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Yes, Lego knows that some are abusing the system as a means of purchasing parts but complaints by those abusing it that the system isn't designed for them is sort of like a thief complaining that the burglar alarm is too shrill and the combination on the safe is too difficult to crack.
Is this a flame?
It was impressive, to say the least, but the truth is that it isn't a very reasonable or practical way to open a safe. :)
I like the idea of being able to get loads of brick that is not standard from this new system in place. even if it isn't how some people see it is intended for.
What Pick-a-brick doesn't have enough of is the unusual parts, the very ones that you can't find in many sets. If you want one of the car roof/hood pieces, either 4 wide or 6 wide, your choice from Pick a Brick is white or black. No other colors available. Same with the various car doors, can't get those via Pick-a-brick. Same with many sizes of wheels and tires. These are the very parts you would want if you build a lot of vehicles, and the very parts you can't get through pick-a-brick. It's frustrating, and I'm sure other builders experience similar problems with their preferred theme (i.e. space parts for example).
First of all, the concerns about LEGO not selling sets because of this, or selling fewer sets because of this service. I wouldn't worry about it. This has come up before in other conversations, and it may be difficult, but step outside of your AFOL bubble. Go into a Toys r us, Target, even a Lego Brand Retail store, 95% of the people in there don't know the difference between Lego and Mega Blocks or think they are the same, have no clue what different LEGO themes are available, are buying sets for their kids, don't even realize LEGO has a website, or all of the above.
AFOL's are the ones going to be taking advantage of this service. They will see a surge of replacement parts orders, and then it will taper off. They will work out the kinks. There will be people who take advantage of the system, and LEGO will make adjustments. It happens. Just like we can't go buy 32 in one pop of the series 9 minifigures next month. We as consumers adjust.
How much do you spend on LEGO a year $1000, $10000, $100000? According to their press release (http://aboutus.lego.com/en-us/news-room/2012/march/annual-result-2011/) they saw profits of $776 Million last year, with this year projected to be higher. Even if you spend $100000 a year, you don't even register on their financials. LEGO caters to parents buying sets for their kids.
-> Customer Service
-> Missing Parts
You then get 4 choices:
1. Piece is missing
2. piece was broken
3. Piece broke when using
4. "Buy a piece"
"Buy a piece" then gives you 2 options:
1) Pick a Brick
2) can't find it in PAB? We will send you a quote.
when you select the second option, you then get a robust catalog, sorted by set for easy filtering, with the ability to add up to 200 of any item to your cart.
If LEGO didn't want people using this option to source large quantities of parts for purposes other than "replacement", then they would not have included option to "buy a piece", and certainly not sub-option 2 "let us send you a quote for items not found in pab". LEGO clearly contemplated the thought that some people would want to order up to 200 of any specific piece, regardless of piece count within a set, and built the UI and added options and language for users to do just that.
Is the primary use of this new feature as an extended PAB option? obviously not. however, to say this is an abuse of this new feature is not a fair or accurate statement in the least. LEGO is simply extending in an online format what they have long been doing over the phone already. Yes, they've kept it well-buried in the site, but they clearly considered the bulk buy scenario and went out of their way to accomodate it.
The reason they give the option on Pick-A-Brick is because buying from their bulk service is cheaper than their replacement service. They even mention that.
I don't deny that they play a little loose with their system knowing that people will use it for bulk purchases. My point is that those complaining that the system is not set up well for bulk purchases are ignoring the fact that they system is not meant and set up for such. It is designed to accomodate its purpose: to make finding replacement parts easy. Hence the difficulties some are having with finding parts for bulk purchases are because they're relying on a system that first and foremost was not designed for such a use.
Trying to use the system to buy licensed parts, which Lego has long maintained are not for sale, is abuse of that system. Lego will replace individual licensed parts on occassion but not in bulk.
Also this implementation seems a bit weird. I mean this new extended alternate PAB system is being hacked into the replacement part service which doesn't seem like the wisest idea. Bulk buyers will simply clear out all the sought after parts (or accelerate that process a lot) which will decrease the quality of Lego's replacement service. I understand that this was already happening with phoning in but it will surely grow in scale a lot.
