditGuy says:

    “for the period of 12 months”

    • taking_this_easy says:

      @PunditGuy: the discount VALID for a period of 12 months… not a contract extension of 12 months

      • ScottRose says:

        @taking_this_easy: Exactly.. I did the same thing as the OP with Cablevision. I got my discount and they told me it would only be “for the period of 12 months”, but there was no ridiculous automatic contract.

        When the 12 months were up, I just did the same thing again..

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    There was a material change to your contract which voided your old one, but signing you up for a new 12 month contract without telling you is pretty “scammy”. They probably think that since you got a discount you won’t complain.

    By the way, did they name it Cox because of all the free attention that it would get?

  3. Saboth says:

    I can almost understand an ETF if you are getting a subsidized phone or free HBO or satellite equipment, but for a cable company to charge one and use contracts? What do they stand to lose? We are already renting the equipment from them on a monthly basis…

    • XTC46 says:

      @Saboth: They lose the ability to properly budget and charge appropriately to meet their profit goals.

      If a company knows that they will get $20/month in profit for the next 24 months guaranteed, they can then relax some other prices becasue they know they will still have their money from the agreement, otherwise they need to bill higher to ensure they are making money all the time.

  4. dragonfire81 says:

    I used to work at Sprint call center and saw this all the time. Other agents would offer discounts/sign people up for packages to make their sales numbers and while they would inform the customer about all the details of the new deal, they would conveniently forget to mention the new contract required.

    When I would get these customers on the phone, it was against policy (in fact a TERMINABLE offence) to roll back a contract date for a customer. All I could do was note the account to say the previous contract should be honored, but that didn’t always stop the retention department from trying to collect the ETF anyway.

  5. Stephanie Young says:

    I have Cox in Fairfax too, and never even knew they had contracts available. I’d take my service on a contract if it was cheaper, actually, as the only other option is FiOs and Verizon is awful, so switching is not an option for me right now. In general, I’ve had pretty good experiences with Cox customer service, though they were much much better in Fredericksburg than Fairfax, but that is a much smaller market.

  6. legwork says:

    Attaboy, call center management. Incent your reps to be crooks and they won’t disappoint.

    • bazaar_apparatus says:

      @legwork: Why does everyone assume the Cox rep was being evil because of this? They’re just people too, it’s entirely possible they forgot to mention it, or if they haven’t been around THAT long, they may not even know about it. Who the fuck knows?

      And for all I know, they may have known about it and just didn’t say anything, I just think knee-jerk reactionary fingerpointing bullshit is stupid.

      • enderx says:

        @bazaar_apparatus: I’m willing to bet baraaz, you’re my right than you know. Odds are the customer just didn’t listen, listened but didn’t hear, agreed to it but didn’t think he was agreeing to anything. I worked @ Telus (here in Canadaland.) and I got sooooooo much push back, ‘You never told me it was a contract!’ when I had them specifically SIGN a piece of paper with all the information, including LENGTH OF TERM highlighted in my favourite blue highlighter. It’s amazing how many people ‘forget’ this kind of shit.

  7. Doofio says:

    Now, I don’t want to sound too “anti-consumer” here, but this article bugs me for two reasons. First, what comcast did is sneaky and sleezy and blah blah, I agree. Second, and this is what usually gets me the most is why people believe they are entitled to a discount just because they want one. I say this because, unless I missed it in the article, this person had no real reason to demand a discount other than he didn’t like the price he was paying. This is a bit hypocritical in the general sense because it seems like many people seem to feel they are justified in all of their demands simply because they are the “mighty consumers”! Yet, when a company does the same thing (ala, credit card companies raising Interest rates for no real reason), then they get ripped and scolded…but if you do it, it’s fine, you’re the customer.

    Someone please explain this to me. This is a legitimate question, not a diss on anyone.

    • Zeniq says:

      @Doofio: Psst: Cox cable, not Comcast!

    • Saboth says:

      @Doofio:

      Well, you are a consumer, you dont HAVE to buy anything. It is in their best interest to negotiate with you, or your take your business elsewhere. If you feel you are paying more than you should, then you SHOULD take your business elsewhere. He is actually doing them a favor by letting them negotiate and keep his business.

      On the other hand, with a credit card company, you are locked into a contract basically. You have a deal set with them…you will use their card, and they will charge x %. The better the rate, the more business you will give them. When they re-negotiate the deal on the fly, after you spent say, 2,000 with them, that rubs people the wrong way, because hey…if you knew the interest rate was going to be 19% after the fact, you would have never have given them the business in the first place.

      • Doofio says:

        @Saboth:
        I can agree with most of that, but it seems like this person already purchased this service at an agreed upon price. Now, he’s just tired of paying that price so he thinks he should get a discount? I guess it just seems to me like there’s a double standard on some points when it comes to consumers vs business, and usually the general rule seems to be, Consumers can do no wrong and Businesses must kiss their feet or be shunned.

    • idip says:

      @Doofio: At least in the case of some providers, the quality of the product may be substandard or the prices may be significantly overpriced.

