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LEGO shopping: the myth of Toys’R’Us deals

by admin on October 16, 2012

in Shopping Tips

If you have been involved in the LEGO hobby for some time you are well aware of how important it is to have a LEGO shopping strategy. LEGO is not cheap, and both the LEGO Company as well as retailers are taking advantage of the popularity of the brand by keeping prices as high as they can. This is an unfortunate occurrence, especially in the current economy. Ultimately the strategy may backfire both for LEGO and retailers, but that is another topic, and whatever they do, we can still develop our own LEGO shopping strategies to get the best deals. 🙂

One of the places people often shop for LEGO is Toys’R’Us. It is pretty much the only toy-shop chain left in the USA, and people naturally think of visiting them first when shopping for LEGO or other toys. One thing they are often not aware of however is how much Toys’R’Us jacks up prices on LEGO sets (and probably everything else too). A $5-$10-$20 mark-up from regular retail price is very common.

Worse is when Toys’R’Us advertises sales around holidays. You will see 40% Off and BOGO 50% (Buy-One-Get-One-50%-Off) sales on LEGO advertised on the Toys’R’Us website and at their retail stores. However that 40% or 50% off is NOT what you think it is! In fact you often end up worse then buying the same LEGO set at an Official LEGO Store, or some generic retailer like Wal-Mart. In the following video Jason from BrickShow.com will show you how Toys’R’Us is cooking the numbers and what you really end up with when you bite the hook on a Toys’R’Us LEGO sale.

Eye-opening, isn’t it? The point is that if you want to get LEGO for the best prices, you really have to do your math. LEGO shopping could actually be quite fun if you take finding the best prices as a challenge. And it doesn’t have to be a long and tedious endeavor. Just have the latest LEGO Catalog or visit the Online LEGO Shop to check regular retail prices (I like the Catalog because I can take it with me to the store I’m planning to shop at). Then have a calculator handy to decode all the pricing voodoo retailers use to lure us into buying from them. 🙄

Again, the most notorious offender is Toys’R’Us. Other retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Barnes & Noble and of course Official LEGO Stores almost always use the regular retail price, and when they have LEGO sales they to be decent, even excellent (like the 50% off regular retail price on some of the best LEGO sets at Wal-Mart last December). They may not sounds as fancy as Toys’R’Us as BOGO smoke-and-mirrors LEGO sales, but you don’t have to do complex calculations just to figure out if you are actually getting a deal.

FREE Shipping on all orders of $99 or more.  Valid 10.15.12 - 10.31.12

Also, Jason’s point about the LEGO VIP program is enlightening. If you are close to a LEGO store, or if you shop at the Online LEGO Shop, make sure you take advantage of this program. Especially when you can combine it with LEGO’s free shipping and double VIP point offers (like currently), you can really get an excellent deal as these offers are stackable. I also like Jason’s strategy of going right back to the store and getting a free set with the just acquired VIP points. How is that for an instant saving? 😉

LEGO VIP Members earn double points on all purchases this October!  Valid 10.1.12 - 10.31.12

So what do you think? Did you learn something from the video? Have you ever fallen for the Toys’R’Us advertisements? Do you have your own LEGO shopping tips you would like to share? What is your shopping strategy for this holiday season? Feel free to discuss in the comment section below! 🙂

You may also like to check out the LEGO Shopping Tips section for more LEGO shopping ideas and strategies or select from the following posts:

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

nace10 (Noah M.) A.K.A. Link Of Hyrule (Zelda rocks and so does Ninjago & LOTR & SW & Kirby! & LEGOS!) October 16, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Wow. As Jefferson said, if you buy something because its on sale, it will be expesive to you.

