Finances & Money

Were we stealing cable accidentally, or was Comcast upselling?

Way back in 2007, we “made a deal with the devil” and got cable TV. This was before the analog to digital cutover and when we only had $20 per month basic cable (just enough to have cheaper internet service). While I wrote that Comcast was “tempting us to spend more”, what I never got around to writing was that we took them up on their $10/mth upsell and got the “Digital Starter Package”. I also never told you we got an LCD HDTV last year (until recently) and an HD DVR box from Comcast sometime this past year.

And we love it, even though I couldn’t understand the hype years ago. We got suckered into the costs of upgrading our viewing pleasure and now we’re in the “can’t imagine life without it” crowd.

Anywho, we got a letter a few weeks ago from Comcast stating basically that we were receiving channels we shouldn’t have and they’re cutting us off. Now, I can’t quite recall the conversation about the deal for the Digital Starter Package (whether it was for just a year, etc.), and perhaps I just took for granted the additional channels we got for so much less than our friends and coworkers paid, but I didn’t think we were doing anything wrong.

So, I called up Comcast wondering what they meant and here’s the lowdown on what happened:

  • They were coming out to cut our service on the 17th back down to basic cable. It was an error on their side that they didn’t catch, so they were being gracious in “not back-charging us for the channels we received during this time”. Oh, well, thanks, I guess.
  • They offered to “give us back the channels we currently had for the going rate of about $65/mth“. This would have basically doubled our cable bill.
  • I told him I would only be comfortable with increasing $30 a month and no more because that used to be the difference in costs when it was still analog service.
  • I negotiated for the next hour, with threats to switch to Fios (which they’re getting good at counteracting) because I have the option in my neighborhood, and then finally just telling him I’d switch just to spite Comcast.
  • It was then that he pulled out the final offer. They would honor my $30/mth demand. We finished up the call and I was relatively satisfied, even though I felt cheated that I’m paying more than I thought I should be paying in the first place.
  • On the 17th, when the wife was home for a relaxing vacation day, the cable went out right as she was going to watch a movie. Yep, they shut off our cable anyway.
  • The wife spent at least an hour on the phone sorting things out, but it ended up screwing up all our scheduled show recordings. Luckily, we can manage our DVR online, so it wasn’t difficult to delete and add them back.

I should admit that Comcast definitely lured us in with their original cable deal and got us hooked on a number of cable shows that would be hard to find online. We’ve become lazy and justified it by not having debt (other than our mortgage). Eh, you’ll learn to justify anything once you get lazy enough.

So in the end, instead of paying about $170/mth for cable and internet, we’ll be paying about $100, give or take. We don’t have a home phone, so we don’t get any ‘Triple Play” deals. Overall, we’ve gotten used to paying for and watching cable TV, but we went years being happy with just basic cable. We do still have Netflix, but as you know, we just reduced our Netflix plan. Spend some here, save some there.

Anyone else get caught in a similar predicament? Was yours an actual “bait-and-switch” (i.e. they offer something and switch it out on you when you go to claim it) or an upsell (i.e. they get you to call for some reason, then tempt you to upgrade your plan without taking time to think it through)? Who else has gotten lazy and stopped caring about being frugal? Is it because you don’t have debt or because you just gave up?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • We just canceled Comcast last week after our digital starter package bill went from $36.99 a month with free DVR and HD, to $84.99/month after our 1 year promo deal ended. I didn’t really want to switch to another service, just because of the hassle factor, but in the end they wouldn’t reduce our rate to what we wanted. I was able to haggle our way to a $39.99/month deal plus paying $15/month for the DVR, but in the end we would save about $200/year by switching to Dish Network. So i canceled and Dish is coming out to install on Friday. Oh well – i guess you have to be ready to cancel if they won’t give you the deal you want!

  • We got offered two free premium channels for three months. And our cable company gave us the wrong channels. Doesn’t do well for the whole “stick with us because we are the best in customer service”.

  • I have Brighthouse and they’re not the best, but the prices aren’t are bad as Comcast, I guess. I have cable, a DVR, and internet access and pay $94.47 each month. That includes all the taxes and everything. I did threaten to switch to FIOS, so they took $10 off my bill each month.

  • I think this is a marketing ploy. I can’t even tell you how many times my cable company tells me “theres someone in the area” and they have an “exclusive offer because of it”.

    But you can’t blame them — its the drug dealer model — get the first hit free, you pay for the rest!

  • Comcast does sound like the devil. We did not fall into the bait and switch. Instead, we were lured in on our own accord – $10 to upgrade to the HD box, only $11 more to have a DVR, $20 for the next package with the kids’ channels, $14 for HBO – bundle it all and we’ll throw in a movie tier! We’re suckers.

  • You think that’s bad. They came to my house with police accusing me of stealing cable because THEIR technician forgot to install some sort of filter.

    They almost hauled me away in hand cuffs and I’m an 80 year old man!

  • So we had something similar to us before as well, except we finished our basement and wanted a cable outlet there so they come out and say oh its free of charge for the box if you pick it up; we picked it up. They came out, and it took him maybe 20 min and said he was done. GREAT! Then we are laying down for the night and he disconnected our bedroom. So the next morning I called and they told me they couldn’t come back out without charging me another $40 tech visit cost! So after $80 in charges, they finally got it right. After my contract was up I switch to DISH, I suggest it to every parent. Why what makes it different? The filters! You can filter the kids channels out on their own guide so there is no accidental viewing of anything. Not only that but since I became an employee of DISH (rather recently), I have not had any problems. You can get a 4 room install with DVRS in all, and HD all for under $53! It is not to shabby at all!

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