Skip

Relevant to MeFi's Interests
December 3, 2012 9:00 PM   Subscribe

James Groccia is a ten-year old with Asperger syndrome and self-describes at the "most loyal Lego fan". He is involved in a Lego playgroup to help with developing his social skills. After spending two years saving for his dream set, he was disappointed to discover that it was no longer in production and was priced beyond what he could afford on the secondary market. He decided to ask Lego for help. Lego responded.
posted by Parasite Unseen (108 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Aspie for Good! It melts my heart. I would have bought him the fucking set.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:07 PM on December 3, 2012


The thing that got me about that one is that he got a Very Corporate Letter...

...and then the dream set showed up two days before his birthday with a really nice letter.

A bit more of the story can be found at the Consumerist's story on what happened.
posted by mephron at 9:12 PM on December 3, 2012


This is very, very touching. Hooray, Lego!
posted by scblackman at 9:14 PM on December 3, 2012


Damn it. Two good stories in a row.
You're making it hard to be cynical here.
posted by Mezentian at 9:15 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is why saving money is stupid. The boy should've leveraged his existing savings to buy the Lego set before it went out of production. Then he should've charged his friends to play with it so he could finance the interest on his Lego loan. Elementary, really.
posted by Nomyte at 9:15 PM on December 3, 2012 [47 favorites]


"LEGO Finds Spare Discontinued Set So Boy Who Saved Up For 2 Years Wouldn’t Be Disappointed"

LEGO Dregs Up Old Marketing Trick in Weeks Before Christmas so Shareholders Won't Be Disappointed. Everyone wins, save for the media outlets who normally get paid to carry this message to the consumer.
posted by three blind mice at 9:16 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


You're making it hard to be cynical here.

Problem solved.
Thanks Metafilter!
I can count on you!
posted by Mezentian at 9:17 PM on December 3, 2012 [66 favorites]


yeah I hate it when companies do nice things for people just to get attention.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is it normal for families to have hidden camera setups in the living room now?
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:23 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm going to be cynical here, sorry about that.

First thing i noticed, mom (or whoever that was) carefully, very carefully removing the letter on the box. Don't want to damage it. (why? keep resale value up.)

We never see him actually open the box. That's not a short video, and at that age, i would have tore into that (still would). Will we see him using it ever or is this a save for collection type thing?

The parents should have known better honestly, that it would go out of print in the years he saved up. Their kid was obviously doing well with it, and they couldn't bother to find out if it was slated for going out of print? I'm not even a big lego person and i know that once they go out they skyrocket on ebay and such.

Good on Lego if this is true, they had no obligation to do anything here, but too many things are not sitting right with me. I hope i'm wrong though.
posted by usagizero at 9:25 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


so Shareholders Won't Be Disappointed.

Lego is a family owned company, so I'm afraid no public shareholders.
posted by FJT at 9:26 PM on December 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


at least it's not a metal chicken.
posted by The Whelk at 9:27 PM on December 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


Is it normal for families to have hidden camera setups in the living room now?
The box had clearly already been opened by his parents, who resealed it with a strip of scotch tape -- you can see the jagged packing tape in the opening shot. Knowing that the kid would be thrilled, they set up the cameras and filmed his reaction.
posted by Lame_username at 9:27 PM on December 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


Yeah. Pretty clear from the video they're going to trade off their child's happiness for cash.
posted by L0 at 9:27 PM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Good people doing good. Why you gotta hate?
posted by ColdChef at 9:30 PM on December 3, 2012 [34 favorites]


I just want to point out that this is a seriously great Lego set. Over 1000 pieces, over 2 feet long, and it's based on the legendary A3 Flying Scotsman train. Super gorgeous.

Dude has great taste in Lego, is what I'm saying.

Obligatory cynicism: I just wish Lego had been willing to pay the National Railway Museum or whoever owns the Flying Scotsman rights a few of the big licensing dollars they can't throw fast enough at Disney and other multinational megacorps.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:33 PM on December 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


christ on a pogo stick.... If I plopped a unicorn farting strawberry scented rainbows in here, someone would find a reason to complain....
posted by HuronBob at 9:33 PM on December 3, 2012 [69 favorites]


Wow, some people here...

The Consumerist piece explains that apparently Lego first responded to his letter with a form letter of regret that the set was disco'ed. My guess is, and it's just a guess, that they then got in touch with his parents to arrange the pre-birthday arrival of the set. The box had also clearly been opened post-shipping, so between those two factors, that's where the "hidden camera" came in.
posted by rollbiz at 9:34 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that the parents are doing a good turn back for Lego in exchange for the wonderful decision Lego made for their son. What better way to thank them than with a viral video of what a great company they are?

All good here.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:35 PM on December 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


But clearly, the more likely scenarios are that this family has dozens of cameras spying on their children 24/7 and/or that this was all some ploy to make a couple hundred bucks on a disco'ed Lego set and letter addressed to a specific kid.
posted by rollbiz at 9:36 PM on December 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


Well, that or the local school district.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:39 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will we see him using it ever or is this a save for collection type thing?

From the comments, the original poster [OnSite Studios] writes:
I'm going to shoot a time-lapse of him building it - he's constantly taking it apart and rebuilding it. He even puts the LEGO power function motor in it.
posted by unliteral at 9:42 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Good people doing good. Why you gotta hate?

