This is a true story. We will call the LEGO employee Geoffery to protect his identity.

We got to the airport too early. On the way back to school from fall break, my friend (first-year Sophie Black) and I had an hour to waste in Newark Airport and we had no idea what to do. Luckily, LEGO was there for us.

We kept one eye on the gate (of course, you gotta, it might move), and began to explore. The terrain was unfamiliar bar the neon LEGO sign in the distance. We knew what we had to do.

Upon entering the prepubescent construction workers factory, we noticed “Tranquil Garden” — #10315, for my LEGO nerds out there. It was a Japanese pavilion with a woodsy garden and a stream. We absolutely had to have it. No, we don’t know why, how dare you ask that.

The only problem was that it cost $110 (a whopping eight cents per piece). I would rather eat my own leg. I don’t have LEGO money to begin with, much less 110 DOLLARS. We’re broke college students, and frankly it’s inhumane that LEGO charges that much for some trees and a pavilion. This is a need, not a want, and it’s not being met.

So we gave up on the set, content to admire from afar.

We filled our time instead with guessing how much the other LEGO sets cost. Eventually, the lone employee at the store joined in on the action. Geoffery had us guess which set was the most expensive in the store and introduced us to the parrot he built (and had not named?!). By the end of this experience, the parrot was named Sophie II, after Sophie I, my friend. Remember her from five paragraphs ago?

The conversation shifted to Geoffery’s life. We talked about his hobbies, his passions, and his anime edits YouTube channel before eventually turning back to the LEGOs. How could he not? We are all 18+ year olds at heart, after all. That’s the age recommendation for the set. Big girl LEGOs. 

As it turns out, you get 20% off if the box is damaged. “What if the Tranquil Garden set was damaged?” I said, as I banged it on Geoffery’s desk. Repeatedly. Right in front of his face. Whoops!

We weren’t annoying him! Really. He played along.

He agreed. And then an idea began to take shape in our minds. “Is there an employee discount at LEGO?” we questioned innocently.

Turns out there was! 30% for employees. Now Geoffery wanted to know if we worked at LEGO as well. “Why yes of course,” we said, “and we already knew about the discount, we were just testing you.”

He didn’t buy it. But we had proof! I had my employee badge! And by my badge, I do mean, yes, the image I looked up on Google of a LEGO employee badge. I showed him this indisputable evidence (there was no way this could go wrong), but he kindly pointed out that in the photo, my badge had neither name, photo, nor ID number, and it even still had its tag on. 

I’m scrambling. How had this all gone so wrong so quickly? Luckily, I had Markup. I was good, maybe too good. He gobbled my lies right up. 

Now we’re arguing that he should stack discounts. We use a couple different tactics:

  1. Sophie’s Japanese, and she made the incredibly valid argument that, if Geoffery didn’t give us an extra 20% off, he was racist and so was the entire LEGO corporation.
  2. We told Geoffery that we were social media influencers and would make LEGO a household name. He, once more, demanded proof. 

Easy. I pull up Kim Kardashian’s Instagram and tell him it’s me. Poor boy couldn’t spot the difference. I’m too good!

  1. Did you know that Sophie grew up in the temple/pavilion pictured on the box? She lauded Geoffery with tales of growing up there, including intense detail (using the props in the pavilion) about family breakfasts and bathing in the stream. We had Geoffery hooked! He felt so bad. He wanted Sophie to have the place she grew up in, which the evil LEGO corporation stole (appropriated) from her.

At this point we had been in this remarkable man’s store, chatting with him, and (lightly and respectfully) haggling, for over 40 minutes. We had to wrap this shit up or we were going to miss our flight.

Okay readers, gather in close. What I’m about to tell you could be classified as corporate espionage, and so I have to ask you, dear readers, to keep it on the down low.

This man LIED to the computer. He — of his own volition, we didn’t even know this existed — put in the code for a supervisor discount, which is 40% off (he couldn’t stack discounts, much to all parties’ dismay)! He said he’d pay for it and we could pay him back.

We’d gone from $110 to $70. Still a ridiculous amount, as you might be saying, but unfortunately for our wallets, Sophie and I were victims of the sunk cost fallacy: We’d invested so much time and energy at this point that we had to do it. For the plot!

So we agreed to go in halfsies. 

I handed Geoffery $35 in cash, right there. Sophie asked if he had Venmo. He did not. He countered with Zelle. We returned with Apple Cash.

Alas, Sophie gave in. She agreed to get Zelle. She downloaded it and was making an account and everything, but she didn’t have her bank’s app??? I was like, “This is ridiculous,” I have my bank’s app (because I am not a toddler, despite the apparent tomfoolery) and I’m downloading Zelle when ….

“Just. Just stop,” cut in Geoffery, “I don’t want your money. Just take the LEGOs.”

WHAT?! King, no. Hoooold your horses. You’re a stranger!

But he was determined. He wouldn’t let us pay him.

We were quite literally throwing the remainder of our cash at him (it was like 20 bucks). We were shocked, alarmed, and amazed?

He wouldn’t take it! Geoffery said he would only accept repayment through subscription to his anime edit YouTube and a follow on Instagram.

We did these in a heartbeat. We felt bad, but we also had a flight to catch. We gave him a hug, said we would never forget him for as long as we live, and parted ways.

Since I know how bad you must want it, I’ll give a hint as to the identity of the miraculous Geoffery. One of the videos on his YouTube has over a million views. Don’t say I never do anything for you, dearest readers.

Here’s a picture of the LEGO set we built. 

Worth it.

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