Tuesday, February 7, 2012

657. How To Save A Bundle of Money In These Tough Economic Times

The Husband and I were looking for ways to save money since I quit my job at the high-end kitchen store. “Do you have any ideas?” he asked. “Well, we could call all the different companies we use, like phone and TV, and see if they have any special plans?” I offered tentatively. 

He was nodding as I was saying it, and that was the moment I knew I would be the one forced to make these calls.

I am not a fan of bargaining. If I go to a garage sale and see that a cute wood side table with real marble top is priced at $18, I get a crisp 20 dollar bill out of my pocket and say “Keep the change.” If I am in Mexico buying hand-woven wool blankets while I am waiting in line to cross the border back to America, there is no back-and-forth discussion: I end up buying three blankets for four times the original price. The bargaining gene not only skipped a generation, it galloped, jump-roped, and hopscotched right past my DNA cells, looking for someone else to help save money.

Don’t get me wrong: I love sales, and I love Target. The difference is: someone else (a store employee or God) has already predetermined the (fair) price; no disputing the price or value is expected. The only negotiating taking place occurs in my brain: Should I pay cash or should I pay with my Amex and earn points?  Should I hold up the line by running out to my car to get the plastic bags I forgot, or should I resign myself to being stuck with more plastic bags that will kill all the starving baby dolphins in Africa? 

I went online and looked up the phone number for Direct TV. I cringed as I pressed the number into my phone, wondering why The Husband could not do this dreaded task. I replayed our earlier conversation in my mind:

“Sweetie? Since I hate to negotiate, can you make the calls?”

“Really? Are you kidding me? I am at work nine hours a day, and you are at home while the kids are in school and you’re doing what, blogging?”  He said the word blogging with bitterness and contempt, like one might say the words shooting up heroin.  “You can’t pull yourself away from your precious computer for 10 minutes to make a couple of phone calls?”

Larry answered almost immediately and sweetly asked how he could assist me today. I braced myself for his reaction to my script I had written out between blogs: “Hello! My name is MOV, and I would like to discuss a way to enhance my television plan by reducing the overall cost! Is that a possibility?”

Larry surprised me, “Absolutely, ma’am, I am happy to help you find ways to save money.”

After about 45 minutes of intense negotiations where Larry listened carefully to my needs and I suggested to him several times that he had a bright future as a hostage negotiator, we came to a truce: my family could survive with only three channels—HGTV, Cartoon Network, and some sort of sports channel. Larry told me that ESPN would add another $50 to our plan; I quickly decided that I have seen Road Runner and Bugs Bunny holding tennis racquets from time to time, and that could count as sports. The Husband would surely understand. Our bill plummeted from $189 a month to a much more affordable $26.

Next up: Verizon Internet. Alta said she’d be happy to help me. We went through the list of services one-by-one. It was determined that high-speed Internet was not crucial for my day-to-day life, and Alta finally got me to relent and go to sort-of-medium-maybe-a-little-bit-slow-speed Internet. My bill dropped from $118 to a quite reasonable $39 plus tax.

I was getting good at this.

Finally, I called Verizon wireless about my cell phone service. This was the call I was dreading the most because there are so many phone service options.  The woman on the line was named either Saprana or Zaprana, I couldn’t be sure. Either way, it sounded like the name of a vacuum cleaner or an anti-depressant. She was kind enough to go through my existing plan with me step-by step.

“I see that your current plan, The Golden, is all encompassing,” said Zaprana, “in fact, we no longer offer that particular plan because it is not making any money for the company. If I were you, I would stay with The Golden since you are grandfathered in.” I could hear her clicking away at her keyboard, and I was sure her screen was flashing, Sales Rep! $50 bonus on your next paycheck if you make customer keep The Golden!!!

“Zaprana, The Golden is too good for us. We don’t actually deserve The Golden. We’re more a Brass kind of family, or Tin. Do you have anything in Aluminum Foil?”

“The next level down from The Golden is The Silver,” said Zaprana, not surprisingly. “But honestly, The Golden is a much better value.”

