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the paradox of ever-lasting limited time offers

Raised in a country founded on capitalism, I fully support the ability to have temporarily lower prices in hopes of winning favor with new customers.  However, in a highly competitive environment, this "temporary" or limited time offer seems to loose meaning over time.

Here, my example is the constant battle of cable companies.  If you're lucky enough to live in an area where there are multiple providers, then you have benefit of pitting their competitive prices against each other; I'm not in range for all of them yet, but right now there are 4 providers, here's two for historical reference...

Of course these images are taken from websites copyright by their respective authors.

In my neighborhood, I alternate between RCN and Time Warner.  Not because there is any particular benefit to either service, but because they both practice the policy of limited-time offers.  Sure, there are minute differences between each bundle's technical specs: some have 1.5 MB/s, 3 MB/s, 5 MB/s, or all-news stations like NY1 (which for me lost use when I bought a thermometer to stick outside my apartment).  There are also obligations like long-term contracts, which are still annoying, can and probably are roughly aligned to your lease period and installation fees.  However, as anyone with prior experience with a spreadsheet program can indicate, they are averaged out in the long run.

So, about every year or so, it means it's either time to jump ship or threaten the local provider with the fact that you will.  Why can't they just be more friendly and not force you to do the jump?  If you're an educated consumer, or can sum up how much you paid, this seems very straight-forward and logical.

Of course, specific to this particular industry, there is also the argument for just dropping cable providers and going with one of the many online sources like hulu or pay for something more reasonable like Netflix, which to my surprise and minor delight has now introduced streaming from Macs and several home systems by Samsung (blog) and Roku.  Oh yeah, with the "analog crush" forthcoming, don't forget that you can also pick up a coupon for a box to convert your analog tv to digital broadcasts.  It should be better than just rabbit ears because now the signal is digital and you'll either get a picture or have blocky artifacts.   Fortunately, I'm still functioning on a student's budget, so there's no need to get hidef anything.  Ah, the wonders never cease.

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