Because you can monetize hating. I think we all know that Metafilter only hates things for the money.
posted by Nomyte at 9:45 PM on December 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


My wonderful, brilliant daughter and her tiny team of only 3 school mates just competed in their first, First Lego League competition this past weekend and rocked it. Did very well among lots of much bigger, more experienced teams. They earned the first trophy ever for their new school. I love Lego.... I love this story.
posted by pearlybob at 9:46 PM on December 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


this made me cry. I guess I'm naive.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:48 PM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


OK, I've opened another bottle of wine, and I have a cat. I will defend the goodness of Lego's gesture to the bitter end, or until the wine is gone and the cat goes to sleep. En Garde haters.... En Garde
posted by HuronBob at 9:49 PM on December 3, 2012 [31 favorites]


As a LEGO lover, I'm just going to go ahead and believe this. Being cynical about it doesn't accomplish anything.

Wish I could play with some right now, actually.
posted by flippant at 9:50 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


As a kid I "saved up" for stuff, once for almost a year (11 years old, short wave radio. Yes, I'm that old. It had tubes.) Most kids don't do this any more, so I'm thrilled just to see parents and kids doing the delayed gratification thing. Carry on.
posted by cccorlew at 9:54 PM on December 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thanks to garden-path grammar, I now want a unicorn farting strawberry.
posted by chortly at 10:02 PM on December 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


1. A grateful child gets their desired trainset.
2. A Renowned toy company gets additional PR.
3.???
4. Profit!

Seriously, just give the kid the joy of toys and the reward of writing a good letter.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:15 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


One key phrase for me was "Sincerely, Megan, consumer services advisor", which to me represents someone who's more customer focused, has some amount of empathy. Probably wouldn't infiltrate some kid's home with cameras.

Also, Lego as a company seems to have some amount of empathy, and I'm solely sayin' that because, well, they make bricks that have helped tons of kids. I've heard developers say they trace their ability to code directly back to Lego. Eh, also because Lego doesn't like modeling modern weapons ... but won't "cease and desist" against some guy building the lego equivalent of green army men for his kid, at least NPR doesn't seem to think so.

Finally, after having just finished listening to an On Point episode about a man from Denmark trying to place people with Asperger Syndrome and Autism with positions in the US, hearing James read, "Who knows, maybe you will be working for The LEGO Group one day! You certainly have the heart and passion for our bricks to do so! Happy building, James!” kinda warmed my heart.
posted by mapinduzi at 10:15 PM on December 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Now now - they're seriously just trying to stave off the LEGOlution by tossing the poor kid a few bones. But the LEGOtariot shall not be fooled by you capitalist tricksters!
posted by symbioid at 10:16 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man I don't give a Flying Holiday FUCK how real or cynically fake this story is; if it improves the public perception and gets more parents to buy LEGO for their kids then it's a net-positive. And if it turns out his parents do end up selling the toy for more money, that blood is on their hands, not ours.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:18 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: that blood is on their hands, not ours.

I wouldn't have done that if I hadn't been listening to Cohen's Hallejujah
posted by HuronBob at 10:25 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, this isn't related to LEGO as a company but it's late, I've had a beer or three and I have a dog, so why not drop a personal story here... Be warned, ending isn't sunshine and lollipops and the story isn't exactly concise, but here goes...

My dad's ex-wife's brother (previous marriage from another country and 20 years ago) was severely mentally handicapped and was very much obsessive compulsive in his behaviors. Up side, he could fix even the most knotted fishing net. Down side, a life in a location where the care for people in his situation was quite poor. Anyway, and this is where the story is going, he loved LEGOs and could play with them for hours upon hours. I had quite a few LEGO sets growing up but I evolved into Kinex and then away from building sets once I hit 11 or so and my dad gave me the option to send them to him so he could play with them. I was really into the idea because even at that age, based on some personal experience with another mentally handicapped (and neglected) individual being mistreated, I was really sympathetic to the idea of gifting them to this individual.

So we ship them off, I'm told they received them and that he was enjoying them and was really, really happy when he opened the quite large box to find it filled to the brim with random assorted LEGO pieces, and that's the last I hear of it since we really didn't keep track of that side of the family and, ya'know, I'm 10 or 11 so I have bigger fish to fry, like the TMNT crew or something.

Fast forward 10+ years and the future-Ms.Eld and I decide to visit that part of the world on our spring break as a meet-and-greet slash vacation. Turns out they were amazing hosts and opened their home to us for the entire trip and we had a great time.

While we were they they asked if we'd like to go visit Uncle XXX that I once sent the LEGOs to. I'm thrilled that he's still alive because some quick mental figuring must mean he's well into his 80s or 90s at this point and say sure, so we head out to visit with the extended-extended family who care for him in their home a few miles away. We are introduced (a silent touching of hands) to him in his bedroom, which is a bare room with a tile floor and a mattress, and the family that cares for him thank me profusely for the LEGOs I sent to him so many years ago. I, never really getting over the guilt trip of my perceived privileged and pretty great access to opportunity, mumble something minimizing my contribution and ask if he still plays with them or if he eventually grew out of his LEGO phase or unable to play with them because of his vision or something (because I didn't see any)... because I had a small, honestly unrealistic, hope that I'd find him playing with some of my old LEGOs and I could sit in for a spell.

