July 12--The line outside the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Penn Square Mall wrapped around half of the second floor this morning for "Pay Your Age" day, but many parents left with disappointed children.
The store chain said in a Facebook post that it had to close lines at locations in the U.S. and Canada due to the "unprecedented response" to the promotion, which allowed Bonus Club members and their children to pay their age for a customizable stuffed animal. Children as young as 1 could pay $1 for a teddy bear.
"We could not have predicted this reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event," the company said in a statement. "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."
Lori Key, an Oklahoma City resident, arrived at the Penn Square location at 9:30 a.m. with her 6-year-old daughter, Olivia, who had been talking about Build-A-Bear for weeks. Key joined the Bonus Club two days before in anticipation of the promotion, but the store ran out of bears about 5 minutes after they arrived, she said.
"I woke her (Olivia) up this morning ... And I said, 'I have a surprise for you!' " Key said. "And she said, 'What?' And when I told her, she was just so excited. It's just sad."
Key's husband returned to the store later in the day for a $15 off voucher, valid for a few weeks, and she said she told her daughter they would buy a bear later.
"I feel badly for children, especially lower-income children and children in large families who can't afford to just go buy one (teddy bear) at regular price, and they thought that was their chance to get one" Key said. "Almost everybody went away empty-handed."
Nita French, an Oklahoma City resident, said she was shocked that Build-A-Bear did not expect so many people to come.
"I'm not sure how their marketing department didn't see that coming," French said. "Because of course people are going to want to save that much money on stuffed animals for their kids."
She said she saw the posts on Twitter about the "fiasco" before sending her baby sitter to the store with her three children.
"I would feel horrible sending her into that, but I have three kids who are very sad because they were looking forward to it," French said.
Key said it was a marketing disaster.
"It just feels like a bait-and-switch kind of thing," she said. "You know, you advertise something and get the hopes of all these little kids up."
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