Where do I even begin.
I guess I can start with the positives. This year, for the first time, LEGO had a large free build area composed of only 2x4 yellow bricks. Personally, I think it's a great idea since it exemplifies the very core of the toy brand we all know and love. It also forces a builder to use their imagination to build something creative. At the end of every day, the booth employees/volunteers would tear most of the creations that were built but some were kept throughout the week.
The retail portion of the booth also had all the licensed themes for sale, including the newest Star Wars assortment. There was also Ninjago near the end of the week which was was a huge seller, and the first set of the Master Builder Academy. The retail side also sold the Star Wars Advent Calendar exclusive set for $50. You were limited to 2 per purchase, but you could always go back to the end of the line to purchase more. There was no ticket system for this exclusive, that was reserved for the minifig giveaway. Simply line up and buy.
This is a far cry from how they usually handle their exclusive, but like I said, the usual method was reserved for distributing the Batman and Green Lantern minifigs. The ticket system has been LEGO's method since 2006, the year they decided to enter the exclusive game with their very first LEGO Batman exclusive announcing the start of the LEGO Batman line. Little has changed over the years in the method. You line up, once the designated time rolls around you draw a ticket. If your ticket has a stamp, you win the chance to buy the exclusive. I know, it sounds ridiculous to win the chance to spend money. LEGO wised up this year and just gave away the minifigs once you draw the winning ticket.
I actually don't mind this method since the LEGO exclusive wasn't really one of those highly sought after items, not like whatever Hasbro or Mattel was offering to generate such great demand every year. You could pull a ticket, and then get right back in at the end of the line and repeat until all the winning tickets were drawn.
This year, the landscape completely changed. Wednesday through Friday, the demand was pretty high and steadily increasing. The lines were getting longer, the chances to go through the line multiple times was diminishing. Saturday was the worst day in that line to purchase the Star Wars exclusive went around the booth in one direction, and the line to pull the ticket went around the booth in another. At one point, the minifig line doubled back on itself, making a wall of people 3 people thick around parts of the booth.
It was so crowded that security came by and LEGO had to quickly change their strategy. Instead of drawing a winning or losing ticket, you just get a ticket and winning numbers would be posted later on in the day. Much smoother I though, and the line went much faster. It still wasn't ideal but was a good change to accommodate the large crowds.
There are plenty of ways that LEGO could change their method of handling exclusives.
- Sell immediately: For whatever reason, LEGO insists on starting their ticket distribution and/or sales at a certain time. And at the same time, they insist that there be no lines before a certain designated time. I don't think this is realistic at all. People who really want to get them are more than willing to wait, so naturally a line is going to form. If they started selling the exclusives immediately once the hall floor is open to the public, it would mitigate any large mobs of people just hanging around waiting and forming lines against their wishes. Ticket distribution should also be done immediately.
- No tickets: sell or give away the exclusive on a first come first serve basis. Lots of other booths handle it this way and it works well enough.
- Designated line area: Some booths have their line form elsewhere and batches of people are brought to the booth for the transaction.
- Presell online for pickup at the show: Currently, I only know of one company that does this and that is Sideshow Collectibles. You purchase your exclusive online weeks or months before the show and you can pick up the exclusive at any time during the con. The infrastructure needed to make this happen is probably far more than what LEGO is willing invest in, but it is an idea.
My preferred method? First come first serve. There's a certain number of exclusives allocated per day, so if a person isn't able to buy one, there's always the next day. Use a ticket system as a secondary measure to ensure that no one cuts in the line and that those who follow the rules are guaranteed an exclusive. People are willing to throw their money at LEGO but they are making it more difficult than it has to be.
I realize this is already a rather lengthy read, but I've tapped forum member Mos_Eisley to recount his experience. I can only hope that the powers that be at LEGO seriously reconsider their approach for next year. But given how bad things got, I don't think it'll take much convincing. Hit the jump to read more.
Below is Mos_Eisley's account. I met him last year doing the merry-go-round known as the ticket drawing at LEGO's booth. An all around nice guy, he's helped fellow FBTB members acquire the exclusive with a little markup to make it worth his time. Given the fiasco of this year, I doubt any amount he got made it worth it. I for one appreciate his efforts to help community members. I'll have to make sure we hook up next year for drinks. Anyways, read on:
Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin with the way LEGO booth was managed at the Con this year. I’ll try to tackle it in the order that I experienced it.