They respond by saying, in a casual tone that haunts me and hurts my very core, "Oh yes, we couldn't let him have them because he would make too many noises while he played with them. We got rid of them a few weeks after they arrived."

I hope I didn't let it show too much but my heart just dropped. I'm not the Christian sort but they pretty much nailed it with

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.
-- Matthew 25:40

So, yea, TL:DR - Roland can personally attest that the mentally handicapped do actually enjoy LEGOs and you should treat them nice because they're special and uniquely vulnerable people.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:32 PM on December 3, 2012 [53 favorites]


And, that about sums it up..... Thanks, Roland...

Give that dog a belly scritch for me....
posted by HuronBob at 10:38 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Godamnit Roland, I was all geared up for a happy holiday story. I guess the only thing I can do after that story is go donate some Lego.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:54 PM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


at least it's not a metal chicken.

Aside: I've seen a couple of references to a metal chicken recently, and it seems like something I should know about. What did I miss?

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:55 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


stavros: Unlike mine, it's a story that's full of whimsy.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:00 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:17 PM on December 3, 2012


Speaking of chickens, and with a bit more whimsy... and morbid facets. Nothing for free here. Anyway,

One good thing about that same trip was that I could get free drinks/props in pretty much any setting by making it known that I was a gringo whose father had seen the fighting rooster known as 'Bicicletta' in action 40 years ago. Who is Bicicletta you may ask? Let me tell you.

Bicicletta was famous for fighting other chickens in a unique, self taught, often referenced, never duplicated fashion that was his namesake: after entering the fighting ring he would simply run away from the other rooster. Round and round the ring he would run with the other rooster in hot pursuit. Here's the kicker (sad pun intended), as soon as the other rooster lost interest Bicicletta would turn and wail on his opponent. When the other rooster attempted to counterattack in kind, off runs Bicicletta... to eventual victory.

He was never defeated and it never failed to really impress a given person when I found a chance to mention it while grabbing snacks or getting gas or lounging on the beach.

The more I think about it, that trip was pretty surreal in quite a few ways....
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:18 PM on December 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


First thing i noticed, mom (or whoever that was) carefully, very carefully removing the letter on the box. Don't want to damage it. (why? keep resale value up.)

We never see him actually open the box. That's not a short video, and at that age, i would have tore into that (still would). Will we see him using it ever or is this a save for collection type thing?


First of all, taking the letter off slowly so it doesn't rip the box up is just a nice gesture of respect for the kid. Second, you use your experience as a child, but do you have Asperger's? My understanding is (and parents/friends/relatives of Asperger's kids correct me if I'm wrong) people with that condition tend to be very particular about their obsessions, the way a hyper-geeky kid might freak out if their younger sibling bent the pages of a new comic book. I would guess Mom is acting from experience, and she knows ripping the box up would be a big, big blow to the kid. Same goes for the kid not ripping the box up, if he's invested in the set he's going to be careful about it.

On reflection, that kind of care doesn't even require Asperger's, when I was that kid's age and got a nice new thing I never ripped into it, but treated it with the utmost care.
posted by schroedinger at 11:46 PM on December 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thanks to garden-path grammar, I now want a unicorn farting strawberry.


We regret to inform you that the unicorn-farting strawberry has been discontinued.







BUT WE JUST HAPPENED TO HAVE ONE TUCKED AWAY
posted by louche mustachio at 11:47 PM on December 3, 2012 [64 favorites]


I suspect stuff like this happens more often than you'd expect. Some years ago, my son spotted a photo of something called a Gigaball. It's essentially an inflatable child-sized hamster ball and from dawn to dusk for over a year, about all my son could talk about was the Gigaball. The problem was is there were none to be found *anywhere*, not online, not brick & mortar, not in this country or any other. From what I could track down, there was an importer based in New Jersey that had sold a small run of them but due to low sales and less than stellar reviews, there was just that one shipment and no others. Anyway, after a year of listening to gigaballgigaballgigaballgigaballgigaballgigaballgigaball until it felt like the very word was bruising my ear drums, I told my son to write a letter to the importer and ask when more of these infernal things would be available to purchase because I figured at the very least he might stop nagging me about it. And he did, to the best of his ability, in scrawled pencil on construction paper which I helped him address and mail.

More months went by. We didn't get a letter back, my son eventually stopped racing to the mailbox every day, and finally one day he seemed to have forgotten about the Gigaball and I forgot about it too.

Then UPS dropped a big box off at our doorstep. No letter, no invoice, just a big box with a return address from the importer. I guess if I did social media, it might have been more of a story but we just took a lot of photos of a boy and his Gigaball and mailed them to the company with a very nice thank you letter.
posted by jamaro at 11:49 PM on December 3, 2012 [37 favorites]


stavrosthewonderchicken: "Thanks!"

Oh, man, I can't wait until stavrosthewonderchicken comes back in after reading THAT thread!
posted by barnacles at 11:49 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've had some beers.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:50 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually I don't think the haters here are necessarily cynics. It's a typically cynical view to think that mere possession of the shiny product is the important thing to human beings, the thing that we really value most and the thing that confers real happiness.

