Is there a word, or an expression, that describes the act of deceptively offering a person(s) a choice of future possibilities, that mollifies them long enough to complete a task, knowing that the end result is already determined?

Example: Mother at grocery offering unruly children a visit to either ice cream shop or candy store afterwards in exchange for calming down. Knowing full well after the grocery they will go straight home.

  • 2
    deception? lying?
    – JMP
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 10:00
  • 2
    Very similar scenario to bait-and-switch.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 10:31
  • I agree that "bait and switch" is very close. The reason I have asked is because of a lingering belief (possibly a total hallucination) of once hearing an alternate, equally folksy, expression describing it more concisely and with more color. Though I may be totally off my nut, it's been plaguing me for nearly a year, since the early stages of the last Presidential Election.
    – Garza
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 10:59
  • I was expecting that the ice cream shop was already planned (just not mentioned to the children)
    – aslum
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 14:26

2 Answers 2


It's an empty promise.


Noun empty promise ‎(plural empty promises)

(idiomatic) A promise that is either not going to be carried out, worthless or meaningless.

Also, a false promise.


false adjective

2c :  intended or tending to mislead : a false promise


Possibly you've heard it called a Sailor's Promise:

Sailor's Promise

  • A promise devoid of real commitment; one you're not really going to keep.

The concept comes from sailors being able to say anything because they are always moving around the world, constantly changing ports. They are able to make empty promises that never need to be dealt with (like promising to marry someone).

  • 2
    Those darn sailors... Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 18:07
  • 1
    I like it. It's not exact, but very close to what I remember, especially in form. There is the possibility that it was some regional or local expression, last uttered by an old, Hank Hill-like denizen of my childhood home, lost to the sands of time in Southern New Mexico. A lot of weird things there...possibly it's better that some stay.
    – Garza
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 1:58

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