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Special Offers? Wait a Minute.

I was moving into an apartment on Broadway about a month ago and was going to hook up my place with cable, phone line and the Internet. Verizon was touting a package of DSL service that costs $29.99 a month and a wireless router worth $99 with a full mailing rebate. The router would allow me to use both laptops I have at home to surf the Web at the same time. Tantalized, I called Verizon but was told the DSL service was not available in my area. I tossed the Verizon pamphlet into the recycle bin and called Time Warner Cable.

I was moving into an apartment on Broadway about a month ago and was going to hook up my place with cable, phone line and the Internet. Verizon was touting a package of DSL service that costs $29.99 a month and a wireless router worth $99 with a full mailing rebate. The router would allow me to use both laptops I have at home to surf the Web at the same time. Tantalized, I called Verizon but was told the DSL service was not available in my area. I tossed the Verizon pamphlet into the recycle bin and called Time Warner Cable. The sales representative tried to pitch a special offer that includes digital cable TV and high-speed Internet access for $92.89 a month. He said I’d be able to watch 800 TV channels with the deal. I’m not a TV person and basically only watch CNN and a couple of others, so 800 channels make little sense to me. I ended up subscribing to the standard cable deal — which includes about 200 channels, still a lot to me — and Earthlink, which cost a little more than $80 in total.

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The story didn’t end there, however.

Cablevision Systems announced a special offer on Monday, which includes digital cable TV, high-speed Internet and unlimited local and long-distance phone calls, for $90. That’s far better than the Time Warner deal, which doesn’t include phone service. Excited, I searched Cablevision’s Web site, and after putting in my ZIP code, I got this message: “A Cablevision system was not located in your ZIP code. Optimum services are available only in areas where Cablevision Systems Corp. is your cable provider.” It says, “Please contact your local cable operator.” And that is Time Warner. I’m back to where I was.

As smart as I think I am as a consumer, I’ve often been tempted by marketing gimmicks of corporate America. When was the last time you were tantalized by special offers but found they were not as great as they were supposed to be? Or, as in my case, they were not even available?