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Payless Opens Fake Luxury Store, Sells Customers $20 Shoes For $600 In Experiment

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Payless' recent marketing campaign tricked fashion influencers into paying significantly more for a pair of affordable shoes. The retailer created a new store, called Palessi, as an experiment to see just how much fashion-forward people would pay to have high-end shoes.

Influencers, professionals that inspire consumers to make purchases based on their expertise, were invited to attend a grand opening for "Palessi" -- a new high-end designer.

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Those that attended the exclusive party paid between $200 and $600 for Payless shoes that typically run up to $40. Payless, as Palessi, sold $3,000 worth of shoes in hours within the opening.

"I would pay $400, $500," said one influencer. "People will be like 'where did you get those?'"

Other influencers remarked on the look of the shoes, the quality of the material, and were overall impressed by the Payless shoes.

The discount shoe company "wanted to push the social experiment genre to new extremes, while simultaneously using it to make a cultural statement," Doug Cameron, DCX Growth Accelerator's chief creative officer, told Adweek.

Their goal was to remind customers that the retailer is a place to shop for affordable fashion that also looks great.

"The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy and aims to remind consumers we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion," Payless CMO Sarah Couch also told Adweek.

Dave Reibstein, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business says companies have mastered the art of getting consumers to open their wallets.

"People look at their surroundings. It's part of what it is that they're buying and it's part of how we get cues about the quality of a product," Reibstein explains. "We see wine that's made in France. We see it's superior wine."

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He suggests that consumers always do a little market research of their own before shopping as often times generic brands can be very similar, if not better, than their name brand counterparts.

Reactions to the campaign have ranged, but most people have expressed that they aren't shocked by the success and the nature of consumerism.

"I wasn't surprised at all," says one person.

"The book is often judged by its cover. Even though we say it shouldn't be the book is judged by its cover," says another.

While the purchases were real, influencer did get their cash back after paying hundreds and they also left with free shoes for their trouble.


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