One of the many joys of moving to a new apartment is getting to set up your utilities all over again. My goal was that no matter what new companies I ended up using, my monthly bills would either stay the same or decrease. I easily found an electric company that charged 5 cents less per KWH and I had no say in the water provider, but the debacle that was achieving a reasonable internet rate is a story long enough to warrant the composition of this blog post.
The first option I chose to pursue was an attempt at sweet talking Time Warner into renewing my 12-month Roadrunner promotional rate of $30.59/mo (with taxes) for another year. They were planning on bumping it up to $41.48, which I found to be unacceptable. Despite their customer service agents’ best sales tactics (which mostly consisted of offering me cable TV and home phone packages), I remained unswayed. After multiple threats to permanently disconnect my service, they finally transferred me to the loss prevention specialist who was someone I could finally negotiate with. When I had made it clear that I had no intention of staying with Time Warner unless my rate would remain constant, she eventually conceded and granted me my request. It only took speaking with three customer service agents and 50 minutes of my life to save $130 over the next 12 months. Unfortunately, when I called the next day to inform Time Warner of my new address, they were sorry to let me know that their service was not offered in that zip code. Hindsight is 20/20, and I realized that verifying a service connection should have been the first step, and I was now back at square one.
I called the office of my new apartment complex, and was given the good news that I had only one option for internet, take it or leave it. Knowing that I was being forced to go with AT&T U-Verse made the decision-making process easier, but it also meant I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to get a good deal. It took a while for the initial sales rep to understand that I ONLY wanted internet and that I DIDN’T want the fastest (read: most expensive) plan. She found it hard to believe that I didn’t play online games and that a 24-year old male might actually have more important things to do with their time. When the options were finally laid before me, I chose the $43/mo 6 mbps plan at the 12 month promotional rate of $24.95. Sweet, a 5 dollar decrease in the monthly internet bill! Or so I thought…
Once the plan was chosen, the fees and additional costs began to pile on. I was to pay $100 for a “gateway modem” and $50 for an “installation charge”. When I explained that my previous 3 providers did not charge me for a modem or installation she said that I could always return the modem and receive credit back and opt for a “self-install” to waive the fees. I asked if simply not purchasing a modem was a choice. Surprise, surprise… it wasn’t. Remaining skeptical as to whether or not I would actually be able to return the modem later on, I bit the bullet anyways and signed up for service, telling her that I would choose the self-install package.
While waiting for my line to be activated and for the modem to arrive, I took to Craigslist and Amazon to see if I could find a used U-Verse modem for cheap. After a quick search, I spotted a 2Wire Modem Craigslist listing for $25 in a town 30 minutes away. That was farther than I wanted to drive, but I figured I could make it worth it if I purchased a cell phone while I was in the area. Five minutes later someone selling an iPhone 4 agreed to meet me at the same time and same place where I was meeting the Modem seller. The next day I sold the iPhone for a $30 profit. $25 Modem + $5 in gas – $30 cell phone sale = net cost of $0. Success!
Things were looking up, that is, until I attempted to get the modem up and running. After 20 minutes of fiddling with wires and turning things off and on (I’m no tech-guru) I was getting nothing except red lights. Tech Support spent 30 minutes on the phone with me trying to identify the source of the connection problem. He was about to send a technician out to me (at my cost), when I informed him that I was using a used modem off of Craigslist. As it turns out, the 2Wire U-Verse modem I was using was not compatible with the newer fiber optic line that had been installed at my apartment complex. This is after I had earlier confirmed with TWO tech support agents that the 2wire modem would indeed be compatible with my U-Verse connection prior to purchasing it off of Craigslist. The latest tech “expert” informed me that I needed to use the Motorola modem that I was mailed. Not one to give up, I would need to seek help from the internet once again.
In the mean time, my first bill arrived in the mail. I was pleasantly surprised to be charged $8.25 in sales tax for the $100 modem and $49 for a “service activation” fee ($53.41 with taxes). It took me a while, but I was finally able to get through to a billing rep to whom I disputed the $49 charge, saying that the original sales rep never mentioned this over the phone. I did some quick research and found this charge very clearly spelled out on the AT&T website, but I didn’t use the internet to sign up and the sales rep, in fact, did NOT tell me about it. I was a little shocked at how fast he was able to remove the $49 charge from my account, as I was expecting to put up a fight. The old adage of “it never hurts to ask” rang true for me that day.
While in the process of searching for a reasonably priced Motorola modem, I was able to resell the 2Wire modem on Amazon for a profit of $22. Since the modem effectively cost me nothing, this $22 would help to offset the cost of a new Motorola modem. I found one later listed on Amazon for $36.49 and wasted no time in ordering it. When my wife and I move again in 11 months, I plan to make at least a $15 profit reselling this modem, rendering the effective cost of Modem #2 $0 as well.
To wrap this story up, the Motorola modem arrived, and it worked like a charm. I sent the other one back to AT&T hoping they would actually refund my $100. When this month’s bill finally arrived, I was pleased to see a $53.41 credit for the activation fee and a $113.25 credit for the modem. Sweet! So not only did they refund every unnecessary cost, but I ended up with a bonus $5 as well. Another happy ending, that seems even happier when you break down the savings:
Charges I didn’t pay:
$50 – Installation Fee (by the way, self-install was literally as follows: 1. plug power cord into outlet. 2. Plug green cord into phone jack.)
$53.41 – Activation fee
$108.25 – Gateway Modem
$5.00 – AT&T error? Bonus?
So a total of $216.66 was kept in my pocket. Spread over a year, this would have amounted to an additional $18.06 a month! The most interesting fact of all is that $24.95 + 18.06 = $43.01 a month… 1 cent more than the original “non-promotional” rate of $43! See what they did there?
Persistence has once again paid off, and my utility troubles are over until they attempt to increase my rates 11 months from now.