Thursday, April 16, 2009

Matters of Housewifery

Last year I was out of work for about 6 full months. It messed with my sense of self-worth, my sleep schedule, my bathing, everything. The novelty of being able to hang around with my friends wore off quickly; I was semi-trapped in our modest home with our flock of pets day in and day out. Saying I was going crazy as a housewife is a major understatement. Once I was able to find a job again- working part-time for 24 Hour Fitness and working for the Obama campaign for actual money- the first thing I did was find somebody else to pay to do some of my chores. A friend, Brieanna Robertson, is a published author and editor, but also pays her bills by running her own cleaning business. A person I could pay and trust to clean my house? I signed up in a heartbeat. Now, my house get's dusted, scrubbed and vacuumed twice a month, and IT IS HEAVEN.

Unfortunately, I couldn't outsource all of my responsibilities. While my hubband is the 'bread winner' and takes responsibility for the majority of our finances, I handle the utilities and coordinate the payments for these services. The economy is bad and businesses have many deals and incentives to hand out to get your business. I switched to a DISH Network promotion for our television and shaved $60/month off our bill for the next year, and $35/month from that point on. Television settled, I decided to tackle the phone- I was able to drop $15/month for additional services to our seldom used home phone. Then, there was the internet: 1.5meg service from AT&T for $30? Not anymore; Charter offered us 5meg for $40. The $10 increase was well worth the money, especially with the tech addiction the hubband and I share, and was certainly nullified by the approximately $70 in savings I'd managed.

I had written documentation of all prices, contracts, requirements, and appointments to protect myself, and be sure I got the deals I had worked for. My diligence paid off and the installs all went well- our services were changed over with relative ease, and have all worked beautifully. Unfortunately, when I checked our bills I noticed Charter had me down for $57/month, a rather large discrepancy, and my heart sank. I contacted them first by their internet chat feature, and the rep quickly told me he couldn't handle the issue. I was given the number for Level 2 support. I repeated my story and was told that even this second gentleman couldn't help me- he transferred me to Advanced Account Support. I was pretty concerned this was going to be a painful and frustrating process by this point. I once again explained the situation, being as concise and friendly as possible.

First the rep challenged me, but I informed him of the very thorough verification I had done before, and told him precisely what I had arranged originally with the first rep. Immediately he offered to correct the problem, adjusting the price for the 5meg internet to $40/month for a full year without a contract or same speed guaranteed at $30/month with a 2 year contract. Commitments can be an bottomless source of annoyance, but the price, infrequency with which we change our utilities, and the reasonable termination fee ($75 in first year, $50 in second) certainly piqued my interest. He then offered to increase to 10meg speed for $10 more, no additional commitment. I was sold.

All in all, the process took about an hour to set up all the swaps and switches, and a couple of afternoons at home while it was done. The billing debacle ended up getting me a better deal, and only took 15 minutes of my time. Well worth my efforts, and now we have better service and more features for less money. I encourage everyone to take a chance to review their utility expenses- you never know what sort of deals you can get.

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