People who think that is a slightly debased idea may possibly be sceptics, but they're not cynics.

I may be taking some Lego too seriously.
posted by Segundus at 12:02 AM on December 4, 2012


Because you can monetize hating.

How come I'm still poor?
posted by colie at 12:06 AM on December 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


I know a kid of a similar age, with similar issues, and a similar consuming passion for LEGO. I can tell you that he does not just tear into the boxes - he's super-careful to open and close them carefully and correctly, to keep them in good shape. Not for resale. For himself. That's what I'm seeing here, and that's why I think the mother was careful with removing the letter/tape.

I'm ill as all hell this morning, and this just cheered me the hell up. Thanks!
posted by Dysk at 12:29 AM on December 4, 2012


Like
posted by DanCall at 12:37 AM on December 4, 2012


My kid doesn't have Aspergers, but if he got a long long awaited Lego set (two years awaited), and I ripped off the attached letter, thereby ripping the box, he'd be ticked!

And, for that matter, if someone bought me the Lego 10179 Ultimate Millennium Falcon, and my wife (or son) tore the box, I'd probably go fairly nuts too.
posted by Bugbread at 12:41 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Oh yes, we couldn't let him have them because he would make too many noises while he played with them. We got rid of them a few weeks after they arrived."

This will be Bruce Banner's secret in the Special Edition of The Avengers.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually I don't think the haters here are necessarily cynics.

Haters? I love this. It shows how capitalism delivers the goods.

The cynics are those who mock the idea of corporations as people and then get all teary-eyed over a story like this that portrays a corporation has having genuine sanguine compassion. Everything a company and its employees do it done to realise a profit. Receiving a letter like this is manna from heaven for the viral marketing department who are paid to generate nice, positive press about Lego.

Sometimes the profit motive coincides with warm and cuddly things like this - and that's nice - but it is all still marketing.
posted by three blind mice at 1:27 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can only dream of a Gigaball farting unicorns.
posted by Bistle at 1:44 AM on December 4, 2012


This is cool and all, I seriously appreciate how that kid felt.

But at some point I believe I heard the kid's mother say, "Mommy had no idea...". And I find that weird. The kid is 10. Since when do parents talk like that to 10 year olds? Is there some benefit to talking babytalk?
posted by Goofyy at 1:53 AM on December 4, 2012


Your username is Goofyy. Glass houses, yada yada...
posted by panaceanot at 2:34 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey I'll direct the hate somewhere else for ya! Aspergers is a relatively mild thing to have. Correct me if I'm wrong, but before we knew it was a "thing", people just thought you were eccentric. It's not something that would ever keep you from being able to take care of and provide for yourself in adulthood (unlike something like autism). The fact that the kid knows he has an "affliction" rubs me the wrong way. It dominates his existence. And from what I understand, there is no clinical treatment for Aspergers. It cannot be medicated. Why did his parents tell their 10 year old he has Aspergers, and why is it plastered all over this story? Grrrrrr.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:45 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aspergers is autism - it is a condition that exists on the autistic spectrum. People are affected in different ways, to different degrees of impairment or advantage.
posted by talitha_kumi at 3:10 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


three blind mice: "The cynics are those who mock the idea of corporations as people and then get all teary-eyed over a story like this that portrays a corporation has having genuine sanguine compassion."

I don't quite follow how that's an example of cynicism.
posted by Bugbread at 3:26 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're wrong, so I'll be happy to correct you. Autism is a spectrum disorder, and it can lead to varying levels of abilities and disabilities. The variant we call "Asperger syndrome" involves less language impairment, so can appear to be more "mild" than other forms of autism, but it can be no less debilitating. Part of the problem is that it is an invisible disability, so people who have it are judged as if they are choosing to be difficult or defiant or self-centered - rather than having honest difficulties. And you better believe we told our son about Asperger's when he was diagnosed, because up until then the only "diagnosis" we were getting from the people around us was "bad kid with bad parents." Knowing that he has Asperger's and thus finds some things challenging that other people find easy - that's empowerment. If we knew and didn't tell him, that would be terribly cruel. Before we knew, when he was having all kinds of difficulties in kindergarten, he would trudge home from school saying "Everyone else is good and I'm bad." While there is no cure for Aspergers or autism, there are things people can do to mitigate the challenges and encourage the strengths that come along with it.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:26 AM on December 4, 2012 [44 favorites]


Aspergers is a relatively mild thing to have. Correct me if I'm wrong, but before we knew it was a "thing", people just thought you were eccentric.

Well, you said to correct you if you were wrong. And, well, that's wrong.

People with Aspergers vary a great deal, being, y'know, people. Some of them can manage okay in most situations; some of them can't.

I'll give a personal example: I'm good friends with two families who have a son with Aspergers. One of them:

- Came across as a little 'eccentric' in childhood, but also sweet-natured, friendly and intelligent.
- Was bullied at school for a while, but it seems to have stopped now.
- Has, by his mid-teens, developed some excellent social manners, and in public now mostly just seems like an unusually polite kid.

