Bait and Switch

Normally, you hear about bait and switch tactics being used by merchants. However, in the coin collecting world, bait and switch can be used by customers as well.

What is bait and switch?

In general terms, bait and switch occurs when a merchant advertises a great deal on one or more products to interest buyers. When customers attempt to purchase this great deal, the merchant is out of the special  but has an alternative you can buy. The alternative may be more expensive or it can be lesser quality, either way, the merchant gains a bigger profit margin.

The “baiting” grabs your interest; the “switching” provides greater benefit to the seller.

Now, you’re thinking, “How does this work with the customer doing the baiting and switching?”

Well, it’s simple really, and it’s frustrating, too, for the sellers.

Let’s look at an example between Dealer Jim and Numismatist Bill. Jim can be a large dealer with a store and staff, or he can be an individual seller on eBay. Bill, the buyer, can be another coin dealer buying long distance from Jim, or he can be an indivdual collector.

Either through the internet or other marketing vehicle; for example, cable TV shows or coin magazine ads;  Bill buys a coin from Jim. Per the agreement, Jim ships the coin to Bill. 

Time passes, Bill decides he is unhappy with the coin and returns it to Jim. Upon receipt of the coin, Jim notices the packaging is different from what he sent Bill. Looking more closely, he notices the coin is not the same coin.

In some cases, Jim confronts Bill with the fact that the returned coin is not the same as the one sent.  In other cases, he puts Bill on the “do not sell to this person” list. And, in still other instances, Jim takes the fight public (in chat rooms and forums) to alert others to Bill’s perfidy.

Jim’s actions depend on the situation. Is the dollar value lost worth the cost of the time to fight the issue? The Bills of the world gamble that the Jims will just let it go.  But, sometimes, the Jims of the world get fed up with the Bills and fight the good fight to get either their coin or their money back.

If you are a buyer and do this bait and switch with coins, shame on you. Remember the adage, “What goes around comes around.”

If you are a seller, technology helps you especially with small quantities. Yes, the effort adds time to the process, and whether you do it or not depends on your risk tolerance and how much you’ve lost in the past.

What technology? The digital camera.

Before Jim sends the coin to Bill, he takes pictures of the coin, obverse and reverse, and of the box and certificates. He copies the photos to his computer and names the files with identifiers pertinent to Bill, the coin and the date. He can include these pictures with the coin in the shipment to Bill, he can send Bill the pictures via email, or he can note the filenames along with a short description of the pictures on the packing slip to Bill. In all cases, Bill is aware that Jim has photos of the coin.

The deceit of the Bills of the world exists. Sometimes the extra effort to stop them, either before or after they try their dishonest tricks, just isn’t worth it. Other times, the extra time and effort of preventative measures can save you from a large loss.