Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buying Blind

There's a way of marketing products that's very popular in the toy and collectibles market called "blind packaging."

This method is implemented by some toy companies when a product with multiple components is sold in packages that prevent the consumer from being able to identify the contents. 

There are thousands of products sold this way. Just look and count how many you see next time you visit a Toys R US or your local store that sells sports cards or role playing card games. 

Most recently, this type of packaging has expanded to include video game accessories and miniature character figures. It is very successful with these products. 

Up to this point in my life my main experience with blind packs has been baseball cards. 

The appeal of blind packs is that it comes with something no other type of packaging gives the buyer: the illusion of being lucky. 

Take if from me, when you open a blind pack and are looking for a favorite item or the one or two of the series you need to complete your collection and you find it there's only one thing to say, "Jackpot!" 

The disappointment of finding an item you already have is momentary and you quickly look ahead to the next time you get the chance to open yet another pack. The anticipation of finding something you really want is very compelling. It's your own personal treasure hunt. It can be very  addictive. 

Now that I think about it, there was probably no reason to explain in that much detail. If you grew up in the United States anytime in the last 75 years you've had at least one "blind package" experience. 

But I had to make sure you understood where I was coming from in one of the most interesting consumer experiences in a while. 

The world of Legos includes mini-figures. They're a series of characters that can enhance your original Lego "builds" or inspire you to create them based on the figure's character. 

The Lego mini-figures are released in a series of 16 and they come in blind packs. 

At the start of the month Lego released the 11th series of mini-figures. After completing my series 10 collection in early August, I was anxious to start buying series 11. 

But I didn't want to repeat what happened when I collected Series 10. I just kept continuously buying random blind packs hoping to complete the set. 

After opening quite a few "doubles" and even "triples" of some figures, I finished the set by purchasing those I needed from E-bay. 

With series 11, I was going to find a way to get an advantage. I found it thanks to other Lego fans, who are higher up on the "Lego geek scale" than I am. 

I found an online article describing how to search a series 11 mini-figure  package from the outside in order to have a better chance of finding those you need. The author pointed out how each figure, in parts and unassembled inside the pack, is different from the others and how to tactically identify it's unique design. This allows you to not buy duplicates of those you already have.   

Armed with this information I headed to my local Target store. Back in the toy department on an endcap I found a display of Series 11 packs. 
With the hints I had copied down I began inspecting the packs from the outside; trying to find some of the 8 figures I needed for Series 11. 

After about 15 minutes of searching, I decided that I had identified 4 that I needed. I also stopped because I got a little paranoid. I felt as if people were looking at me, a 50 year old man standing in a department store aisle manipulating foil packages, with concern. 

I was sure that at any minute the store security guard would show up and ask me what I was doing. 

My contingency plan was to tell the security guard that I was blind and was reading the braille on the package. Fortunately I didn't have to use that story. 

Upon deciding that I didn't want to press any more packs nor my luck; I headed for the checkout. 

As soon as I got into the car I opened the packs to reveal the results of my first series 11"fishing expedition". 

I had gotten lucky with 3 of my 4 purchases. These are the new mini-figures I found. From left to right they are: 
  • Grandma: Identified by the feel of the pliable basket to the her right.
  • Yeti: Found because of the unique shape of the popcicle that fits in his hand. 
  • Lady Robot: The square head and wind-up key (not pictured) on her back were the vital clues to finding her. 
I'm very pleased with the results of my sealed package search; a 75% success.  
With these "finds" I am down to needing just 5 to complete the set. I will wait a few weeks to go back and search again. 

But I'm anxious to return to the blind pack experience now that I seem to have moved the odds more into my favor. This time around I will be more confident about buying blind. 

Before I close out this post I wanted to give a "shout out" to my friend Mark N. 

Recently saw him while leaving Sam's Club. He mentioned that he reads this blog. 

Thanks Mark, I appreciate you taking time to peek through the "RH Factors" window to see what's going on in my life. 

That statement of gratitude goes out to anyone else who is reading this right now as well. 

Thank ya'll. Come back again soon. 

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