(Written by William)
At the beginning of last month LEGO fans heard about changes coming to the LEGO Pick-A-Brick Wall. Initially many people thought this news was a joke since it came out on April 1st. For those living in countries that don’t celebrate April Fools’ Day, it’s a day when people pull pranks on each other. At any rate, the LEGO Pick-A-Brick Wall changes were not a joke. So today we will explore what the changes are and how they work. (Photos by Allen from the BrickFan who also wrote an article on the topic.)
➡ WHAT IS THE LEGO PAB-WALL PICK-A-MODEL?
If you ever visit a LEGO brand retail store you will find an entire wall filled with colorful cubbies. Each of these cubbies contains a single LEGO piece in a single color. The idea is that you can grab a cup and fill it with all the random parts you want from the PAB-Wall. You can fill your entire cup with just one piece, or mix and match elements. This is a great way for LEGO fans to get pieces for their own custom projects. Last month LEGO introduced a new feature at the PAB-Wall called Pick-A-Model.
The Pick-A-Model section takes up several rows of the PAB-Wall cubbies with specific pieces that enable LEGO fans to gather parts to make a featured model. Usually there are at least two options to build. To participate in this activity, simply grab a blister-pack and follow the instructions on which pieces to get and how many. When you are done, you take your pack to the register and pay $5. Ideally the parts that are for this activity are not to be taken for the normal Pick-A-Brick cups. Generally it is there to engage kids who want to have a hands-on experience in creating a model.
➡ HOW LEGO FANS RESPOND TO PICK-A-MODEL?
Overall, LEGO fans are not thrilled to have a fairly large section of the PAB-Wall taken up by this new program. The PAB-Wall represents one of the best ways to gather bulk parts for large LEGO creations, and now the selection has been limited due to the Pick-A-Model section.
In addition, many people feel the price point is too high for the Pick-A-Model packets. Considering the fact that one model is roughly 30-40 pieces and the cost is $5. This means that pieces on average are 13-17 cents per piece. That’s high, especially compared to LEGO polybags which usually have a better selection, better price/piece ratio, and often include a minifig as well.
➡ HOW LEGO PICK-A-MODEL REALLY WORKS?
Before I wrote this article I really had to see it for myself how the LEGO Pick-A-Model concept worked. So at the beginning of this month I visited my local LEGO store. I will admit that I was not happy with the Pick-A-Model section taking up so much space, and I would have also felt disappointed not being able to add the parts to my Pick-A-Brick cup. However it seemed like nobody was actually following the rules. People were adding the parts from the Pick-A-Model section to their PAB-Cups, and in fact several of the parts needed to make the models had completely empty bins. Which meant I couldn’t make the models even if I wanted to.
The issue is the employees do not have the time or manpower to enforce the new rules of not adding the parts to their regular PAB cups. Then the question arises: if I can’t make the model because some needed pieces are unavailable, are the other pieces for the model still banned from being added to a normal PAB cup? Also, if no one is policing the PAB-Wall, what’s stopping someone from putting twelve of the sets in a large Pick-A-Brick cup? (A large PAB cup costs $15.99.)
What I have heard is that these Pick-A-Models will stick around for roughly three months before they are rotated out. So what happens to any leftover elements? Do they shift to the official PAB-Wall, thereby shrinking the normal selection even further?
In my opinion the Pick-A-Model idea is both overpriced and poorly planned. Interestingly, LEGO tried a similar idea in the past and it didn’t work. Looking at how things are now, it still seems like they don’t have logistical aspects of the program in place. Essentially the idea has merit, but it lacks both realistic features and proper implementation.
➡ HOW SHOULD LEGO PICK-A-MODEL CHANGE?
Whether you buy from the PAB-Wall purely for bulk LEGO elements, or you want to have a building experience, trying to fit both type of customers in the same space feels like a mistake. Therefore, my suggestion would be to turn the PAB-Wall back over to how it was, and let the employees build a few models with the parts available.
