Over the summer, I managed to snag a job at the LEGO store at North Point Mall (for all my non-Georgians, it's a mall in the metro-Atlanta area.) I worked as a Brick Specialist, which means I was one of the part-time salespeople in a yellow apron. Before I could start working, I had to go through training. And I learned a series of random and interesting facts about one of the world's most well-known toy companies.
Without further ado, here are 10 things you learn as a LEGO Brick Specialist!
1. LEGO started out as a wooden toy company.
I know you most likely associate LEGOs with plastic bricks and assorted plastic figurines, but LEGO was a wooden toy store run by a man and his son for years before they expanded into plastic toys. Their factory burned down twice too. The LEGO Company released a video on YouTube about its history, which you can watch above.
2. Brick separators are basically lifesavers.
You know those large orange things that come in LEGO sets now but aren't bricks and have no clear purpose? That is a brick separator, and it is your best friend when you need to separate two 4x4 thin pieces that some 6-year-old stuck together. They also wear out over time, so keep more than one around just in case your current one gives out. You can buy them at LEGO stores if you ever need one; any Brick Specialist can help you find them.
3. "Everything Is Awesome" mentions chocolate frosting.
Confession time: I hadn't seen "The Lego Movie"until the other day, but I have heard this song at least thirty times while working. The more you hear it, the more you start learning the lyrics. At one point it mentions dipping your body in chocolate frosting...which I was not expecting to hear in song from a children's movie. If you don't believe me, both me and my supervisor looked the lyrics up on Google Play.
4. LEGO is very serious about its company culture.
From the moment you send in a job application, every piece of paper or online portal you work with has LEGO bricks, LEGO primary colors, LEGO mini-figures... their branding team has done some serious work. It creates a very cohesive environment, though, rather than seeming cheesy or overdone. You can tell they want you to be excited to work there, and all my coworkers love their jobs, even on busy days. LEGO actively works to encourage that in all of its employees, which I really appreciate.
5. Most instruction booklets for sets are available online.
Don't print them, because you will run out of color ink. If you go to lego.com, scroll down to the bottom, and click on "Building Instructions" under the Customer Service section, you can enter in your set information and find the instructions. You can also order replacement pieces for sets, up to 75 pieces a year.
6. 30% DISCOUNT OH YEAH
Part-time employees receive a 30 percent discount on LEGO purchases, up to a certain dollar value per year, and full-time employees receive a 50 percent discount. If you weren't considering a LEGO job before, now you are. I was recruited by my family to buy Christmas presents because of my discount. Yes, your jealousy is understandable.
7. Your LEGO bricks come from all over the world.
The side of every LEGO box lists the location where its contents were made. Bricks and other plastics are made in Denmark, the Czech Republic and Hungary. They are then shipped to Mexico, where workers package them and ship them to the United States. All fabrics, like the ones for Batman's cape, are made in China.
8. There is a right and a wrong way to fill a Pick-a-Brick cup.
If you just throw bricks in the cup and head to the cash wrap, you're wrong. The best way to get the most bang for your buck at the Pick-a-Brick wall is to strategize about how you fill your cup. Start with small bricks, like the transparent yellow ones or wheels or axles, because they fill up the circular open space at the bottom of the cup. Then stack larger bricks together and fit large, thin pieces together with one edge hanging off to maximize the rest of your space. You can always fit more small pieces at the very top.
9. [set information redacted]
Yes, Brick Specialists know about new releases and special events before the general population. It's our job. If you want to be in the know, ask one of us for a LEGO calendar — it will show you all the promotions and special events that are happening at your local LEGO store that month. Check out lego.com! If you're a kid, have a kid, or know a kid, LEGO Club is a free magazine (for small kids, we have LEGO Club Junior) that talks about all things LEGO.
10. The age range on the sets really is just a suggestion.
I've had parents tell their kids that they couldn't get a set because the age range was older than they were, and that's perfectly fine. When someone tells me they're shopping for someone, the first question I always ask is if that person has had much experience with LEGO bricks. Some parents come in looking for a set for their 8-year-old who built a large Technic set in a few hours, and others want a set for a 5-year-old who doesn't have much LEGO experience. For very advanced builders, a set above their age shouldn't be a problem, and for inexperienced young builders, it might be a better idea to stick closer to the age range suggestions. Note to parents: if you have a child around age 4 to 7 and you want a set that looks like your average LEGO set (so not Duplo) but isn't too challenging, I would recommend LEGO Juniors. Those sets have normal-sized bricks, but they are intentionally less difficult than your regular sets to be easier for small children.
I was lucky enough to have multiple summer jobs I loved, but the LEGO store will always have a very special place in my heart. I remember the two huge bins of LEGO bricks that I had as a child, and I've had so much fun interacting with other people who cherish the LEGO company and its products. Thank you, LEGO, for one of the greatest summer experiences I could've asked for (and all the new sets you're going to release in August.)