Would you buy a "Mystery Bag"?

It’s a New Year’s tradition in Japan for all the stores to start selling Fukubukuro, or Good Luck Bags for the first week or so of the year.

Generally, it works like this: the shop sells sealed bags for $10, $20, $50 or more (one really upscale jewelers announced they had $10,000 bags. I think they actually sold a few). You can’t see what’s inside, but it’s guaranteed to have a retail value of at least the price of the bag (many shops set the minimum value higher). Somewhere in the mix, there will be a bag or two worth a LOT more than the purchase price ($200 gift certificate, gold jewelery, etc.).

Now, the cynical side of me sees this as an easy way for the department stores to dump all the merchandise that didn’t move last year, but I guess I can see the attraction. I’ve never bought one, since most of the stores that sell them stock lots of things that neither I, nor anyone I’d give gifts to, have any use for. This year, however, Starbucks was selling them for $20, with a minimum retail value of $30 and one of the items being a gift certificate of $10-$50. That’s something I’d buy, since there’s almost nothing they sell that I can’t use. Unfortunately, they were sold out by the time I got there.

I don’t remember seeing anything like this when I lived in the States, so I’m curious just how popular this kind of thing would be in other countries. If any of the department stores in your area started offering Mystery Bags, would you buy them? If not, are there any specialty shops where you would?

If it were a cultural thing here, I think I probably would. Americans spend money on a lot of other things for various holidays, just for the fun of participating.

I think the type of specialty store where I’d be most interested would be something like Pier 1 Imports, since they could tie it into the new year celebration, make me feel like I was doing something global, and I’d probably find a use for the candles, housewares, decorative items, etc. they’d be likely to contain.

Several years ago, when Beanie Babies were popular, I saw them sold this way in many stores around here, even convenience stores. Other than that, I have never seen them in my part of the U.S.

Several of the catalog store’s I buy from have mystery boxes. I like them - even if I don’t care for the contents, I can give it as a gift.

Quilt stores do this frequently. They’ll give out little mystery bags as drawing prizes, or have contests where you get a free mystery bag of coordinated fabric, and have to make a quilt with it (if you don’t complete a quilt, you have to pay for the fabric). I did that once*. Another thing I’d like to try is a mystery quilt, where you don’t know what you’re making; you just follow the directions and wind up with something unexpected. A double mystery quilt is where you get surprise fabric, too.

So I’d do it if it was a store that I had a good interest in. Not a regular department store, where I usually search the whole place to find two items I can live with. But a store that had a lot of stuff I liked, sure.
*(To my horror, I got a package of country folk-art plaids and stripes. I made a pretty good quilt, though, and use it as a fall hanging. I met a lady at the end who said she was horrified at getting a bag full of batiks, which I would have loved. She in turn wanted my plaids.)

When I was in elementary school, I used to buy surprise bags from the dollar store down the street. At least, in retrospect I think it must have been a dollar store. As a kid I saw it as a wow-look-at-all-the-cool-stuff store, with candy and fun erasers and those flat plastic snappy bracelets with New Kids On The Block on them. The bags were filled with candy, stickers, and toys, and were separated into a “girl” pile and a “boy” pile, so boys wouldn’t be embarrassed upon finding a Barbie scrunchie in their loot.

I’d buy a 10$ one, from a store I liked, if I were to see one these days. Even if it’s all last year’s stock, and I don’t like any of it, I’d find people to give it to. And ripping open the bag to discover the secret treasures inside is just as much fun as the “prizes” themselves. Like on Halloween, when some people give out their candy in little stapled plastic bags… I’d always save them till the very end of the night, and open them one at a time. It was the best part of the night.

I used to get the grab bag things from the Sanrio store in my local mall all the time when I was young. Those were always tons of fun. I’d probably still get one of those now if the store was still around and I had some spare cash.

But I definitely wouldn’t get one from just anywhere. Most stores I frequent have too many things that I wouldn’t want, so I doubt I would really end up getting something I (or a friend, even) would want. However, if it were a store that stocked a majority of stuff I would like, I would go for it.

Theres a local chain of adult novelty/lingerie stores around here that has his and hers mystery bags. The hers always have some sort of phallic object, and the his always have some sort of video cassette or dvd.
Again, a gift thing mainly, congratulations, you’re 18 heres a dildo.

I should add that it’s not a cultural thing here, although it seems that it is more of an occurence in the midwest in smaller, independent stores like dollar stores, sex shops, novelty stores. It’s seldom seen towards the coast, by me anyway, escept in little giftshops accessable to children and their parents, more tourist traps, and seemingly more on the west coast than the east.
And if any store I frequented offered them with some clue as to whats inside (at least a gift certificate and another item…) then, yeah Id probably go for it.