The Build-A-Bear stores at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park and Independence Center were among the many across the world besieged by customers for the company’s first “Pay Your Age Day” promotion on Thursday.
By 11:30 a.m., despite a sign announcing that the line was closed because it was at capacity, hundreds of waiting parents and children spread through the entire first floor of the mall. In Independence, a person posted on Facebook around 9:30 a.m. that a line “was wrapped around the whole top level of the mall and the line is now closed.”
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“Pay Your Age” Day was billed as a chance for people to pay their age for any stuffed animal in the stores — an idea parents latched onto because the minimum price was set at $1 and the maximum at $29. To participate, parents or guardians had to enroll in the free Build-a-Bear Bonus Club rewards program. The company is based in St. Louis.
But the headaches on Thursday were immediate, including overseas, as wait times at Build-A-Bear outlets in Britain were reported at over nine hours.
At Oak Park Mall, children were at times screaming while their tired guardians looked on. Still, several families said the deal was too good to pass up and they were willing to wait.
Gail Nusbaum, of Topeka, said she got into the Oak Park line around 10 a.m. with her daughter and 4-year-old granddaughter. As of 1 p.m., Nusbaum said they were going to stay in line.
“She just wants a bear for the price of her age,” Nusbaum said.
For those who didn’t want to wait Thursday, store employees handed out vouchers good for $15 off. One staffer at Oak Park said about 600 vouchers were handed out.
In a news release on their company website, Build-A-Bear acknowledged the long wait times and offered a solution to customers who were turned away from stores across the world.
“We understand that many guests were turned away as, due to safety concerns created by the crowds, authorities in certain locations closed Build-A-Bear stores and, in other locations, we were forced to limit the line. Unfortunately, given these circumstances, we were unable to serve all of our guests for the Pay Your Age Day event,” the release said.
The release also said the company was making vouchers available to Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada who log into their account by midnight on July 15. The vouchers will be valid through Aug. 31.
Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said the company will have to continue to figure out how to recover from the mess.
“Build-A-Bear has become a victim of its own success,” Saunders said in a statement. “The good news is that the high demand indicates that the Build-A-Bear concept remains relevant and popular. ... But first, Build-A-Bear needs to get its alienated customers back on its side.”