Bait-and-switch advertising is a deceptive pricing technique that involves promoting a product at a surprisingly low price. However, 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 like to save money, so marketers don’t hesitate to promise them that.

Companies offer to buy an item, the price of which is several times lower than the market price. When potential clients visit their stores or contact them, they’re told that this bargain is no longer available. Marketers can tell that it was a time-limited deal, that the last item has been just sold, or that the price is low if this product is sold in a bundle with a high-priced item. 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 that its price is reasonable. As a result, the company gets a high revenue, while a consumer may not even figure out that they were deceived.

We have some tips for you to avoid falling for this trick:

  • always check your desired product’s relative market price;
  • read the terms and conditions carefully, especially all the 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 purchase it at the same price once it’s back in stock)

Remember that you shouldn’t buy something 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 by offering the apartments they sold a long time ago or even those they don’t work with at all. They create profitable ads that promote spacious luxury flats at good locations and extremely low prices. When potential clients contact these agents, it turns out that this apartment has been just sold, so they offer other available options that are, of course, much more expensive, hoping that a client needs a flat urgently.

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

Lastly, it’s a widespread practice among recruiters. They place fake job offers to collect more resumes of potential candidates and offer available openings that have nothing to do with their initial offers.

Now you know how bait-and-switch advertising works, have some useful tips and examples at hand, and can avoid falling for this deceptive technique.


  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 some tips on how to avoid bait-and-switch scams.
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