My nomination for the best invention of the 21st Century is "bundling," also known as utilities linking cable TV, Internet and phone service in one bill. Utilities offer lower overall prices to consumers who buy two or three services and then raise the price if they want to drop one or two parts of the bundle.

For some consumers it's a major tussle to break free of the bundle because dropping one part of the package raises the price on the remaining pieces.

In its May issue Consumer reports show ways to untangle the bundle. Consumer Reports suggestions include bargaining tactics that have been found to work. It lists five tips for hagglers, which are included in the link. The final tip is "be ready to walk." Once you reach the point where you want to bag your current carrier, take notes of whom you spoke to and details of the offer at the new company. You're probably looking for a lower price so don't be satisfied with a low price for only six months. A colleague told me that he rejected a two-year $20 a month ISP offer from Comcast Infinity for a higher price that lasted beyond two years.

He also said not to waste time with the former company once you decide to leave it. They're going to ask why you're leaving and try to get you to stay. If you're unhappy with the service and no low ball offer will get you to change your mind, save time by refusing any attempt to capitulate. Be a broken record, saying, "I just want to cancel the service, no questions asked."

Once you switch, make sure that you have the phone number of customer service handy because it's almost inevitable that a glitch will occur in the set-up. Ask if there is a shortcut to avoid all the prompts to reach an agent.

Check out the full article in Consumer Reports' May issue on the newsstands or a public library. The issue also includes ratings for the best bundles and providers of TV, Internet and phone service. Unfortunately, many of the top-rated providers (WOW, SuddenLink and Verizon FiOS) may be not available in this area.

 Got other suggestions for successfully getting out of a bundle? Please share. I'm fortunate to have a lower-rate contract price on a bundle, but I call the cable company to negotiate a lower price on premium channels such as HBO or Showtime. Sometimes I get a channel free for 3 or 6 months, sometimes I get it for $10 a month (reg. $20 a month), but my advantage is that I am firm about cancelling the premium channel unless it's $10 a month or less.

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