Thursday, October 23, 2008

The downturn could be your best friend

Having lived through a 'few' economic cycles, I thought I'd pass along a few things for you guys to think about.  I'm not an expert, but in all honesty, these days, I'm wondering who really is.

There's no denying that the credit mess is effecting a lot of people, perhaps a lot more than many realize, depending on where you are or what you do.  It's also important to realize that because of the 'unique' nature of this downturn, driven almost entirely by greed and fear, that the possibility still exists that it will be short-lived.  Call me an optimist?

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to take advantage of the current scenario and help yourself.

Large companies typically become much more 'customer sensitive' during rough financial times.  It not a perception.  It's a fact.  The last thing anyone wants right now is bad press.  Even top executives become more accessible.

Been wondering whether or not your warranty claim will hold water?  Need a replacement disk?  Have a legitimate dispute?  Looking to lower your expenses?

Now is the time, and you may get a huge surprise.  (In fact, you may only have to push 'zero' once when you call customer service! :)

Call.  (.... and if it doesn't work the first time, call again and get a different person).

Those 'things' you've been hesitant to negotiate and / or address in the past may now bring a surprise.

Insurance (of all kinds).  Credit card rates (or lowering the interest rate on your existing one).  Cell-phone service (some carriers are now 'adjusting' early termination fees).  There are many, many more spaces where companies will be willing to work with you (some long-term),where they wouldn't before.

No prescription coverage ?  It's not just the 'big boxes' that are slashing rates. Small chains, even local pharmacies are doing it as well.

I'm aiming this piece at the many that are just 'riding the line' (or worse).  If it helps ONE, I'll be happy.   
In any case, it never hurts to save money.

Assuming you haven't done it, take a look at your monthly bills.  In my case (without shopping ... just a phonecall), I slashed my car insurance rates.  Many companies are matching other companies' rates.

Important: Screaming and yelling at a customer service person will usually get you absolutely nowhere.  Be pleasant, and if you feel you need to (in many cases you will), ask for a supervisor and explain your situation clearly, and why you think you need a resolution and/or you think you deserve a better price.

Finally .... It never fails.  You're going to see more software giveaways over the next few months than ever.  It happens every time (and the competition among 'the big guys' is HUGE right now).

I'll try to highlight some of those here as they begin to roll-out.

Being a realist and hedging your situation (as much as it's difficult to change people) is a lot better than worrying.  In fact, worrying serves no useful purpose other than to possibly make you ill.

Take a day.  Make a few phone calls.  You may just find yourself crossing that line into 'the black' or going deeper where you can save for college again, and other important things.

This applies to some of our tech 'friends' that are laying off workers as well.  Did you do the math and switch to energy efficient lighting (one example) before you laid off that GREAT employee??  I know of a lot of large companies that are.

Food for thought.