The ‘Bait and Switch’ Kills the Sale

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By Ted Ings, Executive Director

Imagine searching online for weeks, trying to find your ideal guitar, travel trailer, video game console, or whatever else you’re passionate about. 

Finally, after weeks, you find it. It’s right there, available at the click of your mouse. You add it to your cart, make the payment arrangements, and click ‘Buy It Now’. Your split-second of elation is interrupted by a message, telling you your item is unavailable, and you’ll have to choose something else. 

That’s what happens daily in dealerships who use ‘bait and switch’ advertising tactics. The car ad tells the consumer an attractively low price, yet only one is available for the sale. The purpose is to switch the customer to a more expensive unit that increases the dealer’s profits. 


You don’t need to be told that this is a sales method that is less than transparent, sometimes even downright dishonest. But the same thing goes on at many stores and most people don’t know it. 

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Bait and Switch Online Advertising

Website car ads for many dealerships have listings for cars that are long sold and delivered. It’s a problem of staffing more than anything, with no one committed to accurately keeping the online listings current. 

It might not seem like a big deal to you, but your customer hates it

Consider online shopping. Have you ever added an item to your Amazon cart, discovered that it’s going to take 5 weeks to deliver or can’t be delivered to your address, and just abandoned the cart to continue searching elsewhere online? 

According to online retailer Shopify, over 77 percent of carts are abandoned online for various reasons. Like online shopping for electronics or clothes, shoppers will leave your website if your inventory listings aren’t current.
Here’s what you can do: 

•    Have a staff member dedicated to adding and removing car listings. It can’t be weekly – it must be in real time. 

•    Integrate your DMS with your website, if it’s possible. Your new inventory can have an accurate stock photo shown on the listing. 

•    Hire a listing company. AutoTrader and other listing companies will come to your store to take photos and accurately list your inventory. 


If your online car listings aren’t the same as what’s available on your lot, you’re either intentionally or unintentionally employing the ‘bait and switch’ tactic.