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Payless Pranked LA Fashion Influencers With $640 Shoes

Payless shoes rebranded as "Palessi" in a faux high-fashion prank. (Courtesy Payless)
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Every brand wants to be hot with influencers talking them up on social media. That includes Payless. To promote its wares, the bargain brand lured fans of high fashion to a fake store, named Palessi, and sold them Payless shoes, which mostly retail for $20 to $35, for between $200 and $600.

The shoes were being sold for up to an 1,800 percent markup, if you're doing the math.

Watch the prank in action here:

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The faux store was set up in a former Armani location in Santa Monica, according to AdWeek. They asked people how much they would pay for shoes, and got answers up to $640.

In the tradition of fictional serial killers who leave so many clues it's impossible not to know that they did it, the brand embedded its name into the pop-up. Add a little Italian flair to "Payless" and you get "Palessi," which had its own Instagram account, of course.

The stunt is part of a new, multi-million dollar ad campaign by branding company DCX Growth Accelerator. It's targeted to online platforms and will air on cable throughout the holidays.

"The 'gotcha' genre works particularly well for Payless because there is such a discrepancy between how the influencers see the shoes and how they see the Payless brand," DXC's CCO, Doug Cameron, said in a press release.

After they were duped, attendees left with refunds and free shoes.

DCX Growth Accelerator has experience with pranks, including some with a bigger message than just selling shoes.

They devote a portion of their profits to what they describe as "driving social change through situationist art stunts," such as their Bulletproof Schools gun violence campaign where they sent Brooklyn students to school wearing bulletproof vests. DCX has launched other political protests, including the anti-gentrification Trump Hut with a piece of protest art designed to look like President Trump's hair.

They brought some of that attitude to this campaign.

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"We decided to push back against the current billionaire culture and get Payless to reassert its pragmatist approach," Cameron told AdWeek.

"Payless has gone to great lengths to create a portfolio of fashionable and high-quality shoes, but perceptions of the brand lag far behind this," Payless's Chief Marketing Officer Sara Crouch said in a press release. "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 fans won't have to pay influencer prices to pick up these shoes for themselves -- unless they've developed a taste for the finer things after this prank.

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