bait and switch

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The practice of enticing or ‘baiting’ the potential customer with a misleading advertisement (e.g. offering goods deceptively cheap) then persuading them to buy something more expensive (‘switching’) or more than they originally intended. Also known as bait advertising. Bait advertising, specifically, is an alluring but insincere offer to sell a product or service that the advertiser does not really want to sell. The real purpose is to switch consumers from buying the advertised merchandise in order to sell something else, usually at a higher price, which is more advantageous to the advertiser. The primary aim of a bait advertisement is to obtain leads that can be ‘switched’ to buying something else. A range of techniques are used to cause the potential customer to ‘switch’. This practice is now illegal in certain markets, notably the USA. In the USA, advertisements cannot contain an offer to sell a product when the offer is not a bona fide effort to sell the advertised product. No statement or illustration can be used in any advertisement that creates a false impression of the grade, quality, make, value, currency of model, size, colour, usability, or origin of the product offered. Nothing that could lead to a misrepresentation of the actual product is allowed. Interviews or contracts that switch the customer to another product are prohibited. No act or practice to discourage the purchase of the advertised merchandise as part of a bait scheme to sell other merchandise is allowed. See also advertising regulation.

Subjects: Marketing.

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