Dan Kennedy

In business there is a crime called “bait and switch.” It refers to the practice of advertising something that a lot of people want, in order to lure them to a store or showroom under fraudulent premise, with no intent whatsoever of providing what was advertised, but instead switching them to a different and much more expensive alternative.

For example, an auto dealer might advertise a new 4-door sedan at a ludicrously low price; once you get to the dealership, you discover there’s only one on the lot, deliberately painted a butt-ugly color, with hideous plaid fabric upholstery, and no options. But for just a few dollars more per month, you can have one of the snazzier models with power seats and windows, CD player, and moon roof. Of course, that few dollars more per month multiplied by 72 months plus interest adds thousands of dollars to the price. Same trick has commonly been used by appliance stores, furniture stores, even clothing stores. Nevertheless, it is illegal.

Another version of it, simply called a “switch”, is when the consumer is led to believe one thing from advertising, then sold on the truth revealed after the purchase is made and product delivered. This is a common tactic in mail-order sales, where the actual product is not inspected until delivery.

There’s a popular weight loss program whose ubiquitous TV ads give consumers the idea they’ll be eating three meals and two snacks a day of pizza, burgers, pancakes with syrup and chocolate brownies shipped to them in a box and somehow losing pounds and inches with no effort or sacrifice. When the big box arrives, the switch occurs. You really get one such meal a day. Today it’s those pancakes for breakfast, but lunch and dinner consist of protein bars, shakes and veggies. Tomorrow, you can have that pizza that looked so good in the ad but is shockingly small on your plate, with protein shakes for the other meals. Oh yeah, you also need to exercise three times a week. And, individual results vary. A lot.


Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur and contributor to the Business & Media Institute.