Chinese general Sun Tzu’s text The Art of War is as much about psychological warfare as literal tactical maneuvers. Written in the fifth-century BCE, people have found all sorts of ways to use the tome’s advice to manoeuvre in every day life. So, why not use The Art of War to save some money?
Writer Nick Greene at Vice decided to try and lower his internet bill from a whopping $US65 ($86) to $US39.99 ($53) with the help of the classic manuscript. His description of the journey is full of much more poetic Sun Tzu quotes, but here are the basics.
Forget Your Ego and Lie Your Arse Off
Greene kicked things off by asking a representative too directly about whether he could get a discount, which ended in defeat. Most of us turn tail at the first sign of failure, licking our wounds. You can’t win if you care what people think of you. Get back on the horn and try again. And this time, lie. Or as Sun Tzu says, “All warfare is based on deception”:
“I saw something online that said your internet only costs like 39 bucks a month,” I lied to a new operator. It was a risky manoeuvre so early in my attack, but in the words of Sun Tzu, “Let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”
Greene was eventually connected to the customer loyalty department, with a representative who questioned where’d he’d seen this deal, eventually asking, “Was it our $US29.99 ($40) per month yearlong promotion?”
Um, hell yeah.
If you seem gentle and confused, your enemy will let down their own defences. Greene eventually got the representative to have a chummy conversation with him about Arli$$, then asked what the best way to get deals is:
I had built an effortless repartee with S — , and I would use this to my advantage. We talked a little more about Arli$$, and, with her guard safely down, I asked for her advice on the best way to get cheap contract deals in the future.
“Just call us here at the loyalty department,” she said. “At the automated phone menu say you want to disconnect your service, and it will come straight to us.”
“Having local spies means employing the services of the inhabitants of a district. Having inward spies [means] making use of officials of the enemy,” says Sun Tzu.
Come At Them From Every Side
While negotiating a new contract on the phone, Greene also logged on to his cable provider’s website and opened up a chat with a representative there. That’s personally my preferred way to deal with all online issues, because they’re pretty much just as helpful and you don’t get put on hold.
But things did get a bit confusing, because he was juggling too many conversations. You want to divide and conquer your enemy, not your own brain. Greene eventually signed his contract for $US39.99 ($53), but tried to go to the actual Comcast customer service center the next day and go even lower.
As the representative pulled up my account, surprise flashed across his face. “Wow,” he said. “Looks like you got a good deal here already.” I pressed him a little, but it was clear this was one beachhead I could not breach. I had already plumbed the well of victory to unimaginable depths. “It says here you renewed your contract yesterday. I mean, that’s as good as you can get, really. How’d you do that?” he asked.
“I dunno,” I shrugged. “I just called.”
This representative wouldn’t bargain down further, even with all of The Art of War wisdom being applied to him in person. Sun Tzu didn’t say it, but this seems like a moment to recognise when you’re maybe putting too much energy into one campaign.