When the book was slow in coming, I looked in the magazine for a subscription-department address and--lo and behold--discovered that last August and September the price was $18 for one year, $33 for two years and $45 for three years. Then, for two months (October and November), the price went to $9.95 for one year, $15.95 for two years and $19.95 for three years. In December, and in the current issue, the price has changed again--still $9.95 for one year and $15.95 for two years--but with the three-year subscription now at $29.95.
Did I luck out in August, 1984, or did I lose out in October, when I could have gotten three years for $19.95? The current $29.95 for three years must be an error because you can get two years for $15.95. What gives?--B.S.
A: Trying to make much sense out of any publication's "special" subscription price at any given time is a little bit like trying to fathom the mysteries surrounding the pricing of designer jeans. And for all of its literary prestige, The Atlantic is no exception--there's a bit of whim involved in all such pricing, even though the newsstand price ($2 in this case) tends to remain fairly static.
There was, indeed, "a price reduction last year, and everything came down pretty drastically," according to Gregory Zuch of The Atlantic's circulation department in Boston. And, illogically or not, the current $29.95 price for three years (versus $15.95 for two years) is correct, Zuch added.
But you needn't feel bitter that you subscribed prior to the drop (from $19.95 to $15.95 for two years).
"People who subscribe or renew their subscription at the old, higher price," Zuch continued, "automatically have their subscription extended according to a formula that we have. It's not only required by law, but it's a matter of principle too."
If through some fluke you don't see this extension reflected at the end of your two-year subscription, Zuch promised, just call it to The Atlantic's attention, and it'll be taken care of promptly.
Don G. Campbell cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to consumer questions of general interest. Write to Consumer VIEWS, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.