      I.E. Comcast ‘squeezing’ 3 HD changes in the bandwidth amount that only supports 2 channels.

      or AT*T charging .20cents per txt message (more then 3 years ago) even though the price to transmit those messages cost no more then it did 3 years ago.

      or me paying AT*T for Internet and the internet is down for a week because they can’t send someone out for a week and yet they still charge me for that time that my internet is not available and refuse to prorate the month.

      Not to mention customers ask and are often denied price changes.

      Where as when a company ups their interest rates they don’t give you the option to deny it.

  8. JohnDeere says:

    i got it in writing from directtv when i did this.

  9. Anonymous says:

    As was explained in the article, he got a discount through the company he worked for. Oftentimes, people qualify for corporate discounts and just don’t know they exist, so they never use them. If you work for a large corporation, you can ask a cell phone provider, a hotel, or a rental car agency if they have a corporate discount for your company, you’d be surprised at how many discounts you may qualify for, but you would never know unless you ask. The provider is not responsible for making you aware of the discounts; you must ask about them yourself as an astute consumer.

  10. Shaftoe says:

    Yeah it is slimy but really, like he said he has no intention of leaving so what is the big deal?

  11. bostonguy says:

    Like I told the CSR when I cancelled my AT&T Wireless account back in 2005 (or something, whenever they were about to merge with Cingular): If you’re planning on charging me an ETF for breaking a 2 year contract, then please fax me a copy of the signed contract, because I would NEVER agree to something like that verbally!

    If he was just told he would get a discount for 12 months, that’s a lot different than agreeing to a contract for a certain price for 12 months. The fist part implies they couldn’t offer the lower price for more than 12 months. The 2nd part implies he could only get the lower price by agreeing to a contract. If what the OP said is entirely true, I can’t imagine there was a legit meeting of the minds. You can’t have a contract if one side doesn’t know about it.

  12. Mooshie says:

    Lets look at the facts here. He is saving $168 ($14 x 12 months.) at the risk of early termination $168.

    Now if Mr. N here is broke or can’t afford digital cable and internet, he just has to stick with Cox for another 12 month in which he is getting a good deal with apparently.

    Cox should offer him his original deal with no contract back, or the $14 a month discount? In all honesty, I think that Mr. N was going to stick with Cox anyways for the next 12 months.

    • deliciouscake says:

      @Mooshie: the problem is that he was not told that he was signing up for any contract. Just because he will probably stick with Cox for the next 12 months doesn’t mean that Cox can sign him up for a 12 month contract. Nguyen got a discount because he asked. Cox did not ask if they could put him on a contract, but did so anyways.
      Hopefully it was a mistake.

  13. HogwartsAlum says:

    That NEMA graphic is awesome.

  14. frodolives35 says:

    Doofio. Things change. If you are not under contract you have every right to attempt to lower that bill. Why do you think companies raise and lower their prices. I have yet to get a letter from a company that says Hey out of the goodness of our heart because of these tough econonic times we are lowering your bill. I do however see companies I deal with offer a lower rate to entice new customers to do business with them so why wouldn’t anyone call them up and say Hey what about me the loyal customer who has been paying a higher rate all this time what can you do to keep me as I am pissed off people are getting a better deal then me the loyal customer.

  15. Triterion says:

    Woah, I went to High School with a Brian Nguyen that lives in Fairfax, could it be the same Nquyen?!?!

  16. MrEvil says:

    BTW, this “ask for the discount” trick does not work with Suddenlink Cable. They charged me $75/mo +Taxes for basic digital cable with a couple Encore channels and nothing else. I can get Hi-Def service with Dish or DirecTV for less than that and that’s not even the promotional rate.

    Y’know what Suddenlink’s retention offer was? $10 discount per month plus free HBO. I don’t give a good gosh darn about HBO, if I wanted HBO I’d be paying for it already. Hell, I wouldn’t even torrent any HBO programmming.

    The rep was more than happy to cancel my TV immediately though and she didn’t screw up and also cancel my internet. Needless to say their service techs haven’t put the isolator back on my cable line.

  17. montrosepark says:

    Hello Mr. Nguyen – I work for Cox and am happy to help you. Please email me and i will invesigate right away. thank you
    Kathryn

    kathryn.falk@cox.com

  18. ma3145tt says:

    I too have Cox Communications for the Fairfax, VA area. When I signed up for service I was told there was no commitment. When I got a few bills that were finally correct (they signed me up for everything… EVERY PREMIUM channel) I realized the bundle that I was supposed to be getting was no on the account. The rep I spoke to added the bundle and everything was fine. A month later I get a letter in the mail saying I have three business days to cancel the 12 month commitment. SAY WHAT?! I was never told of the commitment and this three days crap was a month ago. Their answer for the letter, it was lost in the mail.

    File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I was able to get abotu $150 credit from the rep. If I can find the person’s name and number, I will post.

  19. maevealleine says:

    There is usually NO CONTRACT to get Cox for residential services. This was most likely a Cox Business customer.