Payless Once Tricked People Into Paying $645 for Their Shoes Under the Name ‘Palessi’ and It Worked
Today, we thought looking back at one of the best pranks of all time was a good idea.
We’re actually talking about the time Payless pranked customers into paying hundreds of dollars for their shoes.
Every now and again, the iconic 2018 Payless “Palessi” prank resurfaces… and for good reason. As one Twitter user aptly put it, “That was the best fashion test and prank of all time.” So what happened?
In 2018, Payless rebranded as “Palessi” for a day… and sold the same shoes for hundreds of dollars
Back in 2018, Payless Shoes teamed up with Brooklyn advertising company DCX Growth Accelerator, who pitched a genius idea to the discount shoe retailer.
As reported by The Washington Post, Payless had been forced to shut down stores and lay off employees throughout 2017. Long gone were the days of selling out BOGO sales — they were in trouble, and the advertising company reasoned they needed to make a significant statement.
DCX founder, Doug Cameron, explained to the newspaper, “We wanted to get Payless back into the cultural discourse.”
So what did they do? Well, Payless tricked several influencers into buying their shoes under the name “Palessi” with a 1,800 percent markup. Yes, customers bought Payless’s shoes— which they may have regularly scoffed at— for up to $645. This same footwear usually retailed for $19.99 to $39.99.
One buyer even commented at the “Palessi” store opening, “I can tell it was made with high-quality materials.” Another raved, “I would pay $400, $500, yeah. People are going to be like, ‘Where’d you get those?'”
As per CBS News, Payless and DCX recruited 60 influencers off the street and social media to attend the store opening for fake brand Palessi. The launch party took place in October 2018 in a former Giorgio Armani store at a luxury mall.
After renting the space as Palessi, Payless go to work making a “luxury” experience for would-be customers. They brought in fake employees, decorated the store with luxurious statues and other decor, and pasted a “Palessi” brand tag on their shoes.
At that point, they also marked up their low-cost shoes with luxury price tags. The brand even created an Instagram account and website for Palessi, which somehow still exists.
The Palessi store was born, ready to welcome fashionistas for its grand opening.
Payless posted a video of the experiment that went viral for the customer’s epic reactions
During the event, customers raved about Payless’s design and quality — thinking they were talking about Palessi’s shoes, of course.
As shown in a hilarious video posted by the retailer, guests had “no idea” they were actually buying Payless shoes.
One person noted, “They’re elegant, sophisticated.” Another added, “I just think they’re so classy.”
They paid $200, $400 and more than $600 for $19.99 shoes, lending new meaning to their slogan, “Why pay more when you can pay less?” Genius.
Another video of the event shows a woman finding out her new sneakers were actually from Payless. “Shut up. Are you serious?” she asks.
Once the experiment was over, Payless revealed the prank to the customers. Still, the brand gave buyers their money back and let them keep their new shoes.
Payless’ chief marketing officer, Sarah Couch, told CBS how the campaign hoped to remind customers of the brand’s bang-for-your-buck appeal.
DCX founder Cameron added, “We interviewed all these consumers who said they loved great styles but resented the elite prices that people would pay for industry fashion brands.”
“Let’s have Payless gently make fun of all of that and go back to this pragmatist position in culture.”
One more thing: where did they get the Palessi name from? Well, Cameron admitted: “I went on Wikipedia and looked up a list of Italian family names and saw Alessi, and added a ‘P’ to that.” That’s all it takes!
Although Payless filed for bankruptcy protection and shut down all its U.S. stores in 2019, the retailer has a major online presence. The brand still has hundreds of stores in other countries and has a U.S. flagship store in Miami, Florida.
Will they sell Palessi anytime soon? Only time will tell.
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