A new "high-end" shoe store recently opened its doors to private shoppers in Los Angeles, and ended up shocking shoppers with its offerings.
The store, a former Armani retail space, was stocked with shoes that hit upward of $640 and called "Palessi."
By all outward appearances, this store was for shoppers with a more refined shopping palate and who had extra money to burn — but not exactly enough fashion savvy to point out a deception.
"Palessi," however, was actually regular old Payless ShoeSource, and was stocked with items that you could find in any of the footwear chain's stores for about $19.99 per pair of shoes.
Payless opened the store as a social experiment conducted along with agency DCX Growth Accelerator.
The agency invited groups of fashion and social media influencers as the store's first shoppers and asked their opinions on the new "designer" offerings.
Payless stocked the store with shoes typically priced between $20 and $40, and marked the products up immensely, ranging between $200 and $650.
In the first few hours of the "Palessi's" private opening, the store sold about $3,000 in merchandise.
After shoppers made their purchase, they were advised that the shoes they'd purchased were actually Payless products.
Payless refunded the shopper's money, and even let them keep the shoes for their troubles.
Prior to that, however, influencers had already fawned over the offerings, calling them "elegant," "classy," "high-quality," "sophisticated," and more.
When one influencer was told that her purchase was actually a Payless purchase, she looked dumbfounded and responded, "You've got to be kidding me."
"Shut up!" another added.
What about the process?
In a statement to AdWeek, Payless CMO Sarah Couch explained the process.
"The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy and aims to remind consumers we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion," she said.
Doug Cameron, DCX Growth Accelerator chief creative officer, said that the company wanted to "push the social experiment genre to new extremes, while simultaneously using it to make a cultural statement."
"Payless customers share a pragmatist point of view, and we thought it would be provocative to use this ideology to challenge today's image-conscious fashion influencer culture," he added.