Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Appeal of Mystery

What drives people to choose or buy things when they don't know exactly what they're buying?

Last summer, we stopped by Crafty Wonderland to check it out and of course my kid was determined to find something she could buy with the $5 limit I'd given her before we entered the shop. After I proved to her that there were items in her price range, she was entranced by a cool selection of magnets. But instead of buying the one she liked best, she opted for a "mystery box" that contained one of about a dozen styles by the very talented local artist Bishop Lennon. And while Ellie didn't get the Portland rose she had hoped for, she was delighted with Stumpy.

Stumpy in the center of a drawing the artist must have put on the refrigerator herself because I don't recognize it.  We have a fridge with the freezer on the bottom, and the deal is that she curates the freezer door and the adults are the sole curators of the fridge door. 
I didn't get it at all until just recently when I found a shelf at my local library branch urging patrons to go on a "blind date." There were about a dozen books on the shelf, all wrapped in kraft paper with what looked like personals ads printed on the front. (Wish I'd had my camera! I'll try to get back there later this week to take a pic of the display, and I'll post it on our Facebook page.) You wouldn't find out which book you'd chosen until you checked it out.

It was absolutely irresistible to me! In fact, it was painful to limit myself to just one.

Here's the one I chose:

The "personal" reads:  "Single mother seeks rugged outdoor type who believes in fairytales. Experience handling difficult teenagers a plus." The book is Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman, although I haven't brought myself to unwrap it yet!

But while I was delighted with this idea by the librarians to encourage people to take chances with books they might otherwise not pick up, it apparently doesn't have universal appeal. During a recent Facebook conversation, my friend Melody, who is an absolutely voracious reader with very high standards, thought the idea of "blind date" books was appalling because, really, why waste time reading mediocre or worse books? And I understand her point of view. I often feed my reading habit with free Kindle downloads from Amazon, and the vast majority are worth exactly what I pay for them. I do enjoy finding the occasional gem though.

But there's clearly some appeal to those types of treasure hunts or there wouldn't be so many opportunities to buy them.

Ellie wants to offer a sort of "grab bag" of her note cards (and maybe the bookmarks she plans to add to her offerings) on Etsy. And I'm contemplating trying it out to see if there's any demand out there.

What do you think? Would you (or do you) buy something without knowing exactly what you're getting? Do you like the surprise? Let me know, either in comments here or on Facebook -- I'd love to hear what you think!

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