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10 Jan 2008

How to cancel something on the phone in minimal time

filed under: journal  :: modern life  :: organization  :: productivity

It's the 10th day of the new year, and I'm deep into a satisfying process of decluttering my life. Besides getting rid of two jumbo bags of unwanted clothes (those funny conference giveaway t-shirts must multiply like bunnies in the closet) I've also called up and cancelled a number of subscriptions and services that I don't really want to continue.

It's quite annoying that so many places want you to call them to cancel, when they let you sign up oh-so-easily online. But of course they do so in the hope that the customer service rep can try to talk you out of cancelling.

When I make the effort to call a number to cancel, my mind is firmly made up that I am not going to renew or whatever under any circumstances. On the other hand, I don't want to get into a protracted argument with the rep person, who is after all only doing her job.

So, when they ask me the inevitable question, "Why are you cancelling (and let me get a hook into how I can talk you out of it)?", I tell a little white lie to save us both some time.

Here are some lines that work pretty well.

  • "I'm moving to another country and don't plan to come back at all for years." Works pretty well for most U.S. companies, who think the world ends at the borders anyway.
  • "I'm moving to a country with no modern communications, forget about internet access, to join the Peace Corps/Doctors Without Borders/Oxfam/save pandas for the WWF." For some online services or credit card companies etc. that try to convince you that you can still use their crap wherever you are.
  • "I lost my job and I really have to cut my expenses, or my kids will go hungry." Do this with a slight tremor in your voice.
  • "I'm/My spouse/child is going to the hospital for a while...". Pause here for a deep, sad sigh. No need to go into details.

What doesn't work:

  • "I'm going to use a competitor's service". Oh dear, this will bring on a barrage of salespeak. They will try and try and try to make you stay. They will offer you tremendous discounts, gifts, freebies, cute kittens. I recently called up a service I wasn't using anymore and said this (because it was the truth; I was getting the same thing for free basically in another way) and I couldn't get them to cancel my account for a good 10 minutes. This call by Matt Haughey when he cancelled his cellphone service because he got an iPhone is a classic example.
  • "I just don't like your company/service anymore. It sucks." This may quiet the timid rep, but it will bring out the fighting spirit in the more tenacious type. He may even pull out the dreaded "Let me hand you over to my supervisor" line. There goes a good quarter hour of your life.

It's unfortunate that these are most likely the true reasons why you are cancelling. Just think though, what do you value more: telling the truth or your precious time and good mood.

Once you cancel those unneeded services, your spirits will be lighter and your wallet just a bit fatter. Just don't sign up for the same kind of thing again.

(Disclaimer: This post is written with tongue firmly in cheek. Of course you should never lie.)

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