A few years ago I had the best deal in the world; I got my phone and internet from Bell for $40 a month including everything. Whenever the topic would come up I would tell people about my deal and they would insist that phone + internet was around $80 from everyone and that there was no way I could be paying $40. I had no idea why exactly I got this deal but I figured I would just sit on it for as long as possible and never call Bell for any reason. After 3 years or so they called me up and in a very roundabout, political way told me that from now on I was going to have to actually pay for the services I received from them and that my new monthly bill would be roughly $80 instead of $40. Strangely my reaction to this was to just smile and say "fair enough." :) Gradually that bill went up but I generally just wrote it off to long distance bills or inflation or figured it wasn't enough to pay attention to. This month I got a bill for $130 for a basic phone and internet plan and decided it was time to go crack some heads.
I went online to Rogers' site and got a quote of $64 for phone + internet. I know there will be unlisted charges and taxes so I figure $90 is probably where I would end up with Rogers and I called up Bell to get them to either get the price to that neighborhood or cancel my subscription. The first time I called the automatic answering service talks to me for 4 minutes and then disconnects me for no reason. The second time I called I got sent to a French speaking guy in Quebec who promised in bad English to transfer me to the appropriate person. He sent me to another French speaking guy in Quebec who promised to transfer me to the appropriate person and then proceeded to disconnect the call.
So just to be clear, the phone company drops calls *to themselves* and sends calls to the wrong province when I gave them my area code so they could serve me better!
The third call got me through to exactly the right person however and after listening to what Rogers was offering he came back with an offer of much better phone and internet services than I am currently getting at a price of $95 including everything. I have no desire to swap providers so I say yes and he sets it up. So just to be clear, I doubled my download speed, multiplied my max downloads by 4 times, upgraded my 120 evening/weekend minutes to 500 anytime minutes and got bonus phone services and my bill dropped by $35 a month. This should not surprise me as I spent a lot of time negotiating crazy discounts at a company that ostensibly has set prices but sometimes the magnitude of what you can get by threatening to cancel still surprises me. I wonder if I could get an even better price if I went back and negotiated a little more...
This made me think back to a conversation I had awhile ago with Momma's Boy. He was simply disgusted at the unfairness of negotiation and took it as an article of faith that variable pricing and haggling was unethical. The idea that people would pay different prices for things or that he would have to look around was anathema; he insisted that stores should simply sell things for a reasonable price that everyone agreed was fair and everything would be fine. Some part of me wants to roll on the floor laughing at the naivete of such a viewpoint but he is really just the extreme edge of a commonly held misconception. There is no such thing as 'fair value' or the 'right price' for an item. Things are worth what you are willing to pay for them and there is no reason why persistence, moxie, charisma and haggling skill should be less valuable in determining the amount of stuff you get than your job salary. (Obviously persistence, moxie and charisma often have a big say in your salary too!) Momma's Boy would probably lose his lunch at hearing this story. While that is not exactly a pretty image I think I will have to go tell him anyway.