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Bait and switch? 诱饵替换

中国日报网 2020-08-21 10:56


Reader question:

Please explain "bait and switch", as in: One of the false advertising practices is bait and switch.

My comments:

False advertising, as name suggests, refers to advertising that provides false information.

One of such practices is bait and switch. Bait, as in fish bait, refers to something enticing or appetizing. For example, a double hamburger ad may show a hamburger so large in size that a customer is led to believe that it's large enough to feed a family of four. In actual experience, the customer finds that the said hamburger is so small that his teen-age son eats two of them by himself.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit, a little bit.

Switch, as in bait and switch, is what happens in the above example: replacing the large hamburger in advertisements with a small one in the restaurant.

In other words, you're right - bait and switch is a form of cheating. It's not right. Unhappy and angry customers may feel like bringing the hamburger restaurant to court.

That is, in the worst case scenario. Normally, customers may choose to swallow their dissatisfaction and never visit the said restaurant again.

Anyways, bait and switch as a business practice is dishonest, unethical and just wrong.

There's really no appetizing way of putting it.

All right, here are media examples of bait and switch - showing one thing enticing (bait) and replacing it with another (switch):

1. This week, some 80 million Americans should receive a $1,200 payment from the U.S. government, a one-time relief payment authorized by Congress that's supposed to keep millions of furloughed and unemployed workers afloat through the coronavirus pandemic. But while those direct deposits have started going through, the physical checks apparently need some tweaking. That's because Donald Trump has insisted that the Treasury Department print his signature on every single one.

The change requires Treasury officials working from home to scramble to update programming to include his signature on the memo line, under the phrase "Economic Impact Payment." In U.S. history, a president's name has never appeared on a government check, reports the Washington Post. In fact, the president can't sign checks from the Treasury because he isn't the signatory—typically, a civil servant signs such checks to make sure that federal payments are nonpartisan. At a press briefing earlier this month, Trump vehemently denied rumors that he wanted to sign the relief checks, saying, "No. Me sign? No. There’s millions of checks. I’m going to sign them? No. It's a Trump administration initiative. But do I want to sign them? No."

Trump tends to view much of his efforts through a self-marketing lens—licensing his name for use on properties and businesses he doesn't own or slapping his name on whatever product he can, from mail-order steaks to fraudulent real estate seminars. Now, Trump is again pushing adding his name to something he's not responsible for. Stamping his name on the stimulus checks might give the impression that they come out of his checking account—but the stimulus was crafted and approved by Congress, and it's funded by taxpayers.

Self-promotion, cutting corners, and taking credit for others' work have long been cornerstones of Trump's business dealings. Before entering politics, Trump—whose eponymous empire was largely funded by his father—had a long history of stiffing workers and contractors. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal detailed multiple allegations against the then-presidential candidate, with a chandelier shop, a curtain maker, a lawyer, and others accusing Trump of refusing to pay, partially or in full, once they had completed work for him. Speaking to the Journal, Trump claimed that he often refuses to pay agreed-on wages if he deems the results merely "OK, then I’ll sometimes cut them." In 1980, his company employed 200 undocumented Polish construction workers for 12-hour shifts without helmets or safety equipment—those that did get paid by Trump received up to $4 an hour. To this day, Trump still owes millions of dollars to contractors who worked on his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City—many companies that supplied materials for the construction went bankrupt as a result. Atlantic City mayor Marty Small told the Bergen Record in January, "It’s still a horror story for all of these people. He took advantage of people."

Since becoming president, Trump's reputation for skipping out on bills hasn't improved. Late last year, Politico reported that Trump owed nearly $1 million to 10 different cities that provided security and other resources for the president's campaign rallies—a tiny amount compared to the $94 million his campaign reportedly has on hand. In another bait-and-switch on his name, Trump was also forced to pay $2 million in a settlement after illegally using his charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, to pay off business and campaign debts.

- Donald Trump Stalls $1,200 Relief Checks to Slap His Name on Them, Yahoo.com, April 15, 2020.

2. President Trump is having a rally problem. This past weekend he was forced to cancel a highly-touted rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, supposedly because of "bad weather." They don't normally cancel Trump rallies even when people are waiting outside in below-freezing weather, so this was surprising. In fact, the weather was warm and sunny on the New England coast that day, so it's pretty obvious that campaign officials were afraid they'd see a repeat of the Tulsa debacle.