I don't care if anyone thinks I am abusing the system by ordering parts that I have not bought the sets for. I "abuse" my lego anyway, since I don't often build the sets I buy following the official instructions. At least 50% of the sets I buy are for parts rather than to build as lego specify in the instructions. I abuse the lego website by downloading instuctions for sets I don't own, and I sometimes build those sets using existing parts. If I don't own that set, and I am missing the part, I see no problem with ordering it from lego. At no stage do they ask me to sign a declaration that I have bought that set. I am missing the part. Isn't the point of lego that bricks from different sets can be used together? I am not going to buy new sets where I already have the majority of the parts I need. Now, if they insisted that you signed a declaration that you were only ordering parts for sets that you have already bought, then it would be abuse if I ticked the box.
I don't even care that their ordering system is clunky. Having to state the set, having to wait a few days before they give me permission to buy, etc. I don't even care that they exclude licensed parts. What is important to me is customer service, and lego have seriously let themselves down here. They either did not test this system before going live or if they did, then they did a bad job. Advertising parts for sale that they refuse to sell is just plain wrong. It may be an oversight, but they need to take the system down and fix it. They are still advertising for example, the heads from 6868. I know they are licensed parts since they refused to sell these to me on thursday. Yet they are still advertising them for sale. That is wrong. It does reflect badly on the company - why bother to use them if you have to wait a few days, you have no idea whether they will honour either the prices shown or the parts that you order that they say they sell. If they remove too many parts too many times, people will not bother to use the service. And they will get a bad impression of lego.com, the website they ordered from.
There is such a simple algorithm they could have used.
1) Is this set licensed? If no, list all parts as available to order (if in stock).
2) For each part in the set, loop over all sets that the part appears in. Are any of these sets unlicensed? If yes, then list the part as availble to buy (subject to stock).
There is also a simple algorithm to stop people buying too many of one part.
3) List the maximum quantity that someone can buy as the number of pieces of that part in the set for which they say they are missing pieces.
Anyway, my hope is that this will push down prices of for example, minifig torsos, on bricklink. I'd continue to use bricklink then. If lego charge £2 postage plus 50p or so for a (non-licensed) torso, then bricklink sellers will have to go down to those prices for the parts that lego decide they will sell to be able to compete. That is good for the consumer (that wants those pieces, other pieces' prices will probably go up). In that scenario, I would buy from bricklink rather than lego. Remarkably, bricklink has added value compared to buying from lego. If I order from bricklink, then I almost certainly know I will get the parts, I know what the sellers have in stock, and I can also order licensed parts at the same time and I will know relatively quickly that I will get the parts. Whereas history has told me that if I order from lego, then I do not know if they will have the part in stock, I do not know that they will honour the price they originally said, I cannot order any licensed parts at the same time, and I have to wait a few days to even know if they will give me permission to order. It also means I stay off lego.com. I reckon I visit bricklink at least 4-5 times per week. I rarely visit lego.com these days. I only go if I read (on brickset or elsewhere) that there is a sale or promotion or if I want to download instructions. Even then, I usually bypass the front page so don't look in their shop. This could have been another way to help drive more traffic through their store, but for me, it won't do that.
If a part is hard-to-find but not licensed and Lego is stocking it via their replacement service, they may not continue to produce stock of it. I came across a couple pieces in Lego's replacement service which were not licensed but which were only found in a single non-licensed set and no where else. As that set is long out of production, I wasn't surprised that Lego did not have stock of that piece. They didn't apparently create a huge stock of them to begin with In the end, Bricklink sellers need not lower their prices.
All of the problems you've listed are also possible from Bricklink. I have a relatively poor track record of satisfaction with Bricklink seeing as 67% of the orders I've placed were not filled properly and had color substitutions that they "hoped I wouldn't mind" (I do mind).
