Bait-and-switch advertising is a deceptive pricing technique. Those sellers who use it promote their product at a surprisingly low price, and when consumers contact a store to purchase it, they're told that this item is no longer available.

In this article, we'll explain how this technique works and provide some examples for you not to fall for this trick.

How does bait-and-switch advertising work?

Sellers using this technique promote their too-good-to-be-true deals via newspapers, email campaigns, and television. Their target audience includes consumers who extremely like to save money, so marketers don't hesitate to promise much.

Companies offer to buy an item the price of which is several times lower than the market price. When potential clients visit the store or contact it, they're told that this bargain is no longer available. Marketers can tell that it was a time-limited deal, or that the last item has been just sold, or that the price is low if the product is sold in a bundle with another item the price of which is high. When they see that a client is disappointed, they try to convince them to buy a much more expensive product. This technique is called upselling. They promise that this product will outperform the initial one and its price is reasonable. As a result, the company gets a high revenue while a consumer may not even guess that they were deceived.

For you to avoid falling for this trick, we have some tips:

  • always check the relative market price for the necessary product;
  • read the terms and conditions carefully especially tiny footnotes;
  • buy only from authoritative sellers;
  • check the physical address of a company;
  • ask for a raincheck (if a discounted item has run out of stock, ask the seller to buy it at the same price once it’s back in stock)

Remember, that you shouldn’t buy if you are not satisfied with the conditions. In the next section, we’ll share examples of industries where bait-and-switch advertising is a common practice.

Examples of Bait-and-Switch Advertising

This deceptive technique is widely used in the real estate industry. Agents often attract clients with the help of apartments they either sold long ago or even those they don’t work with. They create too profitable ads that promote spacious luxury flats at a good location and extremely low price. They gather much attention and when potential clients contact the agents, it turns out that this apartment has been just sold, so they’re offered those which are available now and cost much more in the hope that a client needs a flat urgently.

Bait-and-switch advertising is also used in a mortgage. Agents promote apartments at low mortgage rates to acquire more potential clients. When they visit their office, they find out that the interest rates are much higher. Then it’s up to an agent to convince a client.

Lastly, it’s a popular practice among recruiters. They place fake job vacancies to collect more resumes and offer them currently available vacancies which have nothing to do with their initial offers.

So, now you know how bait-and-switch advertising works, have some useful tips and examples at hand, so be careful.


  1. This article uncovers the offers that don’t fall under bait-and-switch advertising and the warning signs of this technique.
  2. This article explains whether bait-and-switch is legal and provides some examples.
  3. This article shares tips on how to avoid bait-and-switch scams.
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