It was over. Our love had run it’s course. And I wanted to pull the plug on the one-sided relationship. But calling my cable service provider to end my torrid love affair with commercials, bad programming, bundled packages, and rate hikes was like breaking up with a bad and possessive boyfriend — he didn’t want to let me go!

Making the call was emotionally painful. The customer service representative — a stealthy trained wingman who ‘helps’ when cable relationships sour — cooed in my ear with endless reasons to stay in the costly relationship. Like a repentant lover, he offered me enticing gifts, begging me to stay.

Mr. Cable Company apparently desired me (and my $66 monthly payment) so much that he offered me special subscriber perks, free channels, and a discounted package to keep me from cutting the service. By trying to break up with this greedy bad boy, I got seriously wooed. Funny he didn’t show me this much love and affection when I simply paid my cable bill on time. Yeah, Mr. Cable Company was a bit of an a$$hole.

So why was breaking up with my cable service provider so hard to do? After doing a little bit of digging I now see why cable and satellite companies are so keen to keep us subscribed, at any cost. According to CNNMoney, people are canceling their cable packages and switching off their satellite services in droves. With “one in eight subscribers cutting cable and satellite TV in 2010,” it’s understandable why customer service agents are trained to do anything to keep you from pulling the plug.

So if you’re thinking about breaking up with your television company, I’d like to share a few of my cable quitting mistakes, triumphs, and gobsmacking surprises. Yes, people, titillating surprises! Follow these five steps to get cable or satellite-free sooner, without the heart-break, tears, or hassle.

Step 1: Read your cable or satellite contract

I wanted to start this ‘Five Stepper’ with something fun like, Set your satellite dish on fire and watch your savings grow! But despite my leanings to all things silly, I have to be a little serious for once. That’s because your cable or satellite contract specifies the rules for when you can quit the service, not the day you decide to take a flamethrower to your dish.

In my case, I had to give my provider 30 days (THIRTY DAYS) notice before calling it quits. Sure, signing up was instant — I was connected in under 15 minutes. But quitting? That takes thirty freaking days Ma’am.

Lesson Learned: Spare yourself thirty days of expensive grief by reading the fine print first, and then make the plan to cut Mr. Cable Guy loose.

Step 2: Track your TV schedule

I don’t want you to quit TV cold turkey. Surprised? Don’t be. I’d rather you take a month to track your TV consumption, and then evaluate whether your programming choices are worth the monthly cable fee, or not. Start by downloading my Television Tracker (yeah, it’s free), and list all the shows you watch, scan, and flip through. No cheating, OK?

Download: Television Tracker

There’s a spot for each member of your family. Be sure to enter the stations you watch, the shows you like, and your time spent watching electronic pixels. The total television family viewing time is in the bottom row. Results might shock you into dumping this habit.

Lesson Learned: Tracking your TV viewing habits is no different than tracking your moolah in a budget spreadsheet or your exercise in a workout log. Get the facts, know your numbers, and you’ll make better financial choices. Eating more chocolate is totally up to you though!

Step 3: Find less expensive TV alternatives

On average, American cable and satellite viewers pay $71 per month (that’s $852 a year) while Canadians pay around $66 per month. Upgrade to a digital package, add movie channel or two, and you’re easily paying $100 per month.

Lesson Learned: Want to save up to $1,200 per year? Get with the digital program and watch TV online with these 10 Legal Alternatives to Costly Cable. Some are free.

Step 4: Be a brave break-up artist, make the call.

Before calling up your service provider you’ll need to drink a glass of brave, and brace yourself for free offers, feeble excuses (which may sound reasonable at the time), and end that call with a decisive ending. It might help to employ a few conversation combat techniques to cut the agent’s sales pitch short.

Warning: These guys have every counter response known to man, woman, and child. So be brave.

The conversation with my cable customer service agent went something like this:

Me: Hi, I’m Kerry. Here’s my account number. I’d like to quit my television services with [service provider] today. Thank you.

Stealthy Agent: Would you like additional channels? How about I bundle your cell phone, landline, and cable into one easy-to-pay package? This reduces your costs by 15% and increases our profit margin by 500%. Plus we’ll charge it directly to your credit card so you don’t notice the bill when we increase our rates by 5% every year!

Me: Umm, No thank you.

Stealthy Agent: Upgrading to HDTV is on special this month. And we’ll install a fresh new dish at no charge. It’ll only add another hole in your roof.

Me: Umm, No thank you.

Stealthy Agent: You’ve been a subscriber for years. That’s like a billion dollars we’ve already billed you. I’d like to offer you three months for free by signing up for a ten year contract. No strings attached.

Me: Umm, No thank you. I’d like to quit, thank you.

Stealthy Agent: I’ll cut your bill in half if you stay.

Me: Sweating Please, no. LET ME GO!

Stealthy Agent: Based on your contract, you have to give 30 days notice before ending the agreement. Sorry.

Me: You’re kidding me? OK, Day One starts TODAY!

Stealthy Agent: Great! I’ll call back every day this month to get you to change your mind.


Lesson Learned: Kidding aside, these guys are ruthless, so you need the endurance of a marathon runner and ‘The Force’ of a Jedi knight to end the break-up call victorious. OK, lying might help too. At one point I resorted to telling the agent that cable was useless to me because I no longer owned a television. Terrible, right? The agent was speechless. I was gobsmacked. He let me go. Or so I thought.

Step 5: Don’t answer the phone. Ever.

RIIIIIIIIIIING. They’re back! It was like a scene from the movie Poltergeist. Every time my phone rang it was either my bad former boyfriend (Mr. Cable Guy) calling or one of his wingmen haunting me. To make matters worse, I fielded calls from several cable companies that week. How they sensed my single status I’ll never know. But using their stealth cable guy techniques, they pitched me gifts, offerings, and discount rates to enter into wedded cable bliss with their company.

I was being wooed all over again. And I liked it. I hated it. I wanted to be left alone. So I got angry. Very angry. Then I got mean. I told them I was on the National No Call List (because I really am) and telemarketers (or Mr. Cable Guys) found in violation of the law can receive financial penalties.


Final Thoughts

It’s been six months since I broke it off with my cable company. I’ve saved $400 in cable payments, found more time to read books and catch up with friends, and I no longer care about reality TV. Phew.

I hope your cable or satellite break-up story involves less pain, sorrow, and offers of free gifts. I would love to hear from you guys — is my break-up story unusual, or common?