bait and switch

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bait and switch

  1. An unscrupulous and sometimes illegal sales technique, in which an inexpensive product is advertised to attract prospective customers who are then told by sales personnel that the inexpensive product is unavailable or of poor quality and are instead urged to buy a more expensive product.
    Synonyms: bait advertising, switch selling
    • 2002 October 7, Jyoti Thottam, “Predators in Paradise?”, in Time:
      Seereeram and other critics say it was a sort of bait and switch. Citibank met with Trintomar three times in the spring of 1992 to pitch its original $66 million refinancing proposal, and in a letter dated Sept. 9, Trintomar asked for a formal proposal. The next day, Citibank sent a letter outlining the extra $96.5 million loan in several pages of eye-glazing detail.
  2. (by extension) Any similar deceptive behavior, especially in politics and romantic relationships.
    • 1986 February 4, Jim Davis, Garfield[1]:
      Jon: Hey, Garfield, let's get a pizza!
      Jon:On the way we'll stop at the vet.
      Garfield: It's the old bait and switch!

Related terms[edit]



bait and switch (third-person singular simple present baits and switches, present participle baiting and switching, simple past and past participle baited and switched)

  1. To lure someone with an offer of some kind, but substitute something of greater advantage to the offerer.
    • 2008, Sarah Bird, How Perfect is That, page 242:
      Not when you are baiting and switching down from a stately antebellum manse to a tenement crack house.
    • 2011, Tim Palmer, Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema, page 178:
      ... she baits and switches then baits again.
    • 2015, Stephen B. Peterson, Public Finance and Economic Growth in Developing Countries:
      they often baited and switched: promised top people but sent the third string.