The other:

- Nearly starved to death as a newborn because he was allergic to breast milk (not uncommon among autistic babies).
- Has had to live in sheltered accommodation most of his life.
- Has required regular supervision by health visitors, because if they don't, he neglects basic hygiene and then gets infections.
- Behaved so extremely at home that his parents both wound up ill from exhaustion. He'd wake them up several times a night to rant at them, every night. They were literally diagnosed with what used to be called 'nervous collapse.'
- Has had the police called on him for harassing someone because that person (also autistic) made a well-intended but tactless remark that offended him.
- Is known, when stressed to: threaten violence, threaten suicide, vandalise property, use hate speech (because he knows it upsets people, not because he actually understands how it works), rant and yell for hours about everyone who's ever offended him in his life.
- Is completely socially incapable. For example, last time I visited the house and he was there, he wandered between the door and me so I couldn't get the pram out, and then didn't understand what I meant when I asked if he'd please get out of the way - he had to be told 'Please walk in that direction' because the concept of being 'in my way' was beyond him.
- Is plagued by such relentless anxiety that he probably hasn't had a single happy day in his life.

So yeah. One of them is just a bit eccentric and very clever and we all love him - though even he's had problems with bullying. The other one is not okay and never will be.

Both of them are much better of for being identified as Aspergers. The one who's not okay - when he was a baby, doctors assumed that the starvation was caused by a 'faddy mother' rather than a genuine medical issue, and blamed her for everything until they could get a diagnosis. Now there's an explanation to give people and he's eligible for help as a disabled person. (Including financial aid, because there's no WAY he could hold a job.) The one who's doing well - his family found a sympathetic psychiatrist who explained his needs to the school, and it helped a lot.

It's not a label, for them. It's a diagnosis.

And I don't see any evidence that Aspergers 'dominates [that kid's] existence.' If his existence is dominated by anything it seems to be Lego (at least, that was what almost all of his letter was about), and being diagnosed Aspergers just gives him access to some social skills classes that help him get on with people. How is that a bad thing?
posted by Kit W at 3:41 AM on December 4, 2012 [17 favorites]


Nobody is denying, I don't think, that this makes Lego look good. But to my eye, if this had been a sophisticated setup by Lego (rather than by the parents), there would have been a camera where you could see his face when he opened the package, which there isn't. And I heartily agree that Mom being really careful not to tear the box that's clearly about to become a cherished possession does not in any way suggest they're going to sell it, and neither does the kid not ripping the box open right away. Kids act all different ways; they're just smaller humans. There's no one way that a ten-year-old should act, or that his mother should act, or that she should talk to him. Mom probably knows that tearing the box would not be appreciated, and it's kind of a bummer to turn her consideration for his feelings against her, I think.

As for the motives behind getting the kid the set, there's no reason it can't be both kind and good for business. In theory, being kind should be good for business; that's not dishonest or craven. Plenty of people who work for large companies have their humanity perfectly intact, and it's easy for me to believe that a customer service person who works for Lego -- Lego! -- might both see it as her job to make the customer happy and make the company look good and be pretty excited about making this happen for this kid on a personal level. I mean, obviously the entire thing could theoretically be fake, as I don't know any of the people involved, but provided that what happened is basically what they're saying happened, it's very easy for me to believe it's a confluence of doing something cool and doing your job.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:01 AM on December 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


Everything a company and its employees do it done to realise a profit.

Bloody cod-marxist nonsense.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:10 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Imagine this video had been filmed with a GoPro; Metafilter may have exploded.
posted by inigo2 at 4:24 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Needs its own post, but you never knew anyone with Asperger's.
They have altered the definition.
Rejoice.
posted by Mezentian at 4:25 AM on December 4, 2012


Imagine this video had been filmed with a GoPro; Metafilter may have exploded.

Worse, what if the kid called them Legos?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:13 AM on December 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


jamaro, I nearly collapsed when I opened your "boy and his Gigaball" photo and thought "The very thing that the boy desired has smooshed him on the floor, while jamaro stands by thinking all is well! It was a Gigatrap!"
posted by orme at 5:27 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


three blind mice: "Everything a company and its employees do it done to realise a profit."

Wait...I see that you're self employed (as am I, now), but are you telling me you've never actually worked for a company?? Or are you saying that when you worked for the company, you never did anything unless it was to realise a profit? Because if so...well...wow. When I worked for a company, I did things that helped people but didn't bring the company any profit because, well, because it was a nice thing to do, and it didn't hurt the company. I mean, why not be nice?

I'm sorry, I truly am baffled by the statement that not only are a company's actions motivated by profit, but also everything its employees do. That seems like pure, refined crazy talk.
posted by Bugbread at 6:10 AM on December 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


*bawling like a baby*

i used to work at COLGATE-PALMOLIVE in the Consumer Affairs department and used to do this with consumers, especially elderly ones, who would be broken-hearted when they couldn't find the companies old products. it always made me feel like a Santa elf :)
posted by liza at 6:12 AM on December 4, 2012 [18 favorites]


"Everything a company and its employees do it done to realise a profit."

