Suppose a company offers you the following deal on your utilities:
If you have cell phone service with our company, and you sign up for cable TV with us, you have the option to receive a 10% discount off the regular price on both bills as long as you keep both services. The only catch is that if you quit either service within the next two years, you'll have to pay back the 10% you saved.
Would you take this deal? Not so bad eh? Might as well take the 10% off. If you do end up quitting, you're just losing money that you would have had to pay anyway.
But let's say another company offers this deal:
If you only have cell phone service with our company, you are paying 10% more than the regular price. However, if you sign up for cable TV with us, you have the option to waive the 10% fee on both bills. You must also sign up for two years, and if you quit either service during that time, you will have to retroactively pay the 10% surcharge on all your past bills.
Would you take this deal? This one seems much worse. Risk paying a fee just to get the regular price? No thanks.
As you may suspect, the problem here is that both of the deals are exactly the same. They're just worded differently. The only difference is what is considered "regular price", but of course this is a decision arbitrarily made by the company. They choose to frame the deal as saving off the higher "regular price", but this is logically equivalent to avoiding paying more than a lower price that could just as easily have been labeled "regular price."
This isn't just an intellectual exercise. The examples above come almost directly from Rogers Communications' "Better Choice Bundles" deals. My two-year agreement just ended, so now I'm being charged 10% more on all my bills. I can choose to sign up for two more years, but then I risk having to [pay back my discount / pay a cancellation fee] if I quit any service. The true value of taking the deal is somewhere between the two frames, in a cold mathematical weighing of the risks and benefits.
But I think I'll take a third option: quit my cable TV service while I can do so without penalty. Sure I'll be paying [10% more / regular price] for my internet bill, but I'll also not be paying for a service I barely use, and I'll be refusing to give into a company's cheap trick to get people stuck in their clutches for years on end. A company should get people to stay with their service by being a good service, not through financial trickery; I'll be glad to stop supporting it.
Quitting cable will also allow me to afford my sweet new iPhone.