Your post brought to mind an interesting issue in the Lego community that a friend who is a philosophy/theology major and I were discussing. Here on the forums there are some who hate resellers and claim that they turn Lego into something other than a toy. However this is true of adult consumers as well. The thing is though that resellers are merely consumers as well; they simply don't continue through the consumer process to the end by using their purchase and instead resell the product to someone who will. They don't circumvent Lego's profit margin or services since they're still engaging on some level with Lego's intended process. There's nothing unethical about that and yet many here have a problem with it. However, then there are those who view Lego as their personal resource, who proudly admit to unethically abusing Lego's replacement service to circumvent Lego's marketing strategies. Yes, parts distribution in sets is a form of marketing because if they wanted a particular part or figure to be readily available they would stick it in every set; instead, they use them to encourage purchases of particular sets. These consumers whine about costs even as they fail to realize that their demand is what drives cost. Lego is a business and their business model is a rather smart one that also contains a very reasonable and excellent customer service element. By comparison, a segment of their consumer base, and sadly despite acting like children it's not the children, exhibit the immature and selfishly unethical attributes that have a far more negative impact than resellers ever do.
It's not flamebaiting which is why I specifically noted that I am not attempting to be disparing to any individual. In fact, the closest thing to flamebaiting in this thread is your post since it made no contribution to the discussion and was directed solely at criticism of an individual.
This is a flamebait, in case you were wondering, since it's full of inflammatory language, is intended to put other people's behaviour down, implies that your own ethics are superior, and assigns attributes to other people such as 'proud' and 'abuse' in a way that is clearly intended to be derogatory.
Pull it back on track, people, or I'm closing it.
You are right that you can build different models out of a building toy such as lego. Which is why the replacement parts section is useful. If I own 99% of a model from parts in other sets, then why buy the whole set if I want to build the model. I just purchase the missing parts direct from lego and I can build it. I am fairly sure that is not fraud in any jurisdiction.
We’d like to help restore your old sets back to new, but due to strict licensing
agreements we are unable to sell you some of the pieces you requested. I have
removed the following parts from your request, 4556007.
Note that it says parts, and only one part is removed - and I only asked for one. Again pointing at a template.
It is from #3838-1: Lava Dragon. That was available in the UK, so it is not a regional license problem.
I have also got some emails saying that parts have been discontinued or are out of stock - so they do use different words if it is a stock issue.
I also tried to get a Master Builders Academy torso in a different order, but they also say they cannot sell that one for the same licensing reason. At least this one is more understandable, given that it is not available in the UK.
For example. I think PaB only has the wheelbarrow body, but (at least at the last time I checked) did not have the wheel or tire for that wheelbarrow. BUT in this section you can get all of those parts in one 'bag'.
I just find this infinitely more useful than having to call LEGO replacement parts number and have them hunt down parts I want.
Even now it tells a whole lot that from the super-expensive sets it's the rare parts that are not available for replacement any more. My prediction is that this trend will intensify a lot in the future. So little Timmy better be careful in the future which part he loses or breaks.
If you want to debate the ethics and legal aspects of using the parts replacement service with specific individuals then feel free to take it on to PM, but not on here please.
1 Missing parts
2 Select age and location for "Bricks and Pieces"
3 Buy a piece
4 Bricks and Pieces (The Pick a brick site has 1600 different bricks and is the cheapest way for you to buy individual pieces. However, some pieces can only be found here in Bricks & Pieces as we have an even larger variety. Choose what works for you below.)
5 Tell us the set number of the set you need bricks for - so we can show you all the bricks in that set.
At no stage does it tell me anything about replacement parts. It is missing parts. If I want to build, for example, a 4208 and I have 95% of the parts already then I am missing the other 5%. I go through the missing pieces links to find them. They are not replacement parts - they are ones I am missing.
And you know what? I just phoned through an order confirmation and I asked - is it ok to purchase parts for a model I do not yet own as I want to build it and have most of the parts already. The answer? It is fine. And can I purchase multiple quantities for a MOC? Yes, so long as we have decent stock levels.
This thread does have potential to be interesting, but this constant derailment is utterly pointless and going nowhere fast.
I'm not that bothered if someone thinks I am committing fraud by asking a company if I can purchase something from them, and them agreeing to sell me what I want.
I actually think we can close this thread now anyway - people have been made aware that replacement parts can be bought online, and we've heard the opposing views (none of which are fact however strongly people believe otherwise) about how the service can and should be used, so the discussion has run its course.