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MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc.

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MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc.

Postby Draykov » Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:20 pm

Okay, I'm not usually one to go in for the alarmist "LEGO is going to hell in a hand-basket" mentality, but this report of battle pack figs of possibly inferior quality has me worried. I hadn't noticed any weirdness with the knight/skelly packs, but seeing a big rectangle indented upon the inside of minifig arms seems off. What gives? Should I start panicking?

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Re: Reduced quality figs in non-licensed Battle Packs?

Postby Draykov » Sun Oct 11, 2009 9:41 am

Solo wrote:
via the Ambassadors forum el Stevo wrote:I've spoken with the head of the quality department, and he's let me know that they're aware of the issues and 'cracking down on it'. The extended line (keychains, magnets, games (but not LGS), etc.) is in a different supply chain and therefore not our regular production facilities. the people in this group and now being watched like hawks to get the issue fixed. The current state of these products are hopefully just an abberation that will be fixed soon.

steve


So, Steve...any additional light you can shed on this? Can we rest assured that "only the best is good enough?"
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Re: Reduced quality figs in non-licensed Battle Packs?

Postby Solo » Sun Oct 11, 2009 9:54 pm

That... was the additional light shed on this.
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Re: Reduced quality figs in non-licensed Battle Packs?

Postby Draykov » Sun Oct 11, 2009 10:32 pm

Yeah, but I meant like...additional. Like...has anyone been pantsed over this fiasco? Has it been corrected?
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Re: Reduced quality figs in non-licensed Battle Packs?

Postby onions » Sun Oct 11, 2009 10:49 pm

pantsu?
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Re: Reduced quality figs in non-licensed Battle Packs?

Postby Draykov » Mon Oct 12, 2009 11:03 am

Think less fan-service and more humiliation.
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Re: Reduced quality figs in non-licensed Battle Packs?

Postby Draykov » Sun Oct 25, 2009 7:12 am

Point of interest: I found the following torsos in the BAM (build-a-minifig) bin at my closest LEGO store. They all had the lack of the black neck mark and the strange indentations in the arms.

ImageImageImage

The two Pirate theme torsos were no surprise, really...I figured LEGO was making the best of a bad situation and maybe cutting production on some of the pirate battle packs/tic-tac-toe sets that were affected and throwing them into the BAM bins...not ideal, but it makes sense. But the Octan torso? I've confirmed that the Octan fig in the vintage collection did not suffer from these recent quality lapses...so which set/item was this Octan torso slated for (he wondered, rhetorically)?

Edit:I've made an unfortunate discovery that answers my last question. It seems that Vintage minifig sets with a set number starting with 8 are prone to these same quality issues while earlier sets with numbers that start with 4 are not. I have to say, this is really disappointing. Those sets are not cheap (in terms of price), even by typical LEGO standards. I'm not used to feeling like I've been had when it comes to LEGO.
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Draykov » Wed Nov 24, 2010 2:38 pm

Point of interest, I recently broached this subject with LEGO Customer Service:

Draykov wrote:I am writing to express concern over quality issues I have experienced with LEGO product recently, specifically as they relate to certain minifigures. I have found that minifigures in sets like the Vintage Minifigure Collections (852331, 852535, 852697, 852753 and 852769), minifigure packs in the Castle and Pirate play-themes (852271, 852272, 852701, 852702, 852747, 852921, 852922), as well as the series of collectible minifigures (8683 and 8684) have been of inferior quality.

As an “Adult Fan of LEGO” with a young daughter who also enjoys LEGO, I find this trend very disconcerting. I am very pleased that minfigures available in traditional play-theme sets and buckets have not shown the same degradation in quality, but figures from these other sets listed above tend to be brittle, more translucent, and loose at the joints. From time to time I have noticed misaligned decorative printing. It is clear that noticeable sections of plastic have been removed from the inside of the arms of these figures, presumably as a cost-cutting measure, leaving large, unsightly indentations.

The opportunity to acquire more minifigures in this fashion is a great idea. Minifigs are very popular among the LEGO fan-base. The execution, however, has been very poor given the overall lack of quality in these offerings. I am starting to lose faith in LEGO’s commitment to Ole Kirk Kristiansen’s motto: “Only the best is good enough.” Is the LEGO Company aware of these quality issues? Are efforts being made to correct these issues? How does TLG respond to the notion that it is currently selling an inferior group of products? Does TLG still retain a dedication to quality?