This would facilitate very unique designs in every LEGO store, and would also give young and new builders help in being creative with the PAB-Wall selection. At the same time bulk buyers would not be limited by either what they can place in their cup, or what is available on the PAB-Wall. And this solution would also mean that employees are not held responsible when the program goes pear shaped – which it looks like it’s heading towards.
My question to you is, what do you think about all of this? Have you had a chance to check out the PAB-Wall since the changes? The new Pick-A-Model program has been in effect for a little over a month, so those who live close to a LEGO store should have had a chance to check it out by now. If you do like it, what works for you? If you don’t like it, how would you change it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below! 😉
And you might also like to check out the following related posts:
Doesn’t seem very smart- I can see many LEGO fans raging already. Sadly I live nowhere NEAR a LEGO store (a long distance away, around 20-40 miles…).
I saw Pick-A-Model in Portland about a month ago. I didn’t know anything about it, so with blissful ignorance I filled my PAB cup with numerous pieces intended for the giraffe model. None of the employees said anything to me. Has anyone been told specifically to keep out of the pieces intended for the Pick-A-Model? I’ve read that this was a rule, but I’ve never heard of it being enforced.
I think the Pick-A-Model is a bad idea solely because of the price. I’d be curious of how many people actually buy this thing. The two models that I saw (which you show in the image above) are not that intriguing compared to most polybag models. These models look like something you’d find in one of their entry level tub of bricks.
I recall a few years ago, the store in Cleveland had a printout next to the PAB wall with instructions on how to build a little police car from the elements on the wall. You could take a handout if you wanted. I think this was a much better approach than the current Pick-A-Model.
James, this has been a hot topic on the LEGO Ambassador Forum. It seems that some stores enforce the policy, while others don’t. My guess is that even stores that want to enforce it won’t be able to during busy periods, as they would have to have an employee standing at the PAB-Wall full time to stop people from putting the pieces in their cups. And I highly doubt they would make you empty your cup at the cash-register. I agree with you that the previous method of giving instructions for suggested models was much better, and that polybags are much more interesting for the same price. So yeah, I don’t expect this to really work long-term.
Isn’t the point of have a pick-a-brick wall is for people to do there own creations. It is almost as if LEGO is doing the same thing twice. What LEGO stores should do is have the pieces already in the bubble packs and than have a model of what can be made with the pieces they have in each bubble packs. As for someone to enforce the rules of the PAB wall, I have seen many times the employees just standing around an doing nothing. Let alone offering any help to a customer.
I’ve seen the models at my local store and I gotta say they they looked pretty dorky and unappealing. I think they’re going to have to come up with something a LOT better if they want to get this concept off the ground.
Oh, and I didn’t see anyone filling the packaging with any of the parts.
Yeah, I find it interesting that they have given so much room for these, and they are just very basic models that could be sold in polybags. I have actually filled my cups from the play-tables with some sweet accessories and nobody said a thing. So yeah, different stores, different policies.
I should TOTALLY do that! They would let me do that ’cause I’m in there about every two weeks and they know me and what I like and stuff.
If you are a regular visitor to a LEGO store, it is always a good idea to make friend with the employees and managers. They can help you out quite a bit, look out for things you want, share information, etc. Plus you make good friends. 🙂
Yup! I went in there last week and he recommended their last LotR set for me, but it was in the back ’cause they didn’t have space.
I find this quite annoying here in the UK. I understand the logic behind it but given I only ever go to physical lego stores for exclusives and PAB its even less likely now. Simply it means I’ll be spending a lot more on bricklink and a lot less in store.
This is exactly one of the main points brought up in the Ambassador Forum. Especially for smaller stores with smaller PAB Walls this can be devastating to their customer base. The whole point of the PAB Wall is to be able to buy bulk LEGO. Replacing it with parts for $5 giraffes is going against everything the PAB Wall is about.
My store has somewhat become more lenient as far as filling up the cup with the Pick-A-Model bricks. They’ve hidden some of the bricks behind the panels that hold the clamshells so there are bricks dedicated to the build for people who want to build them. Thanks for using my photos!
Nice to see you over, Allen! My guess is that most stores are going to be lenient about the rules as to not to upset LEGO fans.