This RSA Animate video might be worth some of your time...covering studies on what motivates people (it's not always money).
posted by samsara at 6:17 AM on December 4, 2012


Holy crap. I was resisting watching the video. Now it's dusty in here...
posted by sio42 at 6:35 AM on December 4, 2012


I was feeling pretty good about this FPP until RolandofEld's story pretty much ruined my whole day, if not week.
posted by availablelight at 6:39 AM on December 4, 2012


The parents should have known better honestly, that it would go out of print in the years he saved up. Their kid was obviously doing well with it, and they couldn't bother to find out if it was slated for going out of print? I'm not even a big lego person and i know that once they go out they skyrocket on ebay and such.

Why exactly would a parent know this or even know that they COULD find this out? I would have no idea of Lego production schedules or how long things are made, or their ebay value, yadda yadda. This is ridiculous.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:54 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like the story. I like that LEGO helped this kid.

But I have to say this: my two brothers are autistic, and some of the most important lessons they had to learn is that things change. People move away. Prices go up. The TV show you like gets canceled. The car you're obsessed with is phased out. The teacher you have a crush on gets married to someone else. The toy you want gets discontinued. And sometimes you're not able to write to someone and ask for it to come back.

Autistic people have hard time dealing with change. That's why they have to learn that things do change, they aren't permanent, and that you have to learn to live with a certain amount of disappointment if something you like goes away, or is out of reach.

I'm glad the kid got what he wanted. But I wonder if the parents didn't miss an opportunity here, to either encourage him to continue working to get the $250 that he needed to buy that LEGO set, or to gently explain to him that he shouldn't such store on such things because things can and do go away.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:08 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I imagine that he'll have plenty of opportunity to learn the lesson of disappointment, if he hasn't already.
posted by rtha at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2012 [21 favorites]


I was feeling pretty good about this FPP until RolandofEld's story pretty much ruined my whole day, if not week.

I feel the same way if it makes you feel any better, although I suspect that's unlikely. More than three beers were consumed last night, let me tell ya.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:16 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


So do companies actively keep old versions around to do this sort of thing, or is it just that there generally are spare ones around due to the vagaries of production and shipping and inventory control?
posted by jeather at 7:22 AM on December 4, 2012


Good on LEGO!
posted by Vindaloo at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2012


Yeah I don't think that a LEGO train set is going to represent the difference between this kid eventually understanding that life is pretty disappointing sometimes and the kid not eventually understanding that.

I mean, honestly, this story didn't seem atypical for pretty much any kid, Asperger's or otherwise - he saved up his money for a year to get an awesome train set, he found out it had been discontinued, and he wrote to the company to ask if they had any more. That's a completely normal thing - when I was a kid I think I at least entertained the possibility of writing to some toy company or other to find out if they had any more of a particular toy that I couldn't find anywhere. It's a ten-year-old's understanding of the world - that a toy company's corporate headquarters is also where they make the toys and they've probably got a bunch sitting around. In this case he happened to be somewhere in the neighborhood of right.

He seemed pretty ready to deal with the possibility that there'd be no train for him, but wanted to try one last thing, just to see.

I don't know. I really liked this. Made me tear up a bit. Sure, there's something in it for the company, in the form of publicity. Sure, not every kid in the world who writes to them is gonna get a train. But this one kid at this one time got his train and he's the happiest kid in the goddamn world right now and I can't find a single thing wrong with that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:27 AM on December 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


People rip open Lego boxes?!?!? Don't they have the pictures of alternative suggestions for constructions on the inside of the boxes any more?
posted by asok at 7:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Asok, I'm guessing it's only people who don't play with Legos that assume that people who do play with Legos rip open the boxes.
posted by Bugbread at 8:01 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah my Daughter has Aspergers and this hits home in a big way.

As so many people said above, each kid on the spectrum can be so different but this young man seems a lot like my daughter in the way that he can fixate on an object that it becomes an all-important talisman.

For my daughter, these fixations will change from week to week or month to month, but when things go wrong and things change it can be absolutely crushing for her. Management of expectations, dealing with change and the appropriate response to that change is a daily task for my wife and I and something as simple as getting that out of stock toy can really make her so, so happy.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:03 AM on December 4, 2012


Sadly Lego no longer includes the alt suggestions. However, they have made it extremely easy to open the boxes. They include little perforated half circles on the corners that you can press on with your thumb to easily open the box.

That said, This is touching and awesome and shame on the people poo-pooing it.
posted by Twain Device at 8:05 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, it's possible the company will reap some monetary reward from this. But dammit, how much do you honestly think sales are going to rise because of heartwarming story? One percent? One half of one percent? Who was NOT going to buy Lego toys this holiday season but then saw this story and said "Oh all right"? I imagine it's not many, certainly not enough to warrant a "cynical effort" like some folks here are making it out to be. And would a company actually bother with this effort given the unlikeliness of it making much of a difference to the bottom line?

I think the company saw the kid's letter and took the opportunity to give him something special. I don't think it was cynical or money-driven. Sometimes people in customer service ACTUALLY WANT TO do nice things for their customers. I bet it gives Megan in customer relations a thrill similar to this kid's to know she could use her position to give someone an incredible story he will tell for a lifetime. And not because of money.

Jesus. Haters gonna hate, right?
posted by grubi at 10:14 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Good grief, one of the best things about getting a request like this at your place of employment is being able to do something about it. What's odd is the several people here who seem to think no one who works at a big company enjoys being able to do a little extra for some customer.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sadly Lego no longer includes the alt suggestions.