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Dude October 16, 2012 at 10:59 AM

WHEN IS THE SALE? 😀

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Jacob October 16, 2012 at 11:46 AM

One thing to note is that, at least where I live, TRU used to have some pretty good sales that were unadvertized. I was once able to pick up two Muaka & Kane-ra sets (MSRP 80$) for a total of $40. There was a tiny designer set (I think less than $7 originally) I got for less than a dollar. The best deal I got was Doc Ock’s Hideout (MSRP 50$), that was going for $5 each. I still regret only getting two of them. However, most of this was 2004-2005 era, when LEGO experienced a slight depression.
I would still recommend TRU for people wanting to find sets that are more than a ear old/ recently discontinued. Because they don’t put items on “sale” anymore, you can find some inventory that has been long since gone from LEGO and other retailers (earlier this year, my TRU still had some BIONICLE stars sets that were released in 2009). TRU mark up is (usually) less than secondary market mark up. Still, it is better to buy it when other retails in general.

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Eric at a LEGO a Day October 16, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Agreed. While I almost never buy anything from Toys R Us, it is worth stopping in from time to time. Sometimes you will find an off the wall set at an unheard of discount. My last major score there was a couple years ago. I got the large Kingdoms Castle for $25. The store is right by my work, so I can hit it when I pick up lunch. Don’t waste gas if it’s too far.

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Micho October 16, 2012 at 1:48 PM

I got one of teh old Pirate Ships from the 2nd wave back in 2002 for $50 at TRU, that was my biggest TRU score to date. I agree though, they do keep discontinued sets for a long time.

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nace10 (Noah M.) A.K.A. Link Of Hyrule (Zelda rocks and so does Ninjago & LOTR & SW & Kirby! & LEGOS!) October 17, 2012 at 5:16 PM

Which one???

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admin October 16, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Jacob, that is actually a really good point about TRU carrying long discontinued sets. I have seen that at my TRU as well. Sometimes those can work out in your favor because even with inflated prices you could probably get them cheaper then on the secondary market. At least if TRU is close to you – as you never know what and when they pull out something from an old forgotten stock-room. 😉

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Billy October 16, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Yeah I was there yesterday and saw a Prince of Persia set, which was from two years ago.

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The Dark Jedi December 30, 2012 at 7:03 PM

I noticed that. It’s the same up here in Canada as well with TRU keeping old sets. I think they still have discontinued Harry Potter sets. Although, once in the year I managed to get my hands on a Prince of Persia set (race against time to be exact) at Walmart. Despite that, I dislike shopping there even though they are the closest store to me where I can get Lego. They usually take an EXTREMELY long time to get new sets, and I go mad when I walk up that Lego aisle and see no new sets whatsoever. 🙁

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admin December 31, 2012 at 9:57 AM

I think it very much depends on store management. I have two Walmarts within a one mile radius from me. The smaller one consistently carries the latest LEGO sets and has a large selection. The larger one is a Super Walmart and it has much smaller selection even though they have a lot more space. I think that the smaller Walmart has a LEGO fan manager. 😉

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Billy October 16, 2012 at 12:34 PM

I just bought stuff from Toys R US yesterday

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Micho October 16, 2012 at 1:46 PM

Let’s see… earlier this year I bought two Mill Village Attacks and yes, they were slightly cheaper and came out to about $60 each, but that’s because they were the same price. I also got a King’s Castle and another Mill Village and there was not much savings there, but I just pretended I bought the King;s Castle at $110, and it was to sell it. I only bought them because they were the last sets in Yuma of that kind, I already owned them and I know that in the next two years they will pulling 1 1/2 to 2 Xs my initial investment. But I would NEVER buy form TRU for my own purposes. I was able to get two Thor and the Cosmic Cube Polybags two months ago for FREE at TRU, so that was cool. Oops, I forgot I did buy the Atlantis temple at TRU earlier this year too, but I got like a $5 off regular retail (not TRU price) on it.

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Micho October 16, 2012 at 1:50 PM

I think TRU started doing these huge mark-ups since they instituted their buyer rewards program, so there is really no reward

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Chris of Yoda Archives October 16, 2012 at 5:29 PM

The coupons you get from TRU Rewards expire real fast. I think its about two weeks or so.

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Eric at a LEGO a Day October 17, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Yep. Found that out the hard way the first time I earned any. And that was the last time I tried to earn any.

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ntk743 October 16, 2012 at 2:21 PM

I only go to TRU if I have a gift card, but good thing that’s the only time!