LEGO bricks have brought many hours of creative and enjoyable play into our home. That said, I feel like the company I have had little reason to question over the past several decades is now going down a path that may cause me to ultimately cease purchase of new LEGO product.


LEGO Customer Service wrote:Thank you for contacting us regarding the quality of LEGO® toys and products. We apologize for the delay in responding to your email.

We always appreciate and value feedback on LEGO products, especially from passionate enthusiasts. We regret that you feel the quality of some of our new minifigures is not in line with your expectations. We want to assure you that we are still using the same manufacturing processes that we have always used to make sure that we have consistency and quality in all our products. Quality will always be the number-one priority at The LEGO Group and we have many employees all around the globe whose sole responsibility is to insure manufacturing excellence.

Your feedback has already been shared with the relevant teams, who use consumer comments in designing and producing future items. Since we have not seen the types of issues you described in our inspections of product samples, our Quality Department has asked if you would assist them with their investigation of your concerns by returning some of the minifigures that caused the disappointment mentioned in your email. We have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for your convenience. In appreciation of your assistance, a $50 gift card is also enclosed which we hope you will enjoy spending on a new set of your choice.

Our continuing commitment and efforts to make our products safe and fun for children are inside every toy we produce. Working together with caring parents like yourself, our shared reward is the unlimited hours of safe and happy playtime families enjoy and expect from us. Again, thank you for sharing your concerns about LEGO products with us.

Please get in touch if you need anything else. It's free to call our experts at 1-800-835-4386(Monday through Friday, 8am to 10pm and Saturday & Sunday 10am to 6pm EST) or you could go to http://www.LEGOshop.com.

Happy building!

Sabre
LEGO Consumer Services


The response came via email over a month ago. I hadn't received anything yet in the way of an envelope or gift card via snail-mail, but I spoke with a very friendly customer service rep named Emily today and she said they'd get them out to me.
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby legodavee123 » Mon Nov 29, 2010 1:06 pm

LEGO Customer Service wrote:We want to assure you that we are still using the same manufacturing processes that we have always used to make sure that we have consistency and quality in all our products.


Well, that's just flat-out wrong. ... Unless by "same" they mean only "injection molded". We've heard as much several times from LEGO representatives-- they've changed their coloring techniques, their manufacturing centers, the plastics used in manufacturing (in China), and printing techniques (again in China).

LEGO Customer Service wrote:Quality will always be the number-one priority at The LEGO Group


Wrong. As of Jorgen's ascension to CEO in 2005, quality was knowingly dropped in favor of cost. He said as much in interviews, specifically citing something to the effect of "people using quality as a crutch". More specifically, we've heard that LEGO has a room dedicated to quality control with 3 "shelves" or "levels". Each shelf has products on it with varying degrees of quality and cost. The bottom shelf is designated "too low" quality, and the top shelf is designated "too much quality to be worth the cost". And the middle shelf is "just right". Clearly, there ought to be *nothing* on the top shelf if quality were really the "number-one priority".

Additionally, we heard from Steve Witt that they knowingly released the 2007 castle sets with sub-par coloring on gray elements. They supposedly said "well, it's too late now-- we either redo all the production runs and deliver VERY late, changing our entire schedule =OR= we accept the lower quality". And we all know which choice they made.

Further, we've heard from the VP of Quality Control that they knowingly accepted a low-quality grade ABS plastic for Chinese products, because it would have been difficult/expensive/impossible to go with the normal high-grade ABS.

Compare these to the old adage of "only the best is good enough", or to the parable of Ole Kirk forcing his son Godtfred to paint the high-quality 3rd-coat of paint on toys before going out the door, and it's clear that LEGO's idea of what is "too good" has gone down in recent years. I forget whether it was the micromotor or the monorail motor, but there's another instance where LEGO actively sought out one of the absolute BEST motors in the industry (in fact, BETTER than any motors used in the toy industry), resulting in a high-cost motor for LEGO.

Don't get me wrong-- I don't mind that LEGO had to make concessions to stay in business after disastrous problems from 2002-2005 or so, but I can't stand when they claim that nothing's changed and that they have the same standards of quality that they've always had. Quite clearly, the bar has been lowered.