I visited the Columbus LEGO store just after Easter and saw the new layout for the PAB wall with the two models.
An employee explained the way it worked, asked that I not take “too much” from the set-specific bins, and said they had other parts available in the back if I didn’t see what I needed>
I *like* the new feature, but agree the price-point is a bit high. The motivation is to get kids involved in creating the model in the same way they might free-build once they take a PAB cup home. I think that’s a great thing.
It’s important that we not forget that LEGO cannot survive on AFOLs alone. They must grow the next generation of fans now.
That’s a good point, and I agree; if it works for kids, then by all means keep it, maybe with some adjustments to make everyone happy.
This seems like a pretty bad idea, mismatching two approaches that wouldn’t really work well together. A polybag would seem like a better choice. (I’ve been guilty of adding non-PAB-elements to PAB cups myself, though.)
That was my initial thought too. Or there is also the Monthly Mini Model Build event for kids which offers about the same thing.
Right! But those models are infinitely cuter and more inventive about the way pieces are used.
My grandson still isn’t quite 5 but I can’t wait until he’s old enough for the monthly build and I can take him. We have a store just a couple miles from my home.
As for incentivizing the next generation of Lego consumers, I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid who didn’t fall in love with Legos. And then many, many of them seem to fall in love with them a second time as young adults. Least that’s what I observe.
If your grandson is mature enough they might allow him to participate in the Monthly Mini Model build even now. I have heard numerous parent say that their kids were allowed to take part, as long as they acted old enough. Just thought to mention that.
While most kids instantly like LEGO, there are also kids who have trouble using their imagination and coming up with their own designs from a bucket of loose elements. My suspicion is that this has to do with how kids are raised these days, but the point is that for these children having some suggestive instructions is a good idea.
Actually, I think this dearth of the tinkering approach to random bricks probably has a lot to do with the proliferation of sets with specific directions. There are so many and, let’s face it, they’re well designed , the construction is sophisticated & satisfying thanks to professional designers’ skills, and they slingshot kids past the figure-it-out-yourself stage that’s hard to go back to once you’ve seen the Land of Oz.
The 3-in-1 sets are a great contribution to demonstrating that one way of doing things is simply not enough. But while there are step-by-step sets there will likely be reliance on them.
Yes, I agree. And that’s the reason I believe every parent should introduce their kids to the 3-in-1 sets and the LEGO Classic sets. They are a great way to get children to get the concept of free-building.
This is sorta what I thought…but I was thinking 3 or 4 bins full of random polybags….then you always have a chance of finding one that has been elusive….
You echo my sentiments exactly. The model price point is ridiculously expensive.
My LEGO store allowed me to fill up cup with the Pick&Build elements. I know them well there and ask about it first though. They said within reason. They didn’t want someone loading up a cup with all 1 element like the printed 1×1 round eye tiles.
As long as they allow people to put Pick&Build elements into a PAB cup, I’m happy. I think we’ll get more unique PAB elements.
Wait, so you HAVE to get a pick-a-model to get other pieces on the wall, or can you not do pick-a-model and just buy the bricks?
When I was first reading the article I was thinking “Wow this is pretty good and I will probably use it!” and then I went even farther and saw the reasons it was bad and I then thought “Oh…..This is….kind of bad.”
David, yes, you can still buy loose elements by the cub, but the Pick-A-Model is taking up too much space on the wall. You technically not supposed to put those elements into your cup, but as you have seen people mentioning; many stores allow you to get some of those as well within reason. So the big issue here is the reduction of the selection of the PAB Wall due to the addition of the Pick-A-Model within the same space.
Ahhhhhh….I see, thanks.
This pretty much killed my regular visits to the LEGO store….whech was sometimes as often as 2-3 times a week. I would say I wanted to see if anything new was in, but I could always fill a $15.99 cup and leave with a great purchase….what’s left to choose from now simply doesn’t make it worth the effort….now I visit more like once or twice a month….and leave with a set and no PaB cup at all.
