Now that publishers have Book Scan data, a similar thing is happening, although it covers more stores. The New York Times has a story about an author, Patricia O'Brien, whose last book hadn't done very well. Twelve publishers looked at her sales numbers and passed.
Then her agent resubmitted it under a pen name and it sold in three days, reportedly for "high five figures."
I've known several authors who have switched names. With some it's an open secret, with others it's closely guarded.
I wonder if there's a limit to how often you could do it?
Read more about the author getting a deal because she used a pseudonym.