For some, money can buy happiness. Have you ever heard of Pop Mart?
Starting out from a toy store in Beijing in 2010, Pop Mart now has more than 300 outlets and 2,000 vending machines across the globe. How? Mainly through selling one type of product – blind boxes.
The company regularly collaborates with designers to create figurines and places them in blind boxes. These figurines typically come in a series of figures or designs, and buyers will not know what they are getting until they open the boxes, which adds to the thrill and excitement of getting the product.
Some series feature special designs and figures that are rarer than others and are harder to get, which the company calls “secret” or “chase” figures. They are one of the reasons for the craze over Pop Mart, as many aim to collect these rarer items either for collection or resale purposes.
If you still don’t get how popular Pop Mart is, the company has even opened its first theme park in Beijing a few months ago!
But is it all just fun and figures, or is there something deeper to it that we should be thinking about?
There have been debates over whether these blind boxes resemble gambling, because they meet most of the criteria of traditional gambling activities.
A Medium article claims that Pop Mart meets Griffith’s criteria of gambling, which include:
- Involves money exchanges
- The final product is determined purely or partially by chance
- The final product is unknown and unpredictable
The article also explains how these blind boxes can easily lead to addiction and overspending: “What everyone is after are the rare figurines. Certain POP MART figurines are harder to find than others, which adds to the frenzy. Collectors and fans will probably want to get a complete set of their favourites, which leads to them buying–and spending– more. With the result often only revealed after purchase, the gamble is either well worth it or a bust.”
I have seen how these blind boxes can cause one to spend quite recklessly in real life. One day after church service, some of my cell group members went to buy Naruto Series Pop Mart.
After one of them got a figure that he didn’t like, someone said: “You can’t end off with an L. You have to get one more.”
The cell group member was quickly convinced and went ahead to look for another box. Everyone was just soaked in the excitement and waiting to see what he got, but I was shocked by how one could just spend $30 so mindlessly in a matter of a few minutes.
One blind box typically costs $15.90 (some with nicer designs and bigger sizes would cost more). Two blind boxes cost more than $30 – that is about six meals at a coffee shop.
At the Pop Mart store, I was also shocked by the number of blind boxes that one particular customer bought. He was carrying four big paper bags filled with blind boxes, which I estimate to cost more than a thousand dollars!
Whether it was for resale or collection’s sake, I struggled to make sense of how one could spend such a huge amount on these figurines and toys.
Without careful consideration and proper self-restraint, Pop Mart can really cause one to spend too much and too fast.
Just an entertainment?
However, some friends who buy Pop Mart have told me that this is just entertainment and a way to destress. To be fair, I have seen how some friends are able to exercise self-control and only buy within their means.
For example, they keep track of how many boxes they have bought in a month, and they limit how many boxes they will buy when they go to JB since it is cheaper in Malaysia.
To prevent themselves from buying more when they get something they don’t like, they also only open the boxes after they have left the shop.
It still isn’t a small amount of money when you add it all up, but they believe there’s at least more planning and consideration this way and that the money isn’t spent recklessly.
After all, don’t we all have different things that we just love and spend a little bit more money on?
Self-control is key
“It is not good to eat too much honey… Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:27-28)
Ultimately, the problem doesn’t lie so much in Pop Mart or its marketing strategies — but in our hearts and how we choose to spend our money.
There is nothing wrong with buying Pop Mart. Just like there is nothing wrong with spending money to perm your hair (I did that recently), treating yourself to a nice meal at a café, getting yourself a new pair of shoes or buying clothes.
The problem only comes when we become slaves to these things of the world, when we are not careful with how we spend our money and blindly pursue these things.
So, whether it is Pop Mart, branded shoes or electronic gadgets, let us exercise wisdom and self-control.
As Christ’s followers, let us always seek to be good stewards and honour God with our wealth (Proverbs 3:9)!
- Do you watch how you spend your money? How can you do that?
- What does the Bible say about stewardship?
- Is there someone in your life who can keep you accountable about how you steward your money?
- How can you bless someone practically today?