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You know how Internet and cable rates get jacked up after promotional pricing for a year or two? Then there’s the absurd charade where you threaten to cancel in order to negotiate a better rate, or really do cancel and have to start from scratch all over again.

Many of us would prefer to do our homework once, pick a provider and skip the whole rigmarole. But to do that, we need to be able to compare retail prices rather than limited-time promotional rates.

Good luck pinning those down.

I called Time Warner Cable to ask about an Internet plan advertised at $54.99 per month for 12 months. I wanted to know how much it would cost after the promotional period was up. The conversation went something like this:

“What is the price after 12 months?”

“I can’t say at the moment, but you can check any time at TimeWarnerCable.com,” said the rep, reading from a script.

“But the website just says, ‘After the promotional period ends, you will be charged the standard rate that is in effect at that time.’”

“I cannot say what the rate will be at that time. It might be higher or it might actually be lower.”

(Yes, because companies always hook you with a more expensive rate, only to sneak in and lower the price later).

“So what is the retail price if you’re not in a promotion right now?”

“I don’t have that information. But what is very good is that you might be able to get an additional promotion after the promotional period ends.”

“But they always say those promotional rates are only for new customers. Can you just tell me what the retail price is now without the promotion?”

“It will become cheaper when bundled with a different service, like cable.”

“But how much does it cost?”

“Some people choose to lock their price in for two years.”

“But what is the price?”

Ugh.

Sure, they can’t predict future market rates, but why not disclose current ones?

The company recently told investors its new strategy is to make more money from fewer subscribers.

To do it, Time Warner will charge more per service and reduce the Internet speeds and channels offered in bundle packages. It also hiked Web rates by an average of $3 per month.

For those reasons, clear pricing information is more important than ever for consumers to make smart decisions.

A Time Warner spokesman said representatives should disclose retail rates when asked, but that didn’t happen on three out of four calls I made.

For a telecom company, they sure could use a lesson in communication. Unless, of course, the whole point is to be a little unclear.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com or call MoneySmart at 849-4612. Follow me at www.Facebook.com/DiscountDiva