Cut Your Bills With Just a Phone Call

Slash Your Bills With Just One Phone Call

Bogged down by bills, Alan Weinkrantz is on a mission to save.

One household expense at a time, the San Antonio man is calling service providers and talking tough.

"I need to save some money," he tells one service provider. "I know you get it but can you work with me?"

Weinkrantz is negotiating with everyone, from his cable company to his gym, to reduce his bills and it's working. The companies are willing to talk, said Wall Street Journal consumer reporter Vishesh Kumar, because they fear losing customers in a slumping economy.

"Things are tough for consumers, but they're also tough for service providers like cable and phone companies," Kumar said. "Oftentimes, it's better for them to hold on to a customer even though it entails giving them a price break."

Weinkrantz has witnessed this.

His phone and cable provider lowered his monthly bill by almost 50 percent, a yearly savings of almost $800. His health club offered $10 off the monthly rate and tacked on a free month, a yearly savings of nearly $200.

"What I have learned is that these companies are really receptive to working with me to keep me as a customer," he said.

"Good Morning America" asked Weinkrantz to test out his techniques with a bargaining beginner named Laura Erenson Chestler. Chestler wants to lower her cable bill.

Step one for Chestler was to make sure she knew her payment history. When she called her cable company, she used it to make her case for why the company should lower her bill. But even with her regular on-time payments, the representative on the other end of the line could only offer a $5 reduction.

Her second step was to ask for the company's customer retention department, a team set up specifically to try to keep your business.

In step three, Chestler mentioned competitive offers.

"We did talk to AT&T, and I guess they're offering the same services, but at a lower price," she told the cable company.

Finally, she got results: A company representative agreed to lower her bill by 20 percent.

"I think most people either don't know they can ask or are embarrassed to ask," Weinkrantz said. "I don't think there is anything wrong with it. Ask!"

But you can only ask so much.

The Downside of Negotiating

Alex Dudley, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable, said that when a customer calls the company and requests a lower price, Time Warner will offer regional promotions.

But the company will only go so far and is willing to let customers go, he said.

"We see if there's a fit, and if we don't, we say, 'Best of luck,'" he said. "We are in a highly competitive industry, we feel that our products and services are already priced competitively."

He compared cable to other businesses.

"If you go into a shoe store and say, 'Times are tough, I can't pay $300 for these shoes, I'll give you $150,' they either can or they can't and they'll say yes or no," Dudley said. "It's the same in every business -- at some point you have a decision level."

You might have more luck negotiating with credit card companies, but if you do, bargainer beware: If you successfully negotiate with your credit card company to forgive some of your debt, this so-called "charge off" or "write off" will remain on your credit report for seven years and will lower your credit score.

This comes with other repercussions: Your lower credit score means that refinancing your mortgage may prove more costly while other credit card companies may raise the interest rates they charge you.

With reports from ABC News' Elisabeth Leamy.

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