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Garmadon October 16, 2012 at 4:31 PM

Really, if you ever want to buy LEGO cheap, Bricklink will likely be the best deal. But talk about math 😉
I like the Imperial Flagship, so I’m checking how much it would take to buy it piece by piece from Bricklink. It’s much cheaper than buying it for $300, but it takes an awful lot of time and math 😉 Seems like it will cost about $170, so it is a very little bit better than buying it a year or so ago. Still, I would’nt advise it, I would rather just buy the set for $10 more dollars.
But they sell some sets all together about half price on Bricklink, so that’s pretty good. 😉

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J.C. October 17, 2012 at 10:30 PM

Agreed, but I just got one for my birthday. Oh well, it’s $25 so maybe, just maybe I can snag a polybag! LOL

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Chris of Yoda Archives October 16, 2012 at 5:27 PM

TRU is really expensive for most toys. I knew they were expensive for LEGO but didn’t do the math to the point Brickshow did, I buy most my sets from LEGO for the VIP points. I was hoping TRU would have a good sale for their Bricktober event but so far no big sale on what I want. And with a double point month. I’ll stick to LEGO store.

Plus just got a LEGO Catalog with a 10% in store coupon. It’s only good on one item.

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Eric at a LEGO a Day October 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM

I’m really hoping to get that 10% coupon this month. I want to use it on the Town Hall, and get the double VIP points!

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Eric at a LEGO a Day October 19, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Where did you get the 10% coupon? I just got the holiday catalog, and it didn’t have one. 🙁

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admin October 19, 2012 at 1:17 PM

I hope Chris will clarify, but as far as I know you only get those cupons included in your catalog when you live near a LEGO store. I never get them either as I’m 2 hours away from the closest LEGO store, but my friends in Orlando do get them. 🙁

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Eric at a LEGO a Day October 21, 2012 at 9:30 AM

I do live close to a LEGO store, and I’ve gotten the 10% coupon with almost every catalog.

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admin October 21, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Hm… then maybe you want to call them. You should have gotten a cupon. 😕

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Chris of Yoda Archives October 16, 2012 at 5:49 PM

I like the point he made about buying something then turning around and getting some thing else with point right then. I didn’t know the point were good that fast.

Anyone that’s been to a LEGO event, do they have sales at the event or is it retail prices. I’m going to one in November and wonder if I should hold off purchases till then or get double points now.

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admin October 17, 2012 at 8:38 AM

Chris, I just recently talked with someone who said that that the deals LEGO has at fan events are not so special. However sometimes they do have decent sales, especially sets that are about to get discontinued. So it is worth checking them out. As always, have a price-list so you know what you are getting into. But at least LEGO is not going to sell stuff for more than the regular price. 😉

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Eric at a LEGO a Day October 17, 2012 at 10:41 AM

At KidsFest, there were some good deals. The Y-Wing was only $35, and the Hoth base was $65.

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legostuff71 October 16, 2012 at 7:27 PM

TRU gets things a few weeks sooner than other stores. even before the lego shop it self. Also, why is it that the people that work for lego can’t give us(THE CUSTOMER) a heads up on when things come out. so, we know when we can hit the stores.(oh, I don’t buy the “I don’t know anything about that item “). that’s not always true. It also gives us a chance to save for those exspensive items. WHERE IS THE CUSTOMER LOYELTY?

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Jacob October 16, 2012 at 8:48 PM

They normally don’t tell employee’s more than a week in advance when stuff will officially come out, especially since there has been a few instances where my LEGO store had all but one of a product on its shelf (which was normally a store exclusive they didn’t get in until a month later). This is a problem with LEGO corporate, not LEGO store employees.

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Ike May 10, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Strange, I had a talktive employe tell me about the second wave of LOTR just after the first ones came out!

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legostuff71 October 16, 2012 at 7:50 PM

I meant to say where is the loyelty to the customer. The family that started the business were very poor and around the time when people were struggling to just get by. I hope that lego hasn’t gotten so big that they have forgotten the passed.

