Bait and switch

Bait and switch

In retail sales, a bait and switch is a form of fraud in which the party putting forth the fraud lures in customers by advertising a product or service at an unprofitably low price, then reveals to potential customers that the advertised good is not available but that a substitute is. The goal of the bait-and-switch is to convince some buyers to purchase the substitute good as a means of avoiding disappointment over not getting the bait, or as a way to recover sunk costs expended to try to obtain the bait. It suggests that the seller will not show the original product or product advertised but instead will demonstrate a more expensive product.

Other advertising practices, such as the use of sales techniques to steer customers away from low-profit items, depend on many of the same psychological mechanisms as a bait and switch. In the United States, courts have held that the purveyor using a bait and switch operation may be subject to a lawsuit by customers for false advertising, and can be sued for trademark infringement by competing manufacturers, retailers, and others who profit from the sale of the product used as bait. However, no cause of action will exist if the purveyor is capable of actually selling the goods advertised, but aggressively pushes a competing product.

Likewise, advertising a sale while intending to stock a limited amount of, and thereby sell out, the loss-leading item advertised is legal in the United States. The purveyor can escape liability if they make clear in their advertisements that quantities of items for which a sale is offered are limited.

Unscrupulous real estate agents commonly engage in bait and switch by continuing to advertise attractive properties in their windows that they have already sold.

In a recent Nebraska case, gas stations advertised fuel for a low price on their sign, but that price was only available at one pump. Customers would have to figure out which pump had the lower priced fuel, or would have to pay a higher price. The state Attorney General intervened, and the gas stations now advertise the pump number with the lower price.fact|date=September 2008

Bait and switch tactics are frequently used in airline and air travel advertising. [ [] ]

Many online retailers use bait and switch tactics, especially those which sell prosumer digital cameras and camcorders. These retailers will often sell an item at a fraction of the recommended retail price, and then require a phone call from the buyer to confirm their order. This confirmation usually involves a sales representative notifying or reminding a buyer that their purchase only includes the camera or camcorder, without a battery, charger, or other accessories that are either necessary, or normally included with the item. The retailer will then offer the accessories in a bundle for a higher price. Some of these retailers have been fronts for identity theft rings, as thieves have illegally used buyers' card numbers to purchase items and services for their own use.Fact|date=July 2008

Some employers use bait-and-switch tactics in advertising job openings, by giving false or misleading descriptions of working conditions or compensation packages.

In politics

In lawmaking, "caption bills" that propose minor changes in law with simplistic titles (the bait) are introduced to the legislature with the ultimate objective of substantially changing the wording (the switch) at a later date in order to try to smooth the passage of a controversial or major amendment. Rule changes are also proposed (the bait) to meet legal requirements for public notice and mandated public hearings, then different rules are proposed at a final meeting (the switch), thus bypassing the objective of public notice and public discussion on the actual rules voted upon. While legal, the political objective is to get legislation or rules passed without anticipated negative community review.


External links

* [ Guides against "bait" advertising] from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
* [ Caption bill: Placeholder for a future amendment that would be controversial on its own.]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • bait and switch — n: a fraudulent or deceptive sales practice in which a purchaser is attracted by advertisement of a low priced item but then is encouraged to purchase a higher priced one – called also bait advertising; Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law.… …   Law dictionary

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  • bait-and-switch — ☆ bait and switch [bāt′ n swich′ ] adj. of, related to, or employing an illegal or unethical sales technique in which a seller lures customers by advertising an often nonexistent item at a bargain price and then attempts to switch their attention …   English World dictionary

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  • bait and switch — bait′ and switch′ n. bus the practice of attracting customers to a store with bargain prices, then attempting to sell them higher priced items …   From formal English to slang

  • bait-and-switch — /bayt n swich /, adj. 1. denoting a deceptive method of selling, by which customers, attracted to a store by sale items, are told either that the advertised bargain item is out of stock or is inferior to a higher priced item that is available. n …   Useful english dictionary

  • Bait And Switch — A dishonest marketing tactic in which a marketer advertises a very attractive price/rate/term that is really a teaser rate meant to attract customers. Once the customer comes into the store/office to inquire about the advertised price/rate (the… …   Investment dictionary

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