Pig-in-a-poke is an idiom that refers to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce but apparently rats and cats were not.
The scheme entailed the sale of a “suckling pig” in a “poke” (bag). The wriggling bag actually contained a cat—not particularly prized as a source of meat—that was sold unopened to the victim.
A common colloquial expression in the English language, to “buy a pig in a poke,” is to make a risky purchase without inspecting the item beforehand. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of its basis. Similar expressions exist in other languages, most of them meaning to buy a cat in a bag.
*From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Often I think that buying certain items on the web, in spite of some sellers’ (often mammoth) efforts, is much like buying a pig in a poke. I have been buying fabric for some time now, and although I consider myself to be a discerning consumer, I am often disappointed, sometimes even dismayed, by the difference between the image that the seller chooses to show and the reality of the actual fabric. And, of course, obversely, I am sometimes delighted. Maybe a pig in a poke isn’t a completely accurate analogy. One can certainly tell whether what is pictured is a pig or a cat; what can’t be known is what kind of pig or cat it is. A better analogy would be the blind man and the elephant. The (blind) buyer who sees the leg will imagine an entirely different product from the buyer who sees the trunk or the buyer who sees the ear.
In trying to show a buyer what I have to sell in the most accurate way I can, I have taken a cue from the folks at Ichiroya’s Kimono Flea Market. Here, instead of showing a leg, a trunk or an ear, Ichiroya shows a leg, a trunk and an ear, sometimes two legs, sometimes an ear and a half. I don’t believe, however, that I have ever known the whole elephant–even with their multiple, very detailed photographs. Fortunately, in all of my dealings with this great Japanese web site, they have understated, rather than overstated the case so that I am almost always pleased and surprised by my purchase. You can check out my own statements at my Etsy site or see the slideshow at marjwilsobags.com.