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

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 If that means doing more to prevent the old bait and switch, so be it. Solomon Jones,, "Need more than a promise of jobs to make sure Rebuild workforce is diverse | Solomon Jones," 16 May 2018 Voters obviously were victims of the ultimate bait and switch. WSJ, "California Needs a Better Approach to Water," 16 Mar. 2018 The event was one big bait and switch, according to environmental experts and local activists. Longreads, "The Koch Brothers vs. God," 14 Mar. 2018 Certainly this would create an interesting bait and switch, but also go against Johnson and Abrams's theories about the Force in this series. Matt Miller, Esquire, "The Mystery of Rey's Parents Might Not Be Solved Yet," 2 Jan. 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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Dictionary Entries near bait and switch




bait and switch

bait bug

bait casting


Statistics for bait and switch

Last Updated

23 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bait and switch

The first known use of bait and switch was in 1962

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bait and switch

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bait and switch

Comments on bait and switch

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


to form ideas or theories about something

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