LEGO Customer Service wrote:Since we have not seen the types of issues you described in our inspections of product samples,


I'm 99% sure that this is false. LEGO is quite well aware of the problems and deemed that it was an acceptable loss in quality for the costs. We've seen this time and time again-- fans present problems to the company, and they ALWAYS seem to say "yes, we're aware of the problem and we're working on it." I don't think I've ever seen an instance where someone from outside the company has demonstrated a widespread problem to LEGO of which they weren't already aware.

Granted, not everyone in the company is aware. Ask one of the people at the call center, and you'll get a very different answer than you will from the LEGO website coordinators, or the distribution managers, or the packaging design groups. LEGO's a big company, so you can't always trust any one person's reply, unless it's directly related to their particular job.

LEGO Customer Service wrote:We have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for your convenience. In appreciation of your assistance, a $50 gift card is also enclosed which we hope you will enjoy spending on a new set of your choice.


That makes it sound like a form letter. If this was received via email, there's no way someone would have included the "enclosed" remark if written explicitly for email. And that explains pretty much all the problems pointed out above as well-- it's not written with an AFOL in mind, it's written for the standard consumer, to reassure them that LEGO's doing the best it can, and that the person feels that their feedback was heard.

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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Joedward » Mon Nov 29, 2010 1:43 pm

Just to check, does the quality control issue extend to the calendars?
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Draykov » Mon Nov 29, 2010 2:57 pm

In all honesty, I can't say that with 100% certainty yet in regard to the 2011 sets as we haven't opened ours, but for previous calendars (City, Pirate and Castle), they've all been up to snuff. I don't think there is any reason to worry when it comes to Advent calendars, thankfully. Makes sense given the relatively high volume of standard non-figure parts included in those sets.
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Draykov » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:36 pm

So, apparently, there is rumor that LEGO is upping the MSRP on Collectible Minifigures from $1.99 to $2.99. Still unsubstantiated at this point, but if true, it's unacceptable.

My understanding is that LEGO moved production of "supplemental minifigures" (i.e. figs available outside of traditional sets) to China because plastic or taxation in Europe is expensive...something like that...the main driving force being the demand for more minifigs and making an effort to meet that demand in an affordable way. Well, that strategy has resulted in a dip in quality. But wait...if TLG expects a single minfig to sell for $2.99 (instead of $1.99), why don't they have confidence in making them the right way and selling them at that price? I'm making a jump here in assuming a $2.99 price tag will cover it, but here's an idea. Mass quantities makes for cost effectiveness, right? Maybe churn out a few boxes of "army building" castle dudes, Spartans, orcs...that kind of thing. Could you see yourself buying a box of 100 identical [place your favorite theme faction here] "pawns" for $299 if they were the same great quality we've come to know and love? 50 for $150? I think I could. If they've been able to do something like this as recently as 2005 for under $50 MSRP, then I would think they could do it with other themes and still maintain profitability, meet consumer demand for minifigures and avoid sacrificing quality.


As cool as the Collectible Minifigure concept is in terms of variety, I'd sooner buy a ton of identical yet high quality knights, Imperial soldiers, space dudes or what have you than a variety of cheaply made figs.

I'm ranting at this point...
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Robzula » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:48 pm

Wow, that was all over the place... but your main point is the rumor about the price hike?
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Draykov » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:53 pm

I guess my main point is why the move of production to China to make more figs AND the price hike? Why not one or the other? The notion that either/or is a viable option assumes a lot of things, one of them being that TLG truly does value a quality product as much as it does profitability.
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Jargon » Tue Nov 30, 2010 5:52 pm

For what it's worth, Series 3 was originally $1.99 at Fred Meyer before they marked them up another dollar. I would wait until we see how LEGO prices these before we draw assumptions from TRU prices.
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Draykov » Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:02 pm

As a follow-up to Joedward...so far so good. The first day in the City calendar was brick-built, but the minifig in the Castle calendar (not surprisingly) came up clean. I think we're gonna be okay on the calendar front.