Sad…..so Sad. It’s a sad, sad situation……
Chris, thanks for sharing that. I’m thinking of sharing some of the feedback you guys left here on the LEGO Ambassador Forum. LEGO does listen to feedback. They should be able to adjust the program to keep both kids and adults happy.
Same with me, Chris. Before they changed the wall I was going at least once a week. I’ve always enjoyed how the employees seem to go out of their way to encourage you to take as many pieces as you can fit in your cup, and not feel guilty about it! For me that was a big incentive, and in addition to a cup I almost always bought one or two boxed items, because being in the store just made me feel good.
Now when I’m in the store I feel like I’m getting in the way of the kids, and the way the employees keep coming over to explain to everyone to “not take too much” from the bins isn’t fun at all. And of course it’s not the same value, because I have about 30% less bins to choose from than before. It’s been a month since I was in a store, and I don’t really feel any compulsion to go back for the time being.
It’s weird that such a supposedly minor change can make a person feel so much less enthusiasm about a product, but that’s how it seems to be going for me now.
I totally accept that LEGO knows more than I do about their demographics, and who they need to appeal to and target. It’s possible that the loss of my weekly business is more than made up for by making the store more welcoming to kids. I’m not upset, I’m just not shopping for or playing with my LEGOS much anymore.
Definitely sounds like a bad idea. I find that PAB walls are generally poorly stocked with the right parts, and I can’t see this PAM (?) idea helping that, if it cuts into the PAB walls. 😕 I suppose it doesn’t affect me though, as the next time I’m likely to go to a LEGO Store is in November.
Also, my brothers and I got our May the Fourth stuff today, I must say Tremor Track Infiltration doesn’t look as good as the picture. At least it’s not mine, so no worries. 🙂 We got the SW poster too.
Also, admin, why did the smiley faces change? I noticed they’re different than before.
I note also that using smileys puts my comments under moderation. This hypothesis will be correct if this comment does not go under moderation, since I’m not using any smileys here.
That is interesting. We had a number of comments go under moderation today, and I couldn’t figure out why. There was a major update to WordPress, which I have just done yesterday, and all smileys were replaced by emojis. Bloggers are really upset about this, but the main thing is that they work differently and coded differently than smileys. I will monitor this a bit longer, and then contact my tech person to see what’s going on. Keep testing it, if you would like to help.
I think it might be something else. Allen’s and David’s earlier comments both went under moderation and neither of them used smileys. Anyway, I will pay more attention to this and try to figure out what triggers it. Whatever it is I’m pretty sure it has to do with the latest WP update.
This reminds me that we had the same problem in February of last year; every comment with smileys went under moderation. So my tech person tested and retested everything; code, plugins, settings… nothing. Then somehow we got the idea (I forgot how) to test words that trigger moderation. There were lots of them and we went through them in batches. Finally we found that the word “ass” made smileys go under moderation. Why that was we never learned, but once we took it off the list, everything went back to normal. The joys of running a blog… 🙄
Ah, yes, I remember that little incident.
I like using the smileys, particularly the “:?” one, but I’m not a fan of some of these new ones (which I believe are the same the Brickset Forum uses), specifically the ones without the outline. They just look… odd.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see a few days to possibly identify the problem, unless the moderation filter is just being mean. 😉
Yeah, I don’t like these new ones very much either. The old ones were cuter. There is a possibility of reverting back to the old ones, but I would have to install a plugin, and I rather keep plugins to a minimum. Anyway, I thought we try them out for a while, then if we really don’t like them we can get the old ones back.
The interesting thing about the new ones is that there a much bigger variety we can play with. What WordPress is using is the Twitter Emojis, also called Twemojis. Here is a list of what that includes: https://emojipedia.org/twitter/. Apparently on mobile devices these are very common and can be added with shortcuts. On desktops you need a cheat-sheet to be able to type them. I couldn’t find a cheat-sheet for the Twemoji’s but I did find one for all the Emojis: https://www.webfx.com/tools/emoji-cheat-sheet/. We will just have to figure out which ones are compatible with WordPress.
