I Bought a Le Creuset Mystery Box, and It Changed My Life | #datingscams | #lovescams | #facebookscams

Beautiful braisers, Dutch ovens and mystery boxes at the Le Creuset Factory to Table Sale aside, the community this brand has created is second to none.

“Come over here, sweetie, and show us what you’ve got in your mystery box,” a cheerful woman called. She was pushing a shopping cart filled with five colorful pieces of stoneware and enameled cast-iron cookware. I was elbow-deep in my car’s trunk, unceremoniously tearing open and unpacking the contents of my Le Creuset mystery box while attending the Phoenix Factory to Table Sale event.

I already had two Le Creuset skillets and one Dutch oven to my name—all of them unused because their heft and beauty felt strangely intimidating to me—and I couldn’t wait to discover the iconic French cookware buried within this nondescript brown box. The brand says that each of these brown mystery boxes contains up to $350 in retail value of merchandise, so purchasing one at $50 through the sale was hardly a gamble. An avid home cook, I was determined to add new treasures to my meager collection in an affordable way and finally put them to use.

I briefly lifted my head to respond and realized we were hardly alone. The entire parking lot was abuzz with men and women of all ages and from all walks of life, showing off their mystery box wares and making trades left and right. Apparently, a high-end swap meet had organically transpired in the event’s parking lot. The only currency? Cookware.

What’s your color?

The woman nudged me out of the way to get a better view of what I’d uncovered in my trunk: An all Mist Grey collection of mugs, casserole dishes, a large braiser and a platter. Each piece was striking, but the colors didn’t match my kitchen. I love a bold red (Cerise, in Le Creuset color lingo), and that’s what my heart was set on. “Is this your color?” she asked. When I shook my head no, she sprang into action—this clearly wasn’t the woman’s first rodeo, but she sensed it was mine.

She told me to go ahead and put all that packing material in the bottom of my shopping cart and to lay each Le Creuset piece on top so people can easily see what I’d be trading. “Head over toward that camper,” she said, “It’s where everyone is gathering, and there are snacks and drinks too. Help yourself.” Intrigued, I did as I was told, moving slowly so my wares wouldn’t clank together, but also because I had no idea what I was walking into.

Trading Wares in the Parking Lot

Jill Schildhouse for Taste of Home

When I arrived at the heart of the action, it would have been easy to feel overwhelmed. I didn’t have a vast knowledge about the brand, wasn’t attuned to the finer points of trading wares in a parking lot, and I didn’t know anyone.

Instead, I was greeted by about 30 friendly faces who turned out to be the most welcoming group of brand loyalists I’ve ever encountered: Grandmothers who have spent decades collecting their heritage cookware reminiscing about Le Creuset’s long-retired vintage collections, savvy moms who make stews and casseroles for their growing families, couples obsessed with hosting rustically chic dinner parties and millennials looking to outfit their first kitchens.

The attendees—some of whom already knew each other from Le Creuset fan Facebook groups—dubbed it “Le Creuchella.” Several had traveled from across the country to attend this event, something they did a few times a year for great deals and camaraderie.

One woman, Gigi, was flitting about, helping other attendees keen to trade their newfound wares identify vessel shapes, sizes and colors, and even helping complete strangers broker deals. I learned that she is a personal chef who’s been collecting Le Creuset for about eight years and is known throughout the fan Facebook groups as a brand expert.

I watched as her eyes lit up when someone revealed a limited-edition piece from their box or a special piece she’d been wanting for years. She had flown in from Florida just to attend this event and brought pool noodles and bubble wrap to help protect her new treasures when she shipped them home. I learned so much by observing her interactions, and she stopped to answer my newbie questions multiple times as I worked up the nerve to begin trading my pieces.

The Joy of a Good Swap

Over the next few hours, I successfully swapped most of my Mist Grey mystery box items for more preferential shapes, sizes and colors. The trading took on a life of its own and I soon noticed my swapped items in the carts of those I hadn’t even “done a deal” with—these pieces were changing hands multiple times. Everyone was on their own personal mission and each pot and pan was simply a tradable vessel in their strategy to successfully add to their own collections.

So I’d accept a trade, then trade that piece for something else, and repeat the process with someone else. At one point, a woman offered me her gorgeous Cerise cast-iron Signature Saucepan in exchange for a few stoneware casserole dishes, and when I told her she was getting the short end of that deal financially, she said she didn’t care. She just wanted, no, needed, my casserole dishes. Fine by me!

That was the beauty of this experience: Nobody felt slighted, nobody cared as much about the “true value” of each piece as they did about getting their hands on coveted pieces, and nobody argued. And I didn’t see a single dollar bill exchange hands.

In the end, I walked away with a larger Dutch oven than the one I already owned (I was convinced it was necessary for bigger batches), an oval Dutch oven (which I gave to my mother), a rice pot, a pie plate, some casserole dishes and a Flame braiser. I was thrilled, and it was so much fun. So fun, in fact, that I was actually sad when I realized I was done.

Where Else to Find Le Creuset Deals

That was about six months ago, but the warm fuzzy feeling of that day has yet to fade. Now, I find myself scouring OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace ads, looking for killer Le Creuset deals. I’ve since purchased a brand-new tagine for $90, a gently used loaf pan for $20, a set of six rainbow-colored ice cream bowls for $45 and an unused roaster for $75.

Each time I score a deal, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. And when I post my newfound gems on the Le Creuset fan Facebook groups, all the members show their excitement about the bargains (especially for those ice cream bowls, which apparently are hard to find).

The community fostered in these groups is a rare mix of respect and helpfulness—they share everything from cleaning tips and recipe ideas to unlikely finds at Marshall’s and tips for avoiding scams when purchasing from eBay.

I was amazed at how something as simple as the appreciation for quality cookware can unite an otherwise unconnected population. In stark contrast to a sample sale or Black Friday, where shoppers have been known to get physically violent while snagging the perfect product, this impromptu Le Creuset mystery box exchange was more than civil; it was heartwarming.

What’s more, everyone walked away happy, feeling as though they’d somehow gotten the better deal. I arrived an outsider looking in just hoping for a great deal (I didn’t even know how to use my Dutch oven!), and now I’m braising meats and buying yeast for breads because the people in that parking lot inspired me to learn how.

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