It's that time of year when parents are going nuts trying to find that ONE Lego set their child MUST have for the holidays, but it seems to be sold out in every store in the country.
|Photo by Christian Sinibaldi for guardian.com|
So, when my friend posted on Facebook that she was seeking a particular set (Santa's Workshop) and was looking for suggestions on where she might be able to find one, I felt compelled to not only share with her, but with all of you, the low-down of my experiences with Lego shopping. You see, for the last several years, my Christmas shopping has been a harrowing experience as I try to get sold out sets or, in the case of this year, discontinued sets. I've done just about everything short of the black market in dark alleys to get certain items. I've even had shipments from as far away as Asia for hard to find minifigures.
Therefore, here are my tips for Lego shopping during the holiday season.
TIP #1: (and you have to be firm on this) obtain the list of set(s) your child wants no later than mid-November. **After this deadline, there's no guarantee elves will have the time to make the set.**
TIP #2: Buy the set as soon as you see it. Pay full price if you have to. Then, once the set is securely hidden in the back of your closet, you can always return it if you find it cheaper later on. (Trust me on this - don't be a fool!)
TIP #3: Shop online. Many stores offer free shipping starting Thanksgiving weekend and they have a much larger inventory than the traditional storefronts. Even LEGO.com will offer free shipping when making purchases over a certain amount and they run sales. Plus, no crowds, no lines!!
****Note**** Know the MSRP from www.lego.com before you buy. Not to throw anyone under the bus, but Toys R Us tends to charge $1 more per set and stores like Target tend to match or charge $1 under.
TIP #4: If local stores are sold out even online, check with Lego retail stores in your state. If they have an item they will ship it to you for a reasonable shipping fee.
TIP #5: Don't hesitate to call one of the Legoland Theme Parks - they will also ship an item to you for a reasonable shipping fee. AND, have no fear, their prices match the company's MSRP.
Now, when all of the above fails.......
TIP #6: CALL Lego directly and here's where I get to my Lego Christmas miracle.
Two years ago, my son wanted the Monster Fighters Haunted House from Santa. In fact, that was the only gift he was asking Santa for, so all his marbles were in one bag. I made the mistake of waiting too long. EVERYONE was sold out: the major retailers, the websites, the storefronts, etc. We were now less than two weeks away from Christmas morning.
So I did what any rational parent would do. I called the company directly and had them "double check" their secret stash of toys. The wonderful customer service agent on the other end of the phone looked and looked and looked, checking all available avenues. Unfortunately, she, too, came up empty.
Lego does, however, send out letters from Santa himself, explaining to your child that the elves got a little behind in their work and would deliver the set as promised a few days late.
Well, if this isn't an anticlimactic Christmas morning, I don't know what is. BUT, it was certainly better than nothing.
This story doesn't end here, however. Santa and his elves must have been pulling for me because I received a phone call 30 minutes later from the customer service rep stating she found ONE Monster Fighters Haunted House. It just popped into the inventory after we got off the phone. Do I want it?
Do I want it?? HELL, YES! Ship that baby to me ASAP!
|My prized possession!|
I remember writing emails to her boss praising her dedication and excellent customer service.
I will also tell parents that I have, and will, on occasion, go the eBay route. This year, however, I just wasn't willing to go for it. My son gave a last minute request (to his Elf) for a Star Wars Ewok Attack set that is out of production. I did look on eBay, but sellers know the gold they have and they aren't willing to part with it easily. They were asking astronomical amounts for this set and I wasn't willing to bite. I mean, I get that they're collectors' items, but my son just wants to play with the darn toy.
So, yes, private eBay sellers is one way to go, but just be aware that most of the time, you will pay hefty for it. And, I certainly wouldn't buy sets selling for over the MSRP if the set is still on the regular market. Even I'm not that desperate!
To this day, the Monster Fighters Haunted House remains on display in my living room as a reminder to me to shop early! The one question I'm still asking myself is why didn't I buy stock in Lego when my first son was born?