The bait and switch is an advertising gimmick that is illegally used to scam consumers. Essentially, a store will advertise a sale on one item, but then they won’t actually sell you that item if you come into the store.
For instance, they could list a 70-inch TV for $299. You think that’s a terrific deal, and you march over to buy it after seeing the ad. However, they don’t have that TV. Instead, they have a similar 70-inch TV for $1,299. They try to sell you that one anyway.
This isn’t always a bait and switch. Products do run out. If the ad says that there are limited quantities at the sale price, but you show up after the sale items have all sold out, the law isn’t broken. The store did honor the sale listed in the ad; you just showed up too late.
That being said, the company has to say there were limited quantities if that’s true. It must be in the ad. If it’s not, the implication is that you can buy or order as many TVs as you want at that price, and you’re being scammed if you get there and they tell you that they don’t have the item you’re after and can’t get it.
This is illegal because, if it was not, companies could just run false ads all the time to generate traffic to the store and sell other, more expensive items to those people. This deceptive practice isn’t allowed, though it is legal to up-sell you or offer you other items, as long as the sale item is available as advertised.
If you think you’ve been scammed by false advertising, you may want to look into your legal options. Remember that consumers have rights and even billion-dollar corporations have to follow advertising laws.
Source: Consumerist, “What Is The “Bait and Switch” And When Is It Illegal?,” Meg Marco, accessed Dec. 28, 2016