Some people used umbrellas Thursday to ward off the sun as they stood in a line that looped outside the Tacoma Mall. Some sat on the curb, pizza in hand. Others sought out seating and air conditioning in the doorways of store entrances as they waited.
Despite the near 80-degree temperatures, thousands of people clustered around the mall waiting for a chance to get in Build-A-Bear for its first ever “Pay Your Age” day — a deal for many as normal bear prices range from $12 to as high as $75.
It was a scene repeated across the United States, Canada and Great Britain as throngs flocked to Build-A-Bear locations to take advantage of a one-day promotion for discounted bears.
Build-A-Bear offers customers a place to create and customize stuffed animals, from choosing the animal to dressing them in various outfits.
Be the first to know.
No one covers what is happening in our community better than we do. And with a digital subscription, you'll never miss a local story.
While some left with a new stuffed friend, many more did not. Build-A-Bear corporate officials said in an statement the turnout “greatly exceeded” expectations and that guests were being turned away as stores hit maximum capacity.
“The response to our Pay Your Age Day event has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history, and the safety of our guests and associates is our top priority,” according to the statement. “We understand our affected guests may be disappointed, and we are working to address the situation. We will reach out directly to our valued guests as soon as possible.”
The deal marked the company’s new “Count their Candles,” which allows customers enrolled in the store’s free Bonus Club rewards program to pay their age on their birthday, according to a news release. Customers were required to enroll in the rewards program ahead of purchasing a bear at Thursday’s event.
Despite customers being turned away, many people in Tacoma stayed in line with hopes of making their way forward.
Sarah Thomas and her three kids, ages 5, 3, and 1, waited at the back of the line during late morning, banking on the chance people ahead of them would be deterred by the heat and give up.
“Everybody else has toddlers, so they may get cranky and leave and then the line may move a little faster,” Thomas said. “If mine get cranky, I will leave, too. We will see. Worse comes to worst, I have my coupons.”
For some, the line was a deterrent in itself.
Richelle Marks came to the mall for Build-A-Bear but said her overall goal was to leave with a stuffed animal for her 3-year-old daughter. That stuffed animal didn’t need to have a Build-A-Bear tag, Marks said, so she jumped across the hall to Claire’s, where her daughter had a selection of TY Beanie Babies to choose from.
“I would rather pay full price than wait that long,” Marks said. “She is only 3, so she doesn’t really understand, so we figured we would just find another stuffed animal.”
News feeds from Great Britain to Arizona showed chaos at Build-A-Bear locations, and Twitter was in full snark mode.
“My Dearest Love. The fighting is intense, and the wails and cries of the women and children can be heard from far and wide. I despair we shall never see a resolution to this dreadful conflict. Take care of Fluffy for me, for I fear I shall never return. #buildabear,” tweeted @ludibriumventis.
In response to the flood of people, Build-A-Bear said in a updated statement midday that it was encouraging customers to postpone their trip to the store. Vouchers have been made available online to Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members in the United States and Canada.
“It is our sincere desire for all of our guests to enjoy the best Build-A-Bear experience possible,” according to the updated statement. “As such, our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible.”
All guests in line were expected to get a $15 off coupon to use at any location at a later date.
Meredith Spelbring: firstname.lastname@example.org, 253-597-8509