bait and switch


Definition of bait and switch

1 : a sales tactic in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced item but is then encouraged to buy a higher-priced one
2 : the ploy of offering a person something desirable to gain favor (such as political support) then thwarting expectations with something less desirable

Examples of bait and switch in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The bombshell turns in the final pages of Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys and Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble were two of my favorite literary bait and switches this year. David Canfield,, "The year in books: Everything you need to know about 2019's biggest titles," 18 Dec. 2019 The red blend of Grolleau, Gamay and Côt (the fancy French word for Malbec) from the Loire Valley was a thrilling bait and switch that smelled like wet Redwoods in a barnyard, covered by flowering star jasmine. Marissa A. Ross, Bon Appétit, "The Wine That Changed My Life Has a New Vintage, and I Can't Stop Thinking About It," 27 Sep. 2019 From late summer to the start of autumn, actively feeding common carp can also be made to fall for a classic bait and switch. Joanna Klein, New York Times, "Fish Cannons, Koi Herpes and Other Tools to Combat Invasive Carp," 4 June 2019 Some ploys have been a bait and switch, like the nearly $3 million fraud that saw wine from private lockers in California swapped out for cheap wine by a man who sold the really good stuff at auction — and went to state prison. Laurel Demkovich, Washington Post, "A man told wine fanciers he’d store their pricey bottles. Instead, he sold them and pocketed proceeds.," 3 Aug. 2019 Everything comes together so spectacularly that the bait and switch is still terrifying — and a perfect example of what Killing Eve is capable of. Caroline Framke, Vox, "Killing Eve’s funny, frightening third episode shows why it’s the best TV surprise of the year," 29 Apr. 2018 Flynn has described her book as something of a bait and switch – a juicy crime drama that is actually an exploration of one woman’s pain and the relationships between three generations of women. Anna Silman, The Cut, "Sharp Objects," 11 July 2018 The practice, known as 'drip pricing,' is said to be misleading to consumers and akin to bait and switch tactics. Taylor Mims, Billboard, "StubHub Must Face Lawsuit Over Hidden Fee Drip Pricing Allegations, Judge Rules," 13 June 2018 But the problem here is that the president is playing a game of bait and switch. Fox News, "Facebook asks users to send in nude photos," 24 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bait and switch.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bait and switch

1962, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for bait and switch

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The first known use of bait and switch was in 1962

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Statistics for bait and switch

Last Updated

24 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Bait and switch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for bait and switch

bait and switch


Financial Definition of bait and switch

What It Is

Bait and switch is a sales tactic that tricks consumers into buying something other than an advertised item.

How It Works

John Doe sees an ad in the paper for $1 orange juice at a local retailer. He goes to the store and finds out that the juice is not in stock and that the retailer is only offering a competitor's brand for $4.

If the retailer has intentionally run the ad without having the item in stock, this is bait and switch. The idea behind the tactic is to do whatever it takes to get people into the store. In our example, the $1 orange juice is the bait. The switch occurs when a salesperson, or in this case, the grocery store shelf, informs the customer that the advertised item is not available but a similar one is available at a higher price.

Why It Matters

Bait and switch tactics are illegal in the United States, but they are used in virtually every industry. Consumers  should read the fine print in advertisements and alert local authorities to infringements in sales laws.

Source: Investing Answers

bait and switch


English Language Learners Definition of bait and switch

US : a selling method in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced product but then is encouraged to buy a more expensive one

bait and switch


Legal Definition of bait and switch

: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on bait and switch

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bait and switch

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bait and switch

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