So somewhere around 9:00-9:15am the doors open and thousands of people flood into the main exhibit hall Thursday morning. Excited about the LEGO exclusives, I head straight for the LEGO booth. When I get there, I see the line that has already formed to buy the Star Wars Advent calendar. No problem, Comic-Con is all about standing in lines. However, they won’t start selling the exclusive sets until 10:00am?! While other companies are rapidly moving their exclusive items as soon as the doors open, we’re all just waiting to hand over our money. Oh well, I have to time to survey the booth. The main thing you’d notice at the LEGO booth this year is that right in the center of the approx. 30’x30’ exhibit booth is a large pile of thousands of yellow 2x4 standard LEGO bricks. This sounds and looks awesome at first, but it becomes much less entertaining when you’re trying to navigate through 15 kids and their parents sitting on the floor building, various displays, general foot traffic and the angry mob/line that is either waiting to buy the Advent calendar or trying their luck at the Super Heroes raffle (more on the raffle later).
So back to the exclusive line I’m going to be waiting in for 45 minutes. Why am I waiting again? Every other booth has sold out of their exclusives already and LEGO hasn’t even sold one yet. Who is this helping? If it was my booth, I’d want this line out of my booth ASAP. Not only are we annoyed that we’re just standing here, but we’re blocking half the products that they are trying to sell. Sure, a few brave souls ask to go through us, but the rest just get out of dodge without seeing everything that is for sale. This wait just doesn’t make any sense. Whether they start selling these at 9:15am or 5:00pm, the same people are going to get them. We’re here, we want your stuff, just sell it to us! If the idea is that this prevents people from being able to get back in line again to buy another 2 sets (2 was the limit per person per transaction), just limit it to 2 per person per day and stamp our badge or something.
Ok, it’s close to 10:30am now that I’ve completed my purchase. Guess what that means?! It’s time to line up for the 11:00am Super Heroes minifigure raffle! Yay, a raffle sounds fun, who doesn’t want to do that? Nobody wants to after they experience it Comic-Con style. It sounds simple enough – everyone line up, reach into the box and pull out a ticket. If your ticket is stamped on the back, you’re the lucky winner of a 1 of 1,500 Batman or Green Lantern minifigure (the morning raffle was for one minifigure while the afternoon raffle was for the other one). However, it isn’t so simple or fun when two hundred+ people join the line that wraps all the way around the entire booth (one and a half times or more at its busiest!). I managed to get through the line twice in the first drawing but didn’t get a winner either time (fortunately my girlfriend had better luck, getting a stamp on 1 of 2 tickets).
It’s around 11:00am now and I can finally leave the LEGO booth! I’m off to see what everyone else has to offer this year, at least until 1:30pm when it’s time to line up for 2:00pm raffle!
I don’t mean to sound so negative about the booth. It was kind of fun in a strange way. I would do it all over again so I guess it wasn’t that bad. It’s all part of the Comic-Con experience. However, these raffles and more importantly their lines just weren’t run very well. LEGO actually changed their raffle style for the Saturday and Sunday. Instead of drawing for a stamped ticket, they would pass out tickets, then you would return later to see if your numbers matched the winning set of numbers they had picked. This helped the situation a little, but there were still issues with the lines when it was time to pass out the tickets. This same thing was also happening at the DC Comics and WB booths because they were also raffling off some of the minifigures. They were all at different times so everyone would just go from one booth to the next until they were done for the day. Everything was just so inconsistent. One day you could line up whenever you wanted, the next time you could line up only 15 minutes early, next time no lining up early at all. Sometimes you could sit down, others time you had to stand up the whole time. Each booth had the same set of guards managing the lines each time but I guess their mood decided what rules were going to be applied each time. By Sunday, we were lining up an hour early to avoid the lines! Then after we sat there for 30 minutes, a guard would tell all of us that we can't line up yet. So 50 people mill around in the aisle and neighboring booths until official raffle line-up time. It makes for a fairly chaotic scene when the "ok, the line starts here" announcement is made!
I actually think the LEGO employees were the worst about the raffles. By Sunday, they were visibly over it. I felt they were to the point of being quite rude with some of the people who were just trying to line up to get their products. I saw the same employees each time at WB and DC and they appeared to be much more comfortable and used to these types of situations. I just skipped the LEGO raffles on Saturday because they had gotten to be so ridiculous. It turned out the new system worked a little better so I went back Sunday but by that time the employees had kind of taken the fun out of it there. Ultimately, people are going to line up for things that they want at these types of events. There are thousands of people so the only way to get what you want is to line up early. I don’t think there is any way around it, these exhibitors just need to be ready for it.
Were you there? What did you think? I invite you to leave your comments on our forum. Hit the "comments" link to leave a message.
Did you read all that? If so, send me an email to email@example.com with the subject line of tl;dr to win yourself a LEGO Star Wars Comic Con Exclusive Advent Calendar. The number edition of the set is somewhere in the 400's. I'm too lazy to go downstairs and look at the moment. Standard giveaway rules apply. You have until 11:59pm PST (GMT -8) July 31, 2011 to finish reading and send your email. I missed out on a few months of Battle Pack giveaways, hopefully this will make up for it.