The bait and switch
is one of the oldest con
games around. Like all good scams
, the bait and switch plays upon the victim's own greed
to separate him from his money.
While variations on the bait and switch are literally infinite, they all have a common thread:
- Offer a great product, service, or cash reward,
- In return for a small price or fee, and
- Deliver an inferior product - or nothing at all
A typical bait and switch
might go like this: You're walking through the busy shopping district
of a city. People are everywhere - buying from stores, sidewalk vendors
and curbside stalls. Nothing of interest has caught your eye until suddenly there's a man in front of you offering the latest and greatest digital camera
for a fraction of its retail
He has not only the camera, but all the accessories, the original box - the whole kit and kaboodle. He lets you test it out right there. Everything's in working order. It's a US$1000 camera and his asking price? US$250. No way you can pass this deal up. You watch as he graciously boxes the camera up and bags it for you. You dig out your money, pay the man, and saunter away with your bag - almost unable to believe your good fortune.
The only problem is that when you open up the bag, remove your camera box and open it, you find a bag of salt. You've just been had by the old bait and switch.
Despite having held the camera, tested the camera, and watched it placed in the box - and the box in the bag - you were had. For just a second or two, perhaps while you fumbled with your money, your eyes left the bag. At that moment an identical box-in-bag combination was swapped for "your" bag. Of course if you return to the scene, your seller will be long gone with your money.
Other famous variations on the bait and switch involve the con man asking the victim for money so that the con can get access to an even larger amount of money - which he will then split with the victim for his help. Usually both parties contribute an equal amount of money which is placed into a bag or briefcase. The victim's suspicions are allayed by allowing the victim to hold all the money until the con goes and completes his task. Of course the con never returns and when the victim finally opens the bag all he finds is shredded paper.
Another variation on the old bait and switch can be found in politics. In the aftermath of 9/11 the United States launched a war on terrorism. Billions of dollars were dedicated to the effort, Afghanistan was bombed, Osama Bin Laden became Public Enemy #1 and civil liberties were greatly curtailed. It was Us vs. them. To oppose, or even question, the war on terror was unpatriotic. And yet, somehow this culminated in giving the President the unchecked authority to bomb Iraq - a country with no ties to Afghanistan, 9/11, Al-qaeda, or Osama Bin Laden. Yep, the ol' bait and switch.