But Trump simply cannot go very long without his rallies. They are like a drug for him. Remember, he held "victory rallies" even during the presidential transition, when any other president-elect without political experience might have been hunkered down to learn a little something about the job. The long period of no rallies during the first months of the pandemic made him so restless and nervous that he took over the task force briefings and sparred with the press just to get some airtime. He needs rallies like he needs Diet Coke and L'Oréal Light Reddish Blond hair color.

I'm sure he was upset that the media broadcast Joe Biden's speech on climate and energy on Tuesday morning so the White House scheduled a Rose Garden "press conference," which was actually an excuse for him to deliver one of his sprawling campaign speeches. It turns out that as much as Trump may love the look of a rally venue filled with screaming fans, what he really loves is the sound of his own voice.

He started out a little bit low energy, but even without the ecstatic cult members shrieking "Lock her up!" and "Build that wall!" he managed to work himself up to deliver one of his patented incoherent rally performances as if the audience in front of him weren't a bunch of masked-up, socially distanced reporters, who were undoubtedly confused as to why they had been summoned to the Rose Garden to act as props for Trump's stump speech.

This is not normal. Even Fox News' Bret Baier was compelled to point out, after it was over, "To be fair, if President Obama had given a speech like this in the White House, Republicans on Capitol Hill would have been up in arms." Indeed, if Obama had done anything like that, Republican heads would have swiveled on their shoulders and their mouths would have erupted with green bile like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." After all, they had a full-blown hissy fit when Obama wore a tan suit to the White House briefing room one day.


This wasn't the first Rose Garden appearance in which he's turned the place into a political sideshow. Back when the White House first began hosting daily coronavirus task force briefings with the president in attendance, they were often unruly and overtly political. But they were at least real press briefings with serious questions from the media.

Tuesday's press conference was a bait and switch. After rambling for nearly an hour, the president took just three questions one of which had obviously been planted with OAN, his favorite propaganda outfit.

- Trump's unhinged Rose Garden campaign rally: His sideshow act is getting truly pathetic, by Heather Digby Parton, July 15, 2020.

3. When university campuses shut down in March, sending their students home, everyone hoped it would be a one-time event. We looked to the fall for something better.

Much as we might have wished, with President Trump, that the virus would “sort of disappear,” it was clear by the time the semester ended in May that nothing of the sort would happen. Rather than confront that fact head-on, however, many colleges and universities embarked on a summer of magical thinking.

With gravitas, sage university presidents put together blue-ribbon commissions. They brought in their best men and women for advice. They launched extraordinarily elaborate planning rituals. We would return to something like normal, they promised. Even if all classes might not be in person, many would be “hybrid,” some mix of in-person and online, no matter the lack of pedagogical research on hybrid learning.

They outlined schemes to test all the students, trace their myriad contacts on college campuses, and isolate them in the event of illness. They developed apps and honor codes. Go ahead, they assured parents: Put your tuition deposit in.

All those committees, all that effort, all that baroque planning—all those illusions—they all, inevitably, came crashing down in the late summer. The late reversals left students disappointed, parents frustrated, administrators back at square one, and faculty rewriting their syllabi for the eighth or ninth time in a single summer. Once again, we were all lurching to online classes.


Only now, in the dog days of late July and August, are some of them finally coming to their senses. On July 29, Georgetown University announced it was reversing course and going fully online. Johns Hopkins and Princeton followed the following week. Others will fall in line.

Better late than never, perhaps. One can be relieved that universities made the right decision in the end. But what was the delay about? Was it just an elaborate charade to persuade students and parents to commit to enrolling before they changed their plans? Was it all a gigantic bait and switch? Or just hubris and wishful thinking driven by business strategies?

“My suspicion,” wrote a University of Michigan economics professor back on June 15, is that “colleges are holding out hope of in-person classes in order to keep up enrollments.” “If they tell the difficult truth now, many students will decide to take a year off.” The financial consequences for most residential universities would be catastrophic.

To be sure, universities have been thrust into this situation by the lack of federal guidelines. A sane government would have warned early on that campuses would have to stay online for another semester in service of the collective effort to contain the pandemic.

Left to look after their own interests, however, university officials focused on their small corner of the world, pretending they would find a way to open campuses and persuading parents to put those tuition deposits down.

- The Summer of Magical Thinking, Prospect.org, August 14, 2020.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


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