Toys 'R' Us pissed off the wrong guy.
A Connecticut man, who is a LEGO master builder and has created museum exhibits using the modular toy, is threatening a class-action lawsuit accusing the retailer of pulling a bait-and-switch with a free LEGO gift set during the holiday season last year.
A New Jersey law firm filed a class-action complaint with a U.S. District Court on behalf of plaintiff and LEGO expert William Probert the day after Thanksgiving. Toys 'R' Us has 21 days from the date the complaint was filed to respond.
While the new complaint refers to events that took place in November 2011, it comes as the store is struggling to keep up with online orders and provide timely customer service this year, according to customer complaints.
Has a store failed to deliver on a holiday shopping deal you purchased this year? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Albano, a spokeswoman from Toys 'R' Us, said the toy retailer could not comment on the pending litigation.
In his court filing, Probert, of Fairfield, said the toy retailer failed to deliver on its promise of "free gift" sets that were to be bundled with his order of four different LEGO sets in November 2011. According to his complaint, the advertised free gifts were LEGO building sets worth $15 -- offers that were tempting enough to lure Probert to Toysrus.com to make his purchases. But instead Probert claims he received substitute items worth far less that the promised free gift, including a Christmas tree figurine and mini-figure magnet, each with a retail value of less than $5.
"The representations regarding 'free gift' sets accompanying the underlying purchases made by [Toys] were deceptive, false and misleading," the complaint said.
Through a representative on Tuesday, Probert said he could not comment on the case. However, the representative confirmed that he is the master builder behind a LEGO exhibit on display at the Stamford Museum in Stamford, Conn. The New York Times reviewed a similar exhibit by Probert last year calling it "a combination of remarkable ingenuity and pure fun."
Regardless of the outcome, Probert's complaint highlights the challenges online shoppers face when bonus gifts or other promotional incentives cannot be assessed in-person.
This year, consumers fumed at Dell Computer after the company tried to substitute items in a special offer. Toys 'R' Us acknowledged in a CNN Money online report that web traffic overwhelmed the retailer during Cyber Monday leading to the more recent consumer frustrations.
"Last week was one of the busiest for online shopping across the industry -– and Toysrus.com was no exception, " Albano said in the CNN report.
Retail experts described these ordering difficulties as the result of over-marketing without enough attention to the online ordering systems.
Toys 'R' Us continues to aggressively promote deals this holiday shopping season. With tough competition from other discount retailers, including Amazon.com, the store is offering price matching on all its toys and products. To give sales an additional boost, the retailer's flagship store in New York City's Times Square will remain open around the clock until Christmas Eve at 10 p.m.