bait and switch

noun
Updated on: 9 Nov 2017

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

Recent Examples of bait and switch from the Web

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.

First Known Use of bait and switch

1962


Financial Definition of BAIT AND SWITCH

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.


BAIT AND SWITCH Defined for English Language Learners

bait and switch

noun

Definition of bait and switch for English Language Learners

  • : 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


Law Dictionary

bait and switch

noun

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

Learn More about bait and switch


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up bait and switch? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

to make fruitful or productive

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu-jedi-training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!