Sunday, January 22, 2006

SOUND OFF: SHOULD NEW KIDS GET ALL THE CANDY?

It's not unusual for companies seeking new customers to offer special deals to prospective customers without extending similar offers to existing customers.

Magazine publishers, for example, may offer cheaper rates to first-time subscribers than they do to existing customers. High-speed Internet services may offer several months free to new customers if they sign on for multiple-month contracts.

While commonplace and perfectly legal, such offers strike some long-term customers as overlooking the loyalty they have shown to a company, leaving them paying full freight for goods and services that others get much more cheaply.

Is a company being unfair to existing customers when it offers discount prices that are limited to prospective new customers? Or is this simply a smart way to attract new business? If it's an unfair practice, would it be wrong for long-term customers to cancel their service -- if they can do so without incurring penalties -- and then re-up to take advantage of offers made to newcomers?

Post your thoughts here. Or send them to rightthing@nytimes.com. Please include your name and your hometown. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 609 Greenwich St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10014-3610.

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