Bait And Switch Advertising

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Definition: Bait And Switch Advertising

Bait and switch advertising is a type of technique used to trick customers into purchasing a higher-priced deal by enticing the customer with the advertisement of a very lucrative offer (‘the bait’), but when the customer reaches the store, due to various reasons (discussed later), the advertised offer is unavailable. The salesperson then goes on to sell you a higher-priced product or service (‘the switch’).


It works on the primary principle that once you have the customer in your store, and when s/he is disappointed on not having received the advertised offer, you’ll still be able to persuade them to buy by giving them a seemingly ‘better’ offer - which it isn’t for the customer but might have better margins, incentives etc. for the salesperson.




Limited Stock

This technique involves the following steps:

Step 1: Advertise a product at a very affordable price.

Step 2: Ensure that you have a very limited stock of this product and that this is mentioned in the ad.

Step 3: By the time the bulk of your customers arrive asking for this deal, ensure that it has finished.

Step 4: Push the real intended product or some other product onto the customer.


This is technically legal because the store did have at least one such product in stock.

The store doesn’t even have to ensure that that one product has been sold and physically moved. They can just claim that it hasn’t been promised to someone else even at the time of placing the ad.


Step 1 can also be replaced by giving free accessories with a product, while ‘supplies last’.



Stores may show in their ads the availability of low-interest financing or EMIs, often portraying it as being available for everyone but having quite a few conditions in the fineprint. The bait is, let’s say, the zero percent interest rate while the switch is when people who haven’t read the fine print and have to deal with a long list of conditions after having already made the purchase.


Actual Item Not Pictured

This is another effective technique of bait-and-switch where the bait is the picture of an item that looks very appealing, a caveat that the actual item is not being pictured (often in fineprint) and when the customer arrives, switching the item pictured with the intended product.


What is not Bait-and-Switch?


The Federal Trade Commision of USA has some guidelines about what is not “bait and switch” advertising. It is not bait-and-switch if:

● The seller can sell you the “bait” but persuades you into buying something else.

● The seller runs out of the “bait” but the advertisement specifies limited quantities.


In Dazbog Coffee’s case, they advertise a free gift card if a customer texts the word “FREEDAZ”. The free gift card is the bait. The switch comes in when you are also signed up for their mobile marketing campaign. But, since the fineprint along the bottom of the picture mentions this, it is technically legal.


Hence, this concludes the definition of Bait And Switch Advertising along with its overview.


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