The Ol’ Bait-and-Switch

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The Ol’ Bait-and-Switch

“My company’s Board of Trustees is starting an education division, and I think you’d be a great fit,” he told me, handing me his business card. “I’ll shoot you over our proposal, and let’s discuss over coffee next week.” I had met this guy during a brunch with friends one summer afternoon, and he and I seemed to have a lot of synergy with our work experience. After some back-and-forth over email and some time reviewing the PowerPoint he sent me, I felt prepared for our meeting. The day of, however, he shoots me a text: “Stuck at the office. Let’s move it to right after work. Caffé Bene in Midtown at 6?”

6pm soon got pushed to 7pm, then 8, and the venue switched to Hudson Clearwater, a cocktail spot in the West Village. I showed up with a notebook, a pen, and my resume. He showed up with tickets to a jazz show starting in 10 minutes next door.

Bait-and-switch /bāt-and,(ə)n-swiCH/ noun: the tactic of luring someone into a meeting with some type of promise or expectation, but then revealing a different intention or ulterior motive during the meeting. In online dating, of course, this translates to a falsely advertised profile and deceptive pics. The opposite of the bait-and-switch is the date-and-switch, when one plans what he or she believes to be a date, then finds out at some point during the in-person meeting that the other person does not think nor want to consider it a date.

That meeting marked my very first bait-and-switch experience three years ago, and there have been quite a few since. Whether coffee gets switched to drinks, a weekday afternoon turns into a weekend night, or the intention of a “business meeting” otherwise neglects to address anything remotely business-related, the art of the bait-and-switch is an interesting one to execute, and I’ve found it has mixed results. While the “bait” aspect of Mr. Jazz Show’s technique was effective, the “switch” was nearly impossible to implement, given my frustration at the time I had invested as well as the disappointment from having my hopes up. Being dragged around the day of the meeting didn’t help, either. (Plus, the live jazz switcheroo never would’ve worked with me – thanks to a traumatic experience playing the flute in my middle school’s band, any live music gives me PTSD.) The bottom line is: I felt duped. After that experience, I became pretty wary of any potential bait-and-switch scenarios.

My most recent bait-and-switch experience, however, made me think otherwise. When a boxing instructor of mine offered to give me advice on taking the fitness certification exam over kale smoothies at Green Symphony, I took him up on it. While he definitely still quizzed me on the difference between a rhomboid and a deltoid, it quickly became clear that he had other intentions for our meeting. We actually ended up hanging out for a couple hours, and I had fun getting to know him. Most importantly, I realized I saw him (and smelled him?!) in a different light. Literally. Outside of the pulsing, dark red lighting of the gym, I noticed his silver stubble, baby blue eyes, and his great smile – even if he did have a piece of kale stuck in his teeth.  It was also nice to talk to him in a room that didn’t smell like a fusion of B.O. and AXE body spray. (Ok, maybe I still smelled a little bit of AXE, but that’s ok.) It was definitely a nice way to open the door to seeing him again outside of the gym.

I’ve done it myself, of course. In my first semester of my M.A. program at the New School, I was totally hot-for-teacher. My International Affairs professor had a Cuban-Italian accent, silverfox goatee, Euro man-purse, and Harry Potter glasses that somehow all came together to form an unbearably sexy combination. Just the way he pronounced “Westphalia” and “sovereignty” drove me into a tizzy. In this illicit teacher-student scenario (or R.A.-resident scenario I successfully executed in undergrad), I needed a safe way to feel out any potential while eliminating the possibility of having to awkwardly avoid him for the next two years of my grad program. He had never mentioned a family, didn’t wear a wedding ring, and had no online presence to provide me with any background. And, I actually did need his guidance on a presentation, so I scheduled a meeting during his office hours. Securing a cozy corner booth at a dimly-lit coffee shop, I was dressed to kill in my BCBG bodycon mini, interweaving questions about his time living abroad with discussion on the birth of humanitarianism in Biafra. When I learned that not only was he married, but he was also expecting his third kid, I shut it down. Sure, my heart deflated a bit. (And it didn’t help that I got more turned on by his love of children!) But, in all truth, I was happy that he was happy, and I was relieved to find out his deal, too.

In most scenarios, I truly believe honesty is the best policy. However, if someone catches your eye in a certain professional or somewhat stigmatized environment, such as the gym, school, or work, the bait-and-switch can be a safe, low-risk way to test the waters. When done rightly and respectfully, it doesn’t deserve its bad rap. 

Before you go baiting your hook, though, a few important things to keep in mind:

1) Don’t waste each other’s time. I LOVE kale, and I could talk about proper planking form forever, especially with an expert, so that meeting was fruitful (or veggie-ful?) on a few levels. With my sexy professor, I did need actual help with my presentation, and I was respectful of his office hours (even if I did convince him to meet me elsewhere!).

2) Stick to a date, time, and place. Planning an afternoon coffee? Don’t switch to evening hours, and don’t swap the tea for tequila.

3) Don’t make false promises. If you offer to help someone with something, follow through with your word. Your “bait” should be da truth, y’all!

4) Go with the flow, and don’t have an agenda. This is your chance to spend some one-on-one time with someone you’ve been otherwise accustomed to seeing in a different context. Resist talking only about how you two know one another; rather, use it as a jumping board to learn about each other.

5) Guys, please buy the lady the coffee or tea (or the kale smoothie!).

6) Have fun. Worst-case scenario, you make a friend. Who knows who you might meet or what kind of opportunities you may have through this awesome new contact?!


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