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Two weeks ago, Verizon FIOS service came to the building where I live. Representatives in my lobby promised phone, Internet and cable TV for approximately $85 a month for a year. My bill for Time-Warner’s Triple Play – Internet, phone and cable TV – had crept up to twice that. So it seemed logical to switch. But first, I wanted to call Time-Warner to see if they had a counter offer.

They did, of course. In fact they beat Verizon’s offer by a couple of bucks. So I stayed put. But instead of feeling good about it, I felt ripped off.

If there was a better deal, why did I have to threaten to leave to get that deal?

Dear Verizon & Time-Warner – social media’s got your numbers

The ability for companies to charge whatever they want went away when the Internet began to facilitate people talking to each other about what they spend and what they are willing to pay.

Time-Warner, Verizon FIOS and MAC-unfriendly RCN can no longer make secret deals with subscribers. Why? Social media!

We walk to each other. We talk on Twitter, in blogs, in forums, on Facebook, in email, and even on that old sawhorse, the phone. It’s the state of viral marketing today: consumers spread information to each other – but it’s not the company’s marketing messages that are being transmitted. It’s what consumers want to know, not what companies want to tell them.

A different kind of viral marketing
That jig was up for auto manufacturers years ago, and any car company that thinks it can still play pricing games is kidding itself.

Talking about money – from salaries to what we paid for our homes, cars, and Internet hosting – is a long-gone taboo.

Consumers are going to find the best deal on any product or service by checking online or on their mobile devices. Beyond price, reputation is what matters most today.

Today, companies have to compete for business in a new way. The opportunity to win customers depends on more than price. Consumers look for the reputation for the best customer service, the best product (yes, that order was intentional) and for easy access to information they need to use the product or service.

So why, oh why, are Time-Warner and FIOS still playing games with subscribers’ bills?