SomethingStore Sends $10 Surprise to Your Door

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You know that feeling you get when someone hands you a gift box and you don't know what's inside? Now there's a company that will sell you that feeling any time you want. For $10, the SomethingStore will sell you something. And you won't know what it is until it arrives at your door and you open the box.


The entire point of those economic stimulus checks many of you are getting in the mail about now is to spend them. If you haven't decided what to buy, you could try something. There's a store that sells just that. It's called The Something Store, a shopping experience that's kind of like buying the mystery prize behind door number three. Brad Linder explains.

BRAD LINDER: Finding the right gift can be hard work, whether you're shopping for yourself or for someone else. If you've ever wished someone would just pick the presents for you, then you know exactly how Sami Bay felt one day last year when looking for a gift for a friend.

Mr. SAMI BAY (Owner, The Something Store): What if somebody just decided for me and just sent, you know, something decent, something nice, something interesting. And I was thinking like that something, something, something, and The Something Store was born.

LINDER: The Something Store is exactly what it sounds like: a store where you can buy something. You don't get to find out what it is until it arrives at your door. Here's how it works. You visit and pay $10. That's it. All items are the same price and shipping's included. And you won't know if you got a coffee mug or a digital camera until you open your package about seven days later.

But why exactly would anybody spend $10 on something without knowing what it is?

Mr. TOM WHITTEN(ph) (Flight Planner): I think you're basically buying $10 worth of, ooh, I wonder what it's going to be, you know, type of excitement. And then, you know, if you get something good, then that's a bonus.

LINDER: Tom Whitten is a flight planner for a small commercial airline in upstate New York. After spotting The Something Store while surfing the Web a few weeks ago, Whitten plunked down $10. He says he wasn't expecting much, but he was hoping to get something really cool.

Mr. WHITTEN: Well, I mean, you know, an iPod or something, you know, something really, really good. But just something I can, you know, actually use, even if it's just a $10 gift card or, you know, a good book. I really wouldn't want to get something, you know, like cheap jewelry or, you know, a Def Leppard necktie or something like that.

LINDER: While The Something Store has never shipped a Def Leppard necktie, the company has sent out a handful of iPod Shuffle mp3 players, which are worth far more than $10. The most expensive item the company's ever shipped was a $630 computer. The Something Store can only sell expensive products by making sure that most of the items cost less than $10. For every iPod that's sold The Something Store ships dozens of coffee mugs, wallets and shaving kits. But when you place an order you never know what you're going to get.

Founder Sami Bay says that's what makes shopping at The Something Store an experience and not just a transaction.

Mr. BAY: I think it's more suspenseful. Something, I mean, there's mystery behind it. And we don't want to send very cheap products to a large group of people and send something really nice to a very few people. That would be like a lottery. Instead we want to try to send everybody something nice and some people something nicer.

LINDER: Not everybody's happy when they open their box of something. Bay says early on he sent women's clothing and jewelry to men and vice versa and received some complaints. About two weeks after placing his order, Tom Whitten got an envelope in the mail, which he couldn't wait to open up.

Mr. WHITTEN: Well, I've got my trusty pocketknife and I'm going to cut the edge of the envelope here. And pulling it open. And it's not a gift card or anything like that. It's an object. It's green. I'm trying to figure out what it is. It's - actually, this is very cool. It's a four-port USB hub and I'm very happy.

LINDER: Whitten says he would've been satisfied with anything he could use, even a cheap coffee mug, but he says he'd been planning on buying a USB hub for his computer anyway. And as it turns out, he just did.

For NPR News, I'm Brad Linder in New York.

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