Lego Simpsons mini-figures are here! Thursday was the 1st of May which meant that we were finally allowed to put our boxes of Lego Simpsons mini-figures out on the shelves (we’d had them in the back for a week or so but Lego wouldn’t allow us to put them out till the 1st). To be honest I’m pretty sure that we’ll be out of stock sometime next week since there’s a Lego based episode of the Simpsons being aired this weekend as well. This is all brilliant for us but the question I’m hearing from a lot of parents is ‘why the blind-bags?’ and to this I have trouble finding any answer other than ‘Lego wants to make money’.
I understand that there’s an element of the excitement of the unknown involved in blind bags, I can even recognise this as part of the appeal, perhaps even to an extent this might be part of why children buy them: there’s a hint of risk, the rush of not knowing if you’re about to get something really special or if you’re about to get a figure that is the exact copy of five identical figures you already have at home. To be honest blind bags are the lottery scratch cards of childhood.
The problem is that whilst the majority of adults (you would hope) are likely to be able to understand the odds of a win compared to a loss, I’m just not so sure that children are all that equipped for the disappointment. I’m not saying we should protect our kids from this, I’d probably support the opposite stance: that children will become more resilient individuals if they occasionally have to face a set back. What I find strange is that toy companies are willingly eliciting this kind of reaction, in fact they’d be hard-pushed to deny the fact that a huge proportion of a child’s experience of blind bags will be of disappointment (especially as they approach the completion of a collection and are only looking for the last couple of figures).
I get why lottery card companies are OK with the disappointment, they carefully factor in a host of smaller prizes/ consolations to ensure that hope is kept moderately alive. However, a toy isn’t like this, I’ve talked about the value of toys in a previous post but it’s worth going over it a bit again here. Whilst a consolatory win on a scratch-card which equals the value you paid might make an adult feel good I’m not sure if picking up a fifth copy of the same toy holds the same sway on a child. Sure they got a toy with their money but it’s the complete opposite of what they wanted, it’s more of the same, it takes them no closer to finishing their collection whilst at the same time using up their pocket money.
Children will get heavily caught up in the chase to get the specific figures they want from a set of blind-bags but is this really the kind of experience a toy manufacturer wants their buyers/fans to have? A child crying because the figure they got isn’t the one they wanted might look spoiled but just think about what they’re actually being forced to endure.
Imagine if book companies started doing this: for example, imagine you want to start reading Harry Potter but that they now come in blind-bag form (because, you know, more fun and all). You get a copy of book 3 only to realise that you really need book 1 to understand what’s going on, you buy another blind-book-bag and hooray!, when you open your blind bag you find book 1, in fact you’re lucky enough to get as far as book 5 (with a few spare copies of 1 and 2 but you know, blind bags, adds to the fun). However, now the odds start stacking up against you and to make matters worse you find out that books 6 and 7, the end of the series, the bit that makes it all make sense and completes the collection, are ‘ultra-rare’ books. As the pile of extra copies of books 1 through 5 starts to mount-up and you see more of your cash pour away on the ‘fun’ of blind bags, wouldn’t you too feel more and more inclined to just break down in a full-on tantrum in the middle of the book shop?
Going back to the crying child in a toy shop now. Are they really spoiled for getting upset at a quintuple duplicate or are they simply reacting to an unjust waste of their pocket money and time?
Blind bags are insane, from a toy manufacturer’s perspective they may make a lot more money a lot faster than just, you know, packaging products in a way that allows the consumer to see what they’re getting, but should this really come at the expense of children enjoying the toys you make? Maybe there’s a dimension to blind-bag collecting that I’m missing here? I’m very thankful that neither of my kids are at a blind-bag buying age (for now) but I’m dreading the inevitable day when one of them gets hooked on a collection and basically gets turned into a little gambler. Do any of you guys have a blind bag story (or two) to share? Maybe we should start a petition or something? Also, click on these links if you’d like to pop over and share your feelings about kraggling and/or the usefulness of Lego as a tool for teaching children about impermanence (and perhaps even grief). Anyway, as always I love to see that people have stopped by and if you guys join in down in the comments, even better. You can also catch me over on twitter and join in discussion about blind bags by searching for #blindbag. Thanks for reading, Cheers, John