The Downside to Being a Maximizer

It’s not just miles and points, I’m looking for deals in just about everything that I do. I don’t always sweat the small stuff, a dollar here or there, but if it isn’t costly to do so I will (I’ll grab frequent flyer miles or Fatwallet cashback even on a $15 purchase).

I scrounge for coupons when making online purchases, I used to find Googling the online store’s name and ‘coupon’ would work but there are so many bogus coupon sites looking for their own referral commissions that it’s a pain to sort through. In addition to searching Ev Rewards for the best shopping portal returns, I also head over to the Hot Deals forum at Fatwallet (and to a lesser extend Slick Deals) and search for the merchant I’m buying from, it’s amazing how many coupons get posted.

Sometimes, though, a coupon will cancel out cashback or miles, so it’s important to either know, check, or just beware.

Unfortunately, though, the costs of my strategy to always get the ‘best deal’ can outweigh the returns, or at least come close to doing so. Sometimes the costs are obvious, such as adding flight connections to maximize miles can mean not just longer travel times but also greater risks for irregular operations and then the whole thing backfires. But sometimes it’s less obvious.

I get my cable and internet through Comcast. I had a signup deal when I moved into my current home 15 months ago, and they finally raised the price on me. So my wife called, first to cancel HBO (we’ll add it back when Entourage and/or Big Love return, but in the meantime we never watch it). Then she decided to sign up for their ‘triple play’ of internet, phone service, and cable. (She learns these things from me.) The price was about $30 a month less than just cable and internet. We had no interest in the phone, we use just our cell phones, but they insisted on actually installing the phone before giving us the deal. We set an appointment for 6am – 9am on Sunday so that it wouldn’t kill our whole day waiting for the cable guy.

Phone installed, no problem (though we don’t have a handset, we don’t plan on using it, and we’ll cancel after a year and put the cable in my name instead of hers to sign up for the best deal again.

Then 10 minutes after the “tech” left, our internet stopped working. Phone call to Comcast, they couldn’t fix it, so they scheduled an appointment for another “tech” to return between noon and 3pm. Ack, we’ll have to wait around home for the guy to come… Meanwhile, back on the phone with Comcast (because just like with the airlines, if you don’t get the answer you want, hang up and call back) the next person seemed to get close to fixing the problem. They couldn’t “see” our modem at first either, but then they managed to reset it. Alas, no internet.

We waited for the tech, who naturally didn’t make it by 3pm. He looked and said “everything looks fine, nothing I can do here,” called Comcast and got them to open a ‘trouble ticket’ (sounds like trouble!). But his cell phone got cut off, he called back and got another tech who insisted on trying to actually fix the problem first. Which he did.

Turns out that when they set up the account for phone service, they turned off our internet. And nobody could puzszle this out before, and most didn’t even bother to try.

Finally got internet back at 4pm. I was productive around the house, and I got a ton of work done without the internet to distract me. 🙂 But I’m not sure the savings was worth it…

A deal in theory can easily be ruined by incompetence or bad faith on the part of the deal provider. I’ve frequently seen tremendous offers cut off long before their expiration date, or miles ‘mysteriously’ not post preventing me from earning a bonus — most people give up, but a real fight usually prevails.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth it. And then I get angry, that a company like Comcast can suck the life force out of me so.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The same exact thing happened to me when I signed up for the Comcast “triple play” — my internet connection “died” shortly after the techie left. You’d think somebody would have noticed this problem before!

    I’m “guilty” of being a Maximizer, too, but only a true spendthift would ignore the cable bundle deals. Like you said, you pretty much get paid to take their phone service. If you were a “true” Maximizer, you would try to make as many phone calls on your “free” Comcast phone as possible and then sign up for a cheaper cell phone deal with limited minutes. 🙂

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