BTW, I’m also definitely sure it is not the smileys this time that are causing the issue with moderation. Some recent comments that include smileys came through with no problems. It may be certain smileys though, or something else. I will pay attention to this, but this afternoon there were no more comments that went under moderation so I couldn’t check. Maybe you are right, and the moderation filter is just being grumpy today. 🙁
Okay, just found a better Emoji cheat-sheet that should work. Scroll down to the Twitter Emojis on this page: http://blog.vanillaforums.com/features/the-complete-list-vanilla-emoji/
Gracious, there’s a lot of them. I think I’ll stick to the older varieties, as their codes still seem to work.
Yeah, I saw that the smileys weren’t the problem, but as to a certain smiley:
🙂 🙁 😀 :p 😮 😕 😐 😉 😡
If this comment goes under mod., it could be one of the smileys; if not, chances are the problem is unrelated to them. I suppose that’s what tomorrow is for. 😉
Your comment came through, so it’s all good. It’s also interesting to see all those little faces. We can spend the next days playing with these! 😀
For some reason, the :p smiley just shows up as text on my Google Chrome browser …
Yeah for me too. Looks like that one doesn’t translate to the new version. Which means I’m going to have to go over 1,400 articles to find them and correct them, as sometimes I do use it in articles. I may not even bother…. 🙁
OK, it’s not any of those smileys.
Also, you can see how their size and outline change. The first two look bad, but the others look okay, although slightly weird.
That may has to do with your browser. On my screen they all look the same size and style. I read though that some browsers don’t display them well. I use Internet Explorer and Firefox and they look fine on both. But I read that on Chrome and older versions of IE and FF they can get weirded out.
Two things: first, I do think that this change does bring some more unique pieces to the pick a brick wall, like the 1×1 printed eye tiles in the pic above. Second, a suggestion that would raise the price but I think would increase the number of people who want it would be to have one of the two models on the wall be an object that a minifig can use or interact with, like a small vehicle or piece of furniture, and for the container that you put the pieces in to have a minifig to go with the model in a sealed compartment(so not taking up space on the wall, and Not able to be put in normal pab cups). I think that would be great.
I haven’t been to a store for a while, but good to know this. When I do go I’m most looking forward to the PAB selection. Thanks for the update!
wow so many comments….the new pick a model is pretty neat…. but i live like like a full 2 day car ride to the nearest LEGO store…
I bought enough giraffe set pieces for 20 sets for my young son’s b-day party from the pick a brick wall. I was not informed about any rules against using those pieces in the regular cups and it was very obvious what I was doing. The store was not busy and even though the associates said hi, they did not even question me. How did you know of this rule against using those parts in the regular cups?
I understand it from a commercial standpoint. The PAM price ratio is a lot higher than the PAB, meant for a fixed purpose, so it’s understandable that there would be rules against it. (Like opening up some boxed sets in store and pour the pieces into a PAB cup.)
At first I thought it was a horrible idea, but after a while, and a few clarifications including “yes, you can get those pieces without buying the model, just don’t fill your large cup with eyeball tiles” and the manager saying that the PaM were one of the best-selling items ($5 LEGO set! Sold!), I’m pretty OK with it.
Definitely looking forward to what the next models will be and what interesting parts they bring with them.
@admin, I use Safari (which my dad dislikes – “move into this century and get Firefox” he says), and I see that it doesn’t display the smileys consistently either. Besides being different sizes, I note also that sometimes the tops of the heads get cut off, and other times they’re whole.
After looking through the links you posted above, I think I’m going to use the ones listed under “How to Comment” on this site rather than bother with all those. 😕 Although I want to see if this works: :unamused: and I believe there’s 2 “smile” smileys: 🙂 and =) .
@Håkan, the closest match to that smiley (which is 😛 ) I have so far found on the new list is quite long: “:stuck_out_tongue:”
OK, so my unamused smiley didn’t work, but it seems that the old smiley code “:razz:” triggers the tongue one I listed above, so there’s a shorter code! So the new “:p” is 😛 . 😉
Hm… that’s not good if they look weird. For me they look fine on both IE and Firefox. I’m thinking maybe experiment with them until the end of the month, and if we really hate them I can install that plugin that will bring back the old smileys.