“Really, Zaprana, I’m allergic to gold. It makes me break out in 20 dollar bills. I need to get this rate down, maybe to half. Or less. Maybe 50%.”  I was never good at math. 

“Oh, I see …” she murmured, “do you mind if I put you on hold for one moment?” The phone clicked to soothing country elevator hybrid new-age music while Zaprana played a game of computer solitaire or possibly bought a new handknit sweater on etsy.

She came back just as I was starting to nod off.  “Mrs. MOV? I spoke with my supervisor, and she is going to listen in on the line. I’m new, and I want to make sure I don’t #*%@ this up.”

“Excuse me?” Did she just say the F-word?!?

“I said, I want to offer you all your options.” That was soooooo not what she said.

“Do you need call-waiting?”

Did I? Did I really? When another call beeped in, I did not know how to answer it anyway without hanging up on the first person. Hmm. I could do without it.

“No, Zaprana, you can delete call-waiting,” I said confidently, knowing I had shaved at least 50 cents off my bill.

“Caller ID?”

“No. Delete it.”

“Conference calling?”

Conference calling? I never used that feature! I didn’t even know I had conference calling! “Definitely not, get that off of there.”

“Three way calling?”

“Isn’t that the same as conference calling?”

“No, it’s not, the difference is that—”

“No, get rid of it.”

“Voice mail?”

This was trickier. I did actually listen to my messages from time to time. “Maybe I should keep voice mail? It’s good to have the ability to check messages.”

“Great choice. Voice mail only adds $78 to your bill each month. And it is part of our Copper Club Pro Plan.”

“What? Did you say $78? Forget it. Get that off of there.”

“Unlimited long-distance?”

“Zaprana, what about limited distance?”

“Mrs. MOV, we have unlimited, or semi-limited which includes 500 minutes per month with unlimited nights and weekends, or 350 minutes with half-price weekends, or finally 30 minutes with no weekends and free incoming calls on alternate Tuesdays between 2 and 7 PM, Eastern time.”

“How much is that last one?”

“Really? The last one?”


“Well, that one is bundled as part of our Skeleton Plan. It costs $11 a month.”

“How much am I paying right now, all together, with The Golden?”

“Let’s see,” I could hear more clicking, probably of her abacus this time. “Looks like you are currently paying $409 a month, so if you got it down to $11, I might lose my job, but you would save a lot of money.”

Did she just say she’d lose her job?  Where was her supervisor now?   

“Are you going to lose your job?”

“No, no, ha ha! I didn’t say that! I said, The Skeleton looks like the way to go.”

“Perfect, then, Zaprana, sign me up for The Skeleton.”

She went over the terms and conditions, which basically said I could only make a call if it was to 911, and that I was on my own if I ever dropped my phone or broke it, either accidentally or intentionally. I agreed to everything she said, because the bottom line was: a cut-throat deal of $11 per month. 
Right after I got off the phone with Zaprana and I was mentally congratulating myself on my newfound negotiating skills and huge amounts of cash saved, my cell phone rang. I recognized The Husband's husky voice. 

“Hi Hon! How’d it go today with—”

I hung up on him. I can’t risk being charged for incoming calls except on alternate Tuesdays between 2 and 7 PM, Eastern time.

("Misses Our Verizon")


  1. Ick. I should probably make a few of those calls sometime soon, myself. My husband let FIVE YEARS go by paying for caller ID I didn't know we had, when we didn't even have a phone with a screen on it.

  2. I do the same thing except I tell company X what company Y is offering me if I go with them. I can lie about company Y because all company X wants is to keep my business. Which reminds me, I need to call my land-line phone company to tell them company Y is trying to get me to go with them again....

    1. smart girl. I need a page from your play book.........

  3. So I'm dying to much of this is true? And which parts were embellished? And also, did your husband really say "blogging" with contempt? 'Cause I would have hung up on him even if I weren't being charged by the minute. Ha!