Edit: After I called Customer Service and explained the email I had received and the fact that I hadn't received anything physically, they sent the envelope (and a gift card, which was nice). Now I just have to send in the "offending" figs.
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby legodavee123 » Mon Dec 20, 2010 2:12 pm

One other tidbit of information that I heard (not sure which source it was-- it was a LEGO employee, but I don't remember if it was an LBR employee, Jamie, or a model shop worker): The collectible minifigs were initially intended as a loss leader.

Also, we know from Mike Rayhawk (formerly contracted by LEGO for Knight's Kingdom concept art and other stuff) that he was the one to pitch the idea initially along with someone else (I don't recall the other person's name). And they were told (presumably back in 2004) that LEGO wouldn't pick up the idea because they were a BUILDING toy company, not a COLLECTIBLE company, and/or not an "action-figure" company.

My guess is that whoever is pushing the idea at LEGO finally got them to agree to try it out. LEGO has posted internally that minifigs were one of their highest-demand products. They literally could NOT produce minifigs fast enough (source being LEGO's internal "LEGO Life" publication, IIRC). Anyway, I'm guessing that the new management finally agreed to test out the theory thanks to the change in direction that Jorgen gave the company in roughly 2006.

Given that minifigs were in such high demand, LEGO probably did the smart thing and decided ASAP to start producing minifigs in China. After seeing lower quality levels, though, they likely just limited the figures to 1-offs like magnets, collectibles, etc. If nothing else, it likely eased the demand on European production, meaning the high-quality facilities had more time to produce more figs for standard sets.

But when the idea for the collectible minifigs was initially pitched to retailers, none of them were interested (source LBR employee). TRU, WalMart, Target were all rather passive on the idea. Hence, I'm guessing that LEGO decided to still follow through with the idea, but instead make them a loss leader. They guessed that because all the retailers weren't interested, that their market research was probably correct, and that the collectible figs wouldn't sell very well, and lowered the price to be a loss leader.

For those that aren't familiar with the term, a "loss leader" is something that the company sells at either a loss or a near-zero profit margin in order to promote the brand. LEGO doesn't make money on the sales directly, but instead encourages customers to buy MORE LEGO on which LEGO CAN profit.

In other words, my guess is that the figures were initially slated to be the current price of $2.99, but when they weren't picked up by retailers, LEGO cut the price so they wouldn't wind up with a lot of unwanted inventory, and labelled them as loss leaders.

But as we all know, the 1st series collectible minifigs did EXTREMELY well, which is likely why the price went up. Again, my guess is that LEGO wouldn't have continued it very long as a loss leader, but ARE likely to continue it if it's profitable.

As for moving production to their high-quality centers in Europe? I would guess that there's simply no capacity, and expanding that capacity would be too costly. IE, the figures might cost, say, double what they cost LEGO currently in China-- and why bother moving production if people are wildly buying up the cheap-quality minifigs, even at the higher prices?

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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Draykov » Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:42 am

Well, I'm calling it. I may eventually have a change of heart, but for the time being I'm done with collectible minfigs/battleacks/etc. I'm still keeping the collectibles I have sealed and I may eventually make an effort to round out my series 2 collection through trades so I can have a complete set of 16, but I'm not buying any more crap. Minifigs in standard sets only for me.

The LEGO rep I spoke to on the phone did indeed have an envelope sent out to me. I used the gift card and my balance of previously acquired VIP points to get 10215 UCS Jedi Starfighter for free after it went on sale. I sent a complete Series 1 caveman along with an Octan torso and a Pirates imperial soldier torso (the latter 2 came from build-a-minifig bins from a LEGO store) back in the envelope the company sent to me.
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Chief » Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:46 am

legodavee123 wrote:One other tidbit of information that I heard ...

*snip*

Thanks for the insight. Very good information to know. I've already witnessed an overabundance of Series 2 floating around, and now with Series 3 out in presumably much higher numbers, maybe the supply will exceed the demand and the price will drop back down to 1.99 a pop and they'll become the loss leaders they were slated to be.
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Re: MINIFIG QC: Original theme BPs, Vintage Collections, etc

Postby Draykov » Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:15 pm

Just noticed this article over at Brother-Brick that was posted on New Year's Eve:

LEGO answers some questions about Quality

None of it particularly relevant to this particular discussion, but I suppose it's promising that Ambassadors have a more direct line to LEGO QC.
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