“I kinda want to create my own thing. Do you sell any just plain sets?”

“No. We do all the imagining for you.”

“Well, I’ll just buy one of these and build something different.”

“You do and you better build yourself a lawyer.”
posted by banshee at 10:59 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I wonder if the parents didn't miss an opportunity here, to either encourage him to continue working to get the $250 that he needed to buy that LEGO set, or to gently explain to him that he shouldn't such store on such things because things can and do go away.

But in general it's actually stuff like Lego that doesn't have to go away, if you don't want it to. That's why we can get all fetishy about stuff, whether we're autistic or not.

The stuff that really does go away is love, youth, laughter, etc...
posted by colie at 11:02 AM on December 4, 2012


The great and infamous METAL CHICKEN story (which I luv much):

http://thebloggess.com/2011/06/and-thats-why-you-should-learn-to-pick-your-battles/
posted by michellenoel at 11:02 AM on December 4, 2012


I feel the same way if it makes you feel any better, although I suspect that's unlikely

Why? You had enough compassion and insight to make someone so joyful they couldn't keep quiet. The light you brought, in that moment, far outshines the darkness that came after. It also reminds me to be a little more patient when my daughter makes a ruckus with her play. Thanks for sharing, and I mean that.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:04 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a side note, the diagnosis of Asperger's is being dropped from the DSMO.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:05 AM on December 4, 2012


I should note that they've moved a lot of their secondary instructions/ideas to the website. Not exactly the same, but they are doing some interesting things there. Using their "Heros" template they do allow you to create your own ...."action figure" is the word I guess? The Hero's line is kind of their extension of the old Bionicle series They even have a much more slimmed down version in the Lego Store.

I really see them allowing the creativity to flow in that section.

If there is one company I trust for this sort of thing (both the article's subject and the creativity front), its Lego.
posted by Twain Device at 11:21 AM on December 4, 2012


just adding as the parent of an Aspie boy, I immediately identified the way she was carefully removing the letter as just.......parent of an Aspie!
very common across a wide spectrum of the behaviours that characterise the condition is a serious discomfort with rips & tears, sticky things, price tags occluding things, etc., etc., the spread and severity depends on the child.
posted by kairab at 12:27 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


... ah, what's that in my eye ... ?

“I kinda want to create my own thing. Do you sell any just plain sets?”

“No. We do all the imagining for you.”


LEGO has plenty of plain block sets. There is usually a door/window included, or wheels/steering wheel, etc. but there is all sorts of room for creativity.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:13 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only thing I dislike about Lego is that stupid girly girls line they're doing now, somewhat incompatible with their main line and very much aimed at the pink ghetto with most of the imagination leached out of it.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:27 PM on December 4, 2012


The only thing I dislike about Lego is that _______ line they're doing now, somewhat incompatible with their main line and very much aimed at the _______ ghetto with most of the imagination leached out of it.

Fill in those blanks with "Star Wars" and I'd agree with you.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:46 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only thing I dislike about Lego is that stupid girly girls line they're doing now, somewhat incompatible with their main line and very much aimed at the pink ghetto with most of the imagination leached out of it.

Where 'now' is at least the last 20 years or so.
posted by hoyland at 1:49 PM on December 4, 2012


Lego Education is where you want to get your open-ended brick sets.
posted by jamaro at 2:36 PM on December 4, 2012


At first, reading this thread I was all "Oh man, all the cynicism, yuck" and then the cynic-defenders went way over the top and pushed into parody with the All Businesses And Staff Of All Businesses Solely Profit Motive Soulless Robots stuff and I could have a giggle at that.

So, warm fuzzies and a laugh, great thread.
posted by Catch at 2:59 PM on December 4, 2012


The only thing I dislike about Lego is that stupid girly girls line they're doing now, somewhat incompatible with their main line and very much aimed at the pink ghetto with most of the imagination leached out of it.

The Lego Friends sets are made of regular Lego System bricks, fully compatible with all other Lego System bricks. The Friends figures differ from the classic Minifigure, but their hands grip the same accessories, and their hair can be swapped with regular Minifigs.

While they do have a few sets with stereotypical things like beauty shops and domestic houses, they also offer treehouse, airplane, convertible, speedboat, and inventor workshop sets.

Personally, I think they have tried to bridge the gap between things that typically sell to girls, and more adventurous things that are typically marketed to boys.

Lego is not in the business of going out of business by selling nothing but gender-neutral primary color brick buckets.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:00 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


“You do and you better build yourself a lawyer.”

That's not really true. I attended BrickCon's Saturday Exhibition Day this year in Seattle. In the same room as the booth operated by the official Lego Company, there was a bunch of builders showing off their builds, but also there were a myriad of Lego weapon dealers including Brickarms and also Ichiban Toys, who sell packaged sets for pop culture stuff (that Lego has no current license with) like Back to the Future and Star Trek.

So, not only does Lego allow people to build their own stuff, they seem to at least accept that fans will create their own weapons out of molds and also their own sets to sell.
posted by FJT at 3:43 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


banshee: "You do and you better build yourself a lawyer"

FJT: "That's not really true."

