What is Bait and Switch? How does it work and how to avoid it?

Bait and switch is a “con artist technique” used mostly in sales to upsell or sell more products or services to prospecting customers. Bait and switch is a very common “tactic” used by unscrupulous sellers who lure or attract the interest of a potential customer with a low price service or product. Once they are caught into the “trap” like a mouse, the salesperson¬†will then start with the switch: upselling or adding more services, increasing the price.

In Ireland, there are some practical applications of this bait and switch, although they are used also in other Countries, first, it is interesting to examine the steps of how this technique works.

Step 1: BAIT – Lure the potential customers with a low price deal

This can be done by advertisement, door to door calling or flyering. For example, a salesman could leave a flyer where they state they sell their service for a very low price. This to start doing the job and then tell you there is something extra to do at way higher price.

Once they have caught the customer and put their feet into the house, they will move to the switch phase.

Step 2: SWITCH – upselling

Giving an example a carpet cleaner is now in the house ready to clean the carpet with their machinery into the room. What could happened next is:

a) The cleaner act as professional showing the customer that the carpet needs a deep cleaning and unfortunately the price advertised was only for a carpet kept in good condition. Here the switch: to do a proper job it would require a different cleaning product and work double the time to ensure the bottom layer of the carpet is sanitized enough. In this occurrence, other factors may be added, such as moths, parasites, germs, etc, with the intent of scaring the client.

b) The cleaner doesn’t use any cleaning products (as I wrote before) because they are expensive. They just use water instead. This means that the carpet is not sanitised properly, hence your carpet will be in need of another cleaning thereafter. So you will end up spending more.

c) The cleaner tells the customer that the price advertised doesn’t include the cleaning product, so you will have to pay this extra.

d) The room is done properly but, to clean an extra room it will cost much more like double or 3 times more than the promotional price for that one room. Here, as you see the circumstance you will feel to have the job done in extra rooms anyway because you think that once the technician is there you don’t have to call for another one, losing your time.

An example in another industry as it occurred personally to me was when a gutter installer knocked on my door and proposed me with a very good price to replace my old gutters with new ones. The price was very good so I was caught by him like a mouse in the trap. Once he finished the job, he told me that my roof had serious problems and that the felt membrane was rotten. He could have told me this before starting the gutter job, but he wanted to wait till the end so that I could have been scary on having a bad roof. He also added that he couldn’t provide me with any warranty on the new gutters if my roof was in that condition. You got the example anyway.

To wrap up: How to avoid bait and switch

First of all, try avoiding quick and easy deals with door to door salesman. There are good and honest traders who are in need of work so they try to get more clients. This means that not every salesman are bad, just watch out. Don’t be greedy to lose a deal only because that price is valid for the same day. Do your homework on the trader or company you will employ to do the job. Get a business card, website, company name, etc. Then check around to see if that person has a real company, if there are reviews on them if you can get referrals from their job. It is important that that trader is an established one. I remember I paid a plumber to install me the gas boiler, then the year after they close down. I didn’t do any checkings and those guys were just working since a year before. A well-established plumber or bricklayer with a registered office and people who can show the job they did it is what you need to have. It’s your money in the end, so you can decide how to spend. Again, don’t be greedy for the great deals, don’t be hasty, instead, do your homework and investigate.

Unfortunately, bait and switch is something not proactively monitored by consumer association, Gardai Siochana or other authority, so once you get burned, surely the salesman will disappear trying to remove their traces. So better protect yourself from this to happen.

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