Pick A Brick In Times of COVID

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One of the things COVID changed over the last year was LEGO fans access to the Pick A Brick wall in the LEGO Brand Retail stores.

I’ve written about LEGO store Pick A Brick walls before and thought it would be good to see how that experience has changed in the first year of COVID-19 lockdowns.

First and foremost, LEGO stores famously shut down both the Pick A Brick wall and Build A Minifigure stations as COVID started to spread. This makes sense as having dozens of random people digging their hands through the pieces and possibly leaving contaminants behind was a possibly major vector. Makes me wonder what lurked in those bins prior to COVID – even though stores have regular cleaning procedures in place.

Image from Utrecht LEGO Store – uploaded by JPL on PabFinder.com

As regional COVID rules allowed, LEGO implemented new policies & procedures to allow people to get bulk bricks. Stores created example boards to show what parts were available. Buyers could then request the parts in 1/4 cup increments for example. This varied by store, some only sold fully cups, pre-packed by staff.

Obviously this isn’t as “fun” as picking through and choosing exactly how many of certain pieces you want or trying to squeeze in a few more tiles or plates, or spending an hour maxing out a large cup of 2×4 bricks, but it was an improvement and fairly safe.

Recently some Pick A Brick walls are re-opening for direct access, meaning you might be able to be more choosy about your cup selections. There are precautions in place like extra hand sanitizing and even gloves in some places, but it’s more open, and again relatively safe.

“Should I go to the LEGO store?”

Depending on where you are, leaving the house may not be an option, but if it is, you might ask if you should go to the LEGO store? Part of that of course depends on COVID restrictions and risks, but even post-COVID (whenever that may be) it’s good to know if the parts you need are available, or what cool treasures you might find there.

In the previous LEGO Pick-A-Brick Wall article, I talked about some ways to know what’s there. A relatively new site showed up with some promise – PABFinder.com – is a crowd-sourced set of photos based on the store display. There’s pros and cons to this but overall I kind of like the approach.

One pro is that it exists. And it allows you to see the changes over time based on the photos. Obviously being crowd-sourced the frequency and quality of photos isn’t always consistent (a con). Another con for some is that it seems to be Euro-centric at the moment, listing only European stores. Maybe it’s part of a soft-launch strategy.

Another con, when compared to previous sites, is that there’s no real listing of parts, so it’s not searchable. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with multiple stores, you can’t easily decide which to visit.

PABFinder.com also offers RSS feeds for each store and has a chat in Telegram to follow up that way.

What else?

The Facebook Group LEGO Pick A Brick Wall Exchange continues to be popular with several regular posters sharing what’s up locally, as well as offering to ship from their wall.

BrickBuildr’s store listings seem to have died, with the most recent update being 9 months ago and most stores much older than that.

Of course the Pick-A-Brick online option from LEGO, along with their Bricks & Pieces service are still options, but their timelines are pretty long for shipping.

If you know of other online sources, feel free to comment below and I’ll take a look.

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