Shh! Banshee's making an Edgy and Incisive Statement about the inherent evil of all corporations. Don't try to disrupt it with your pesky facts.
posted by Bugbread at 5:46 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just came back in to say that I got a little lump in my throat when I retold this story to some family members yesterday. Also story time.

Growing up, my brother and I played with LEGO constantly. Every Sunday afternoon was designated LEGO time. I had my first job at age eleven: a paper route which I used primarily to fund more LEGO purchases. I remember the one Christmas when Little Bro and I got really nice LEGO sets from Santa. They were identical set types (i.e. in brick amount/cost) but mine was the Black Knight's Castle and he got Imperial Trading Post. Of all the gifts I we ever got as kids nothing rivaled those two sets.

And the way we played with them was quite different, too. I loved to build little set pieces in which to enact dramatic stories of derring do, while my brother always preferred to construct elaborate mecha-robots in the manga/anime style, designs so intricate they boggled the mind. I guess it's no wonder that he's finishing his schooling as a graphic designer and I write user stories for a living. Even our Sunday LEGO Play revealed the inner workings of our minds, our passions, our desires.

And you know what? I'm 30 years old now and I still have every single LEGO set from my childhood, and so does Little Bro. Actually, they're all jumbled in one big plastic storage tub, but I bet only a handful of pieces are missing. That box is HEAVY. We've been trading possession of the the Sacred Tub of LEGO back and forth for years now. He currently has it but is expecting his first child in a few weeks so I imagine I will regain possession very soon, much to my delight. Even while I don't have the box I find myself, whenever I'm at a Target or something, wandering over to the LEGO section, and somehow invariably a small set will end up in the shopping cart, even though my oldest is only four so I still have to wait a few more years to share with him the pure unfettered joy that is LEGO (in the meantime DUPLO are serviceable). I'm still buying them for me, though I've never gone to a BrickCon and I wouldn't really call myself an AFOL. He looks up, eyeing the pastiche of minifigs adorning the left shelf of his office desk. Okay, maybe I should call myself an AFOL.

I could go on and on about LEGO. But not all stories are mine to tell. I will say this, however: I do believe that these toys, these seeming insignificant playthings, have great therapeutic powers, of that I have no doubt.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:42 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean, honestly, this story didn't seem atypical for pretty much any kid, Asperger's or otherwise - he saved up his money for a year to get an awesome train set, he found out it had been discontinued, and he wrote to the company to ask if they had any more. That's a completely normal thing

Yes, I agree. And also, the fact that things change may be a necessary lesson, but after that much saving up it seems an unnecessarily harsh way of getting it. I mean, I'd be pretty gutted if I saved all my spare cash for two years and then found the thing I'd saved for was gone, and I'm a non-austic adult. Being told that I just had to learn from this that things change wouldn't teach me anything except that it's a hard, cold world and nobody sympathises - and that, no kid needs to learn.

Besides, didn't he learn another lesson too? The lesson that initiative and communication skills sometimes serve you better than despair or anger? That's a good lesson for any kid, and for an Aspie kid in particular that's a great thing to learn. After all, he was in a social skills class, which suggests that his social skills were a) something he needed to develop, and b) something he was capable of improving. Writing a persuasive letter is a social skill. What better incentive to keep working on his social skills than to find that he's doing so well with them?

There's a good lesson a kid could take out of this, and I think it's worth valuing.

--

The only thing I dislike about Lego is that _______ line they're doing now, somewhat incompatible with their main line and very much aimed at the _______ ghetto with most of the imagination leached out of it.
//
Fill in those blanks with "Star Wars" and I'd agree with you.


Call me a hairy-legged feminist, but personally I think that treating girls and women with respect matters a bit more than treating the Star Wars franchise with respect.

(For those interested in the girly branch of Lego and objections to it, Anita Sarkeesian has two videos on the subject.)
posted by Kit W at 12:59 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Call me a hairy-legged feminist

Hairy-legged feminist!

I'm still confused. Lego was always among the most gender neutral toys when I was growing up.
Not entirely, but never explicitly.
posted by Mezentian at 2:30 AM on December 5, 2012


I'm still confused. Lego was always among the most gender neutral toys when I was growing up.
Not entirely, but never explicitly.


I suspect a lot depend on when you grew up.
posted by Kit W at 2:34 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Call me a hairy-legged feminist, but personally I think that treating girls and women with respect matters a bit more than treating the Star Wars franchise with respect.

Well, there are always going to be a part of the population (regardless of gender) that like pink and pastel things, so I don't see the Lego Friends line as a pink ghetto. In fact, some collectors are using the sets and colors in their model building already, and that is probably part of the reason why the sets are selling well.

And, though it isn't good that Lego has a specific category for "girls" in their online shop, I find it good at least the category isn't filled with the Lego Friends line. Lego at least knows gender doesn't make a difference on interest in architecture or in the ability to build complex sets, as there's things like this Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 400 and the Tower Bridge of London included.
posted by FJT at 7:28 AM on December 5, 2012




The only thing I dislike about Lego is that stupid girly girls line they're doing now, somewhat incompatible with their main line and very much aimed at the pink ghetto with most of the imagination leached out of it.

Oh, I don't know.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:30 AM on December 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


« Older Ex Libris Houdini   |   Frog Peak Music UNBOUND Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post