The reason I’m hesitant to do it now is because WordPress is definitely going in the direction of emojis as the standard and will plan to support even more in the future. I also don’t like to install plugins for minor things like this, as more plugins mean more chances that the entire site will break, especially when there are upgrades. But again, if you guys don’t like them, and if they look ugly on different browsers I’m willing to switch back.
I checked the site on another computer in my house that runs Firefox. Both 🙂 and 🙁 look the same as on Safari. Not sure if that has much meaning though. 😐
You don’t have to switch back, it could be interesting to test new smileys. I’d say give it a few months or so, and see what the opinion on them is then.
Yeah, that’s my thinking also. We give it some time and see how it goes. Keep me informed if you see something weird.
The rules for this program were released in a press release back on April 1, 2015. Your store should also have access to the rules in the back on a print out. Keep in mind, the print out will most likely not be in the store proper it will be in a back office. Some will keep copies of that information behind the register, but that’s not very likely.
However, it requires the store to care one way or another to tell people, enforce it, or ignore it.
The odd thing is the PAB wall I believe still has to follow other requirements. For example I know the bottom two rows (possibly the third) need to be big bulky pieces like bricks that are 2×4 or larger. This is to prevent choking hazards for really small children.
Then at one point an employee explained the were required to have things like wheels and tires so that kids could make vehicles if they wanted.
Now the question is, are the vehicle requirements still in place along with the Pick a Model?
I know one thing I recall seeing on multiple occassions was parents working with their child in picking out pieces. It was a very touching sight seeing that level of involvement among a family. I wonder if they are trying to force this experience on parents who aren’t as interested in LEGO?
There was actually a time only a couple years back where the employees would ask members of the local LUG for suggestions on what to order for the PAB wall. It was during that time we saw some amazing elements.
As the admin mentioned, LEGO does listen. So if you have any comments to share leave them here for the admin to gather or complete your LEGO survey that is mentioned on your LEGO receipt.
My god, I haven’t seen so many comments on a BrickBlogger article before!
We actually have some articles with over 10,000 comments. Yeah, that’s ten thousand comments per article! Ninjago related, of course. 😀
Do you have a link? 🙂
Nevermind, I found it here:
Yeah, that’s one of them. And there are a few more like that. All Ninjago related. Those were the good old days. 🙂
There’s this one too, with 2 more comments: http://thebrickblogger.com/2012/04/lego-ninjago-season-3/ Quite impressive. It shows LEGO really did well with Ninjago, for it to have so many fans. 😀
Many comments seem to stray quite far from the original focus, though. There are a lot of original fanfics (which I guess could be interesting if that’s your teacup), but also a lot of chat-like conversation..
Yes, these were young Ninjago fans who were totally into writing their own stories. When I first saw it happening I was like, what in the world are they doing? But then I just let them interact and do their own thing. They were sweet kids. Some of them are still around.
Yeah, the craze for Ninjago was amazing. There were actually kids also who never got into LEGO and the Ninjago sets. They just loved the TV show. Which I thought was interesting.
There is no Lego store near my place but here is a suggestion: you create an idea book (SRP$10)(I loved those and I have most of the old ones) with let’s say 100 designs in them (2 per week but for each week 2 designs use the same pieces) then you group them by month and tell your customer: “come over in xx month” and get the parts for these 8-10 models (of course you make sure the stores have the required parts in time. Then at the back of the book you have another 5-10 models that uses a big chunk of all the parts bought through the year. This makes costumer coming regularly – the goal being to spur impulse buying. Just my two cents. Now hoping for a store opening in my area soon.
I have yet to hear a single positive comment. This Pick A Model idea reminds me of the Microsoft Office Clippy, the project headed by Melinda French who became Melinda Gates. I wonder if there is such a person behind this bad idea.
That would be an interesting trail to follow; how this idea came about and who is behind it. 🙂
Everything is awesome!