    1. Just reread my comment...realized it might have sounded snarky, which wasn't my intention. I'm not doubting the truth of your story! I'm just curious - as a fellow storyteller - to know how much is literal and how much is "story-fied". Loved this post, by the way...funny!

    2. hi clay baboon lady!

      99.9% is true. Well, except the part about the F-word. And the part about her name sounding like an anti-depressant. And the term "Skeleton Plan." And that I hung up on The Husband. Okay, it's all a bunch of lies (I *DID* however, delete The Husband's sports channels, which he told me he wants me to call back and reinstate. He will have to wait until next Tuesday, between 2 and 7, duh. Or he himself can place the call, maybe from the gas station down the street-- I just gave him a handful of quarters).


    3. I have an even better plan for you. For the past 3 years I've been paying $20.00 per year for my home phone(that's right twenty dollars per year) for unlimited calls to anywhere in the USA and Canada. Then I have a net10 pay as you go phone for my cell phone which I use when not home and really need to make a call...for me it averages about $20/month. Before my home phone ended up being around$50.00 per month and cell phone around $65.00. When I got rid of land line and just had cell phone it was $85 and up(if I went over min. ). So I've saved a bundle!! For the home phone you do need high speed internet but NOT the fastest. I have the bottom line DSL for $31.00 per month. It's called a dry loop account so I only pay for internet not for a phone line. I now pay $51.00 per month to be on-line as long as I need to and can call anyone and talk as long as I want to,when I want to...The home phone is magic jack. They have recently up'd there cost to $30.00/yr for the original mj or $65.oo/year (I believe) for the new Magic jack that hooks directly to your modem, doesn't take up any ram and phone quality is suppose to be better. I have a portable phone at home and occasionally need to move to a different spot in my house but this happened even more often with my old cell phone plans. Net10 is the best pay as you go; no fees, you only pay or the #number o min you want;just pay .10 per min. or .05 per text. There are also options to buy 600 min. for $45 which bring the cost per min way down. Pkus you never lose your min. like regular cell phones. Min. carry over each month until you use them.
      Sorry so long just thought it would be worth your looking into.

    4. I totally thought this was a spam thing, but you did not put any kind of link, so now that I know it is legit, I will look into it. thank you!!!! :)


  4. Just so you know, Target and TJ Maxx (that I know of first hand) will give you 10% off if you can find a little ding of some sort in that item that you really want anyway, but getting a few cents off would make it even more swell! do you click over when there's another call--that can be so tricky?!?! hee hee hee!

    1. aha! the secret 10% off! (but that sounds like negotiating.............)

  5. I'm totally on board with this! Our cable bill is $13.00 a month. Yes, that's right. We only have about 15 channels, but that's ok. We use our public library to check out movies for FREE and watch a lot of PBS. Go bargains!

  6. I recently called our telephone provider because my daughter (2 year customer) was being charged less than me (a 35 year customer). While they could not give me the deal she got (she lives in a new area of the city and I live in an old part of the city), they greatly reduced my internet fees and long distance calling. Totally worth the call and cut my bill by about 2/3.

    1. gah! 2/3! I think this is even better than 1/2!

  7. Welcome to the cheap cable club! We have 15 channels and hardly watch any of them. Netflix is the way to go. *turns to Netflix rep standing behind her* Okay, Mr. Netflix Guy, can I have my check now?

    1. you live with the Netflix guy? you have never posted about THAT..........

  8. This is hilarious! AND makes me glad that I already have the stripped down version of everything and don't have to make those kinds of calls. She seriously said FUCK? Still giggling...

    1. thank you, Tara! and no, she did not actually say the F-word. (but her tone said it for her........)

  9. I just added DVR to our cable and someone else who "could lose their job" was able to do that, add Starz, and somehow save me $12 a month. The companies baffle me.

    1. I am equally baffled. Or 50% more baffled than you. Or 2/3 less baffled than Grace. Or 15 times more baffled than Haley. Or five years more baffled than Skwishee. That's a lot.


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