Payless opens fake luxury shoe store, sells its own shoes ten times their regular price to 'fashion influencers'

As an inveterate bargain-hunter and skeptic of fashion snobbery, I find that a promotion scheme launched by Payless Shoe Stores warms the cockles of my heart while giving me a few giggles.

CBS Philly reports on the prank:

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.

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.

Here is the promotional video from Payless:

But as a skeptic (call me "Doubting Thomas," if you will), I have to wonder of the store itself was the only fakery.  Who are these "influencers"?  If they are genuine experts or thought-leaders in shoe fashion, Payless has just made a whole lot of enemies.

Would a big national company lie to us this way?  Do you remember when IHOP claimed to change its name to "International House of Burgers" – IHOB – only to reveal that it was all hoax?

Marketing gurus claim that when people purchase luxury goods, they are paying in part for the service and ambience of the purchasing experience.  For people with enough money to be indifferent to paying $400 or much more for shoes (or six figures for a car), I suppose it is worthwhile to have a big chunk of the purchase price accounted for by the sales experience.  Many years ago, on an airplane flight, I sat next to an executive from a fashion house whose name would be familiar to virtually everyone, and I heard stories about the level of personal service expected by customers of this person's Rodeo Drive store in Beverley Hills.  It was a fascinating conversation.  Among other things, I learned that a salesperson could earn well into six figures (and this was about 20 years ago) by knowing a customer's tastes and personally bringing items to a customer's home, trying them on, and bringing back the rejected goods, all at the whim of the customer.  As a wealthy friend explained to me about a similar purchasing strategy, "time is money," so the extra cost is worth it.

Despite being a world-class cheapskate, I have never shopped at Payless, on the theory that bad shoes are not good for the feet.  Will I take a look there someday?  Maybe.

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