What is Bait and Switch?

Definition: Bait and switch is a dishonest marketing tactic performed by a marketer in order for him to sell a different thing than what was originally offered to the client, at a higher price.

What Does Bait and Switch Mean?

The bait and switch fraud consists in initially offering a specific product or service in order for the client or the buyer to be interested in it, to do so, these frauds offer things that can catch the buyers attention; this is what is called the “bait”. After the client agrees to the purchase, they are told that the initial offer is not in stock, it is no longer available, or that they have run out of the product. They proceed to offer them a similar product or service but at a different cost, a higher one; this would be the “switch”.

This is done so that instead of leaving the business empty handed, the client could proceed to buy the newly introduced product now that they had already made their mind to acquire the initial one. This is a very common sales tactic in retails such as airline advertising and hotel reservation advertising. Some companies use this tactic to recruit employees, where they end up offering a different position or job than what was originally offered. This practice could lead to lawsuits by customers for false advertising.


The King of Mattresses is a well-known store in the city. It usually displays big 50% discount signs all over the store’s whereabouts in order to attract customers but most people in the city know that the establishment is a fraudulent one. The owner uses this strategy to lure interested buyers who are looking for a bargain and when they come in he says that those mattresses are already sold-out but that he has other ones with 25% discount. Customers feel good about catching a 25% discount either way and usually end up buying. The thing is that there are never 50% discounted mattresses. In fact, the ones offered as being 25% less than actual price are not in discount at all. The bait in this case is the signs and the false advertising and the switch is the alleged 25%-discounted mattresses.

Definition Summary

Define Bait & Switch: Bait and switch means a fraudulent practice used in retail sales.

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