A bill of goods is a type of listing that provides details on the items that are currently being consigned for sale. This list of particulars is very similar to a playbill used in a theater to acquaint the audience with the particulars regarding the play and the cast, or even a bill of fare in a restaurant which provides details about the menu selections. Along with being a detailed listing of the items included in a purchase, a bill of goods is also sometimes used to refer to promises or offers that are extended for purchase.
When used as a business document, a bill of goods provides information on all the goods included in a particular consignment. The range of information included will vary, with some formats including nothing more than a brief description, an order number and the quantity of each unit included. Other examples are more comprehensive, offering detailed descriptions, unit and extended pricing, and even information about the mode of shipment. The content of a bill of goods will normally be in compliance with any governmental regulations regarding this type of document, allowing sellers the ability to comply with the bare minimum required or to create a format that includes information above and beyond that minimum.
The purpose of a bill of goods is to document the order so that there is no confusion regarding what the customer will actually receive. Upon receipt, the document can be used to verify the items and make sure that the consigned goods match with the detail on the bill of goods. Should any discrepancies arise, the two parties can take the steps necessary to correct the situation, possibly even issuing an amended bill in order to comply with what was actually received as part of the consignment.
A bill of goods may also refer to situations in which individuals or businesses attempt to generate enthusiasm among buyers by making promises or promoting products in a manner that is not exactly ethical. With this application, claims may be made for the function and quality of the goods that are somewhat dubious, while attempting to downplay any obvious defects. For example, a product may be touted as containing the same ingredients as a more well-known product, while omitting the fact that those ingredients are used in much smaller amounts in the touted product. The end result is to mislead the buyer into thinking the product being promoted is just as effective as the better known brand, when in fact the performance is somewhat inferior. When this becomes obvious to the buyer, the seller is often accused of attempting to sell a bill of goods, meaning that the presentation was intentionally misleading.