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Amazon 'surprise' packs the latest online phenomenon thanks to TikTok

'A lot of people are gamblers in one way or another,' says owner of Bayfield Street store, which resells items that have been returned to global merchandise giant


A Barrie store’s Amazon “surprise” packages has become part of a new internet sensation.

Users of TikTok, a social media platform for creating, sharing and discovering short videos, have been descending en masse over the last two months to Xtreme Dollar on Bayfield Street in the city’s north to buy unopened Amazon packages in the hopes of ending up with some big-ticket items.

Store owner Gord Kotler said he has a contract with Amazon and buys truckloads of their return products every month. Those items then fill up the shelves of his five Ontario stores. In those trucks, he said are the unopened packages that have somehow become the latest online viral sensation.

“We had been doing it a while, then all of a sudden, maybe two months ago, a customer was so delighted with what they got in it for $10 that they put it on TikTok. Needless to say, (people) were lined up within hours. We had to lock the doors and bring people in one at a time due to COVID protocols,” he said.

Staff said they’ve had people come down from Sudbury and stay overnight in a hotel to make sure they could be there for new shipments, while others have come from as far away as Montreal and Ottawa.

They’re also constantly fielding calls from folks wanting to know when the store is getting a shipment.

But once the bins are filled, staff don’t expect the bins to stay full for long, typically selling out within an hour or so.

“We keep selling out,” said Kotler, adding he thinks the reason it’s become so popular could be because it’s a fun way to ease boredom  plus you never get left empty-handed. “A lot of people are gamblers in one way or another.

"The lottery business wouldn't be what it is otherwise, but, when you buy a lottery ticket you spend money and if you didn’t win you just throw the ticket in the garbage. Here, you’re guaranteed you’re going to get at least your $10 value worth so you haven’t lost anything," he added. 

Angie Wright is among those who have purchased the “surprise” packages at Xtreme Dollar. She has ended up with a Revlon hair dryer, heart-rate monitor, rechargeable pet clippers, curlers, a neck massager and numerous sets of wireless headphones  to name just a few.

The appeal, she says, is simple. 

“The surprise of not knowing what’s in that package. Kids love surprise bags, but adults don’t often get offered surprise bags," Wright said. 

Kotler and his staff say they’ve heard people have ended up with watches, Columbia jackets, a Nintendo Switch and even iPads. When they have the packages in stock, they could easily sell upwards of 1,000 a day, he added. 

“If somebody gets something good, they’re either coming back for more or they’re telling 10 other people. It just went nuts and then more people were doing this TikTok thing,” said Kotler, adding he’s even received a call from France asking if he’d be opening a store there and offering the packages. “We don’t even understand it and we never expected it... but so many people are doing it.

"We never know what we are going to get or how many. That’s up to Amazon.”

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About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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