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rich June 23, 2014 at 11:01 AM

funny, after visiting toys r us after some years to see what was new with start wars, joes, legos, i was seriously amazed at the pricing crime going on there and had to look it up on google and see if others were as amazed. 80 bucks for one lego x-wing? some junk schleich toys too were really over the top. every aisle was a new amazement. such an in your face rip off. poor parents who get dragged there and don’t know better. place should be picketed.

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admin June 23, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Rich, prices on everything are going up; food, gasoline, utilities. As you probably know, the world is in a financial turmoil that will likely stay with us for a while and may even get worse. The major issue with plastic toys is that they are directly tied with oil prices, something that they can’t control. A lot of companies (including LEGO) are looking for alternate materials both for environmental reasons and to cut costs. So far no alternative has been found.

Having said that, prices of LEGO actually haven’t changed much. LEGO has always been a more expensive, better quality toy than most brands. LEGO still hovers around 10 cents a piece, which is what it has been for many years. LEGO could opt for cheaper plastic, however then they will loose their generational longetivity. This can’t be over-stated; LEGO bricks will last for decades, easily surviving 2-3 generations’ play. It is also a timeless toy not affected by fads or popular trends.

So when you buy LEGO sets, you are not just buying a throwaway toy that your kids will play with then discard after a couple of months. LEGO is an investment. You can buy it, build it, save it for your kids and grandkids, or if you or your decendants are strapped for cash, sell it. Price on LEGO sets on the secondary market will always get your investment back, and in most cases you will get even more than what you bought it for.

TRU can get away with their inflated pricing because it is the only dedicated toy store. When uninformed parents and grandparents think that it is time to buy some toys for little Timmy, that’s where they go. They would get much better pricing at other retailers, but they don’t think of that. So yeah, parents need to do their homework when shopping for toys, but this is true for buying anything be that a car, a house, groceries or toys. 😉

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Wil V. November 22, 2014 at 9:49 PM

Toys R Us is such a rip-off, just came from there store in Glendale, CA and they were selling the Bricktober 2014 LEGO Exclusive Mini Modular Sets for $20.00 each outright. These are suppose to be free with a $75.00 or higher purchase.

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admin November 23, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Yeah, it is sad. They do have some decent deals occasionally, but you really have to know prices and take a calculator to figure out if what they are offering makes sense. Most of the time it doesn’t. 😕

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John December 5, 2014 at 3:03 PM

Great video, I haven’t paid retail for LEGO in years. My son is now 11 been buying for past 5 years or so. Last year I took advantage of TRU deal. they were offering signup for a new TRU Credit card and you got 15% off your purchase right then and there. I got he Death Star for $340 instead of the $40o it was listed for. Also another great sale tactic is using the Entertainment books for kids. We had them for 2014 and each book came with 2 $20 off your purchase of $100 or more at LEGO store, plus add in the points even more savings. In 2015 though they got smart as the sales are about 10% and only on Friends,
City and one other theme.

I do have to say though I have gotten my best deals at TRU in the past. Even now they do price match with sale prices online and then if you shop on Thursday you get an additional 10% off. Just saved about 20% this past week on the Star Wars MTT and Friends beach house.

As the video said – you gotta do your homework, you should NEVER pay full price for LEGO IMO.

Happy shopping!!

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The Good Eye February 28, 2016 at 12:52 PM

TRU does price matching, so if price is lower at targ3t or walmar+ they will adjust price. I shop there since they will usually have item in stock when sold out at other local retailers.

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MARIO June 22, 2016 at 12:31 PM

For me as a rule of thumb, i only use coupons or the BOGO on sets that are priced at or close to true retail price. Which is very few. I also noticed that TRU might go ahead and put a lot of sets on sale close to coupon expiration dates. Usually the last week. Price matching is always the best option, especially if you use the rewards.

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admin June 22, 2016 at 7:06 PM

Good points. Another thing I noticed that when TRU puts out brand new sets before the official release date, they usually price them at the regular price, then raise the prices when LEGO officially released them. But yeah, while TRU has good selection, you do have to watch their prices carefully.

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