Seems like these days I keep running into websites advertised as “Netflix for…” I have encountered three separate businesses that say some vague all-seeing someone has called them “Netflix for books.” I was briefly a member of GameFly.com, the “Netflix for games,” which didn’t quite work for me because I kept being unable to find the borrowed game among my other ones. Plus, I didn’t want to return them. I’ve lasted a little longer with Pleygo, the “Netflix for Legos.”
Pleygo – What is it?
Pleygo is a mail-based Lego rental service. Cool, right? All the fun, with fewer Legos permanently lying on your kids’ floor for you to step on. I know y’all know what I’m talkin’ ’bout.
How does it work?
As with Netflix, you go to the website, sign up, create a wishlist, and start populating it with Lego and Duplo sets. You must choose from one of three membership levels: Fan at $15/month, Super Fan at $25/month, or Mega Fan at $39/month. Fan lets you choose only smaller sets, the ones with less than 200 pieces or so; Mega Fan appears to include Legos with over 500 pieces as well as all the smaller Legos; this plan lets you rent huge sets like the Death Star or the Friends Dolphin Cruiser. Super Fan covers the Legos in between.
You put a Lego set in your wishlist, and it comes in a box or envelope with a shipping label that can be resealed and returned. When you’re done building and playing with your Lego, however long it takes, you pull it apart, put everything back into the box, and put the whole thing in a mailbox.
Each Lego set comes with a small Spare Pieces Bag that includes the most popular Lego replacement bits, just in case you’re missing one. If you’re still missing a piece you need, you can order bricks without charge from the website. If you lose a piece, don’t worry about it; you’re covered. If you like a set, you can purchase it.
Does it perform as advertised?
Here’s my situation right now. I’m not actually a member. I found this out on Friday after realizing that we mailed back our last set in early December and never got a new one (you know, what with holidays and a vacation and the FREEZING cold here in the Chicago area, I just forgot about it). So I went back to the site, only to discover that at some point, our membership had been cancelled. Not sure how this happened, as I didn’t do it myself, and my calls and emails to Customer Service, which has always been responsive before, have gone apparently unheeded.
This isn’t the first problem I’ve had with Pleygo. Back in the fall the service charged me over $500 for no apparent reason and I had to call to get it removed. But usually Customer Service has been responsive. Our very first Pleygo set went astray on its way back to the company. The post office even sent us a mea culpa and a form to authorize a search, complete with the mailing label of the box attached (thus ensuring that wherever the Lego ended up, it wasn’t going to get to its destination). Pleygo was fantastic, and when it found out about the problem it issued us our next Lego immediately – actually, it issued us the next two by mistake. Maybe that was my first clue that the service still has some growing pains to deal with, even though it happened in our favor. Once one of their reps offered a free trial upgrade to Mega Fan, which was really nice of him, since I emailed after an initial free trial upgrade deal had expired and he let me do it anyway. Unfortunately, I was still too unorganized to take advantage of the second offer in time.
The other issue we’ve had is Legos disappearing off our wishlist. We found a rare Atlantis Lego on the site and were excited, but during the time we were renting a different Lego, it disappeared from our queue. At one point, I think we had five Legos on our wishlist, and a few weeks later I logged in and we didn’t have any and I couldn’t find them using the search. Did someone buy them out from under us? I have no idea. The last time I logged on in December, I couldn’t find that much of interest that we didn’t already own, but hopefully that was a temporary problem or perhaps I wasn’t searching properly.
However, the good news is that we only once received a Lego set missing any pieces we needed. Fortunately, it was a common one and we supplied it through our own Lego collection. We’ve found that given the specialized nature of most Lego sets these days, the Spare Pieces bag has never been that much help.
Pleygo sent me a survey last week asking me if I’d rent Thomas the Tank Engine toys from the company if they offered them. The answer was no, but only because my eight-year-old boy has grown out of Thomas. I think it’s a good idea, and I hope the company does it.
But now that I’ve had two months without Pleygo after having been involuntarily taken off the site, I’m thinking about not going back. I’ve always had trouble with these rental services because I’m just not good at returning things in a timely manner. It’s the same reason I don’t hang out much at the library anymore – with the overdue fines I rack up, I might as well be buying the books anyway. Once my cat threw up on a Dora the Explorer book and I had to buy the thing from the library for $20 and then throw it out.
So, frankly, buying Legos is less hassle for me – even if it’s more clutter – and I’m not sure if I think the balance is worth it. But for Lego-loving families with a sufficiently-sized mailbox (unlike me), a dislike of Lego clutter, and a willingness to deal with the issues I’ve discussed, Pleygo is worthy.