Bait and Switch Advertising Definition, Advantages, Disadvantages, Example & Overview

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Definition: Bait and Switch Advertising

Bait and Switch Advertising is a form of advertising in which first customers are lured for products with discounts or at low prices (Bait)  & when they visit the store, they find that the advertised product is not available on the store or they are pressurized to buy similar product but with a higher price ( Switching). Bait and switch advertising is not considered as a user-friendly way of pushing business. However, this type of advertising is most prevalent in the retail space.

Here, the intention of the marketers is to increase the sales of the substituted goods. Also satisfying the customers with the available stock offered. At times it is also the motivation to sell a similar product with a higher margin. In various countries like England this form of advertising is banned. Apart from the retail sector, this form of advertising is also heavily used in the Airline Industry, Travel Industry & also in the Hotel Industry. One of the tools used in bait and switch advertising is not just in the retail space but also in terms of financing etc. It is also used by financing companies which use it by showcasing lower interest rates for items such as Cars, Homes etc.

Techniques of Bait and Switch Advertising

1. Limited Stock

This technique of Bait and Switch Advertising 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’. Showing wrong pricing is also know as bait & switch pricing technique.

2. Financing

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.

3. Actual Item Not Pictured

This is another effective technique of bait and switch advertising 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.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Bait and Switch Advertising


Bait and Switch Advertising is a no-cost strategy. There is no marketing of product involved. It is a pure interplay of tactical pricing and consumer behavior. It makes the business dynamic. When you entice a customer and fail to deliver the demanded product, the business must be ready to host a series of substitutable options that fulfills the requirements of the customer to the least, or even higher.


Violates Customer reliance- The customer is usually unaware that he has been tricked. But the company runs a great deal of risk in doing so. The timing and length of the scheme needs to be perfect because if the concept of enticing and denying the availability becomes repetitive, doubts will arise and will threaten the company image at large. In some countries like US, Customers ay file a lawsuit against false advertising and competitors may charge trade infringement against the Company. So major legal boundations are also present surrounding it.

Examples of Bait and Switch Advertising

Online Ads show high discounts on hotels, flight tickets, movie tickets, and on products. But these offers are subject to a set of terms and conditions. This is one way of using Bait and Switch Advertising. They may also include additional charges such as delivery charges, booking charges, offer applicability on a minimum sum of transaction and extra resort fees. These are all forms of bait and Switch Advertisement. In these cases, the company may not necessarily tinker with the product but does so with the style and terms used for pricing.

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

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