Shut out of Build-a-Bear ‘Pay Your Age Day’? Try this birthday month deal instead

INDIANAPOLIS — It was an idea stuffed with potential.

Build-a-Bear, the popular retailer that lets kids make their own toy bears and comfy critters, announced a first-time-ever “Pay Your Age Day” on July 12. It allowed a child to choose any make-your-own furry friend and do as the name suggests: pay the price of the child’s age.

But there was a problem: Thousands of eager parents and children resulted in long lines in malls across the U.S., Canada and Great Britain.

Build-a-Bear posted an “urgent notice” on Facebook twice today — at first warning about “significantly longer than expected lines and large crowds” due to the “unprecedented response” to the “Pay Your Age Day” event.

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At around 11 a.m., Build-a-Bear published a Facebook post saying lines have been closed at its U.S. and Canada stores and it could no longer accept additional customers “due to crowds and safety concerns.”

“We understand some guests are disappointed and we will reach out directly as soon as possible,” Build-a-Bear Workshop said in its post.

It makes you wonder: Hadn’t they heard of the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon back in the early ’80s and the crush of mall crowds — and stories of parents fighting in the aisles — that followed?

To take part in the promotion, parents or guardians over the age of 18 must first enroll in the free Build-a-Bear Bonus Club rewards program or provide an email address and name so that a guest, who is present at the time of the purchase, can pay his or her age for a furry friend.

“Pay Your Age Day” was actually a great idea — considering such stuffed animals can cost $20 or more when you add in accessories your kid is sure to want. Imagine paying just $3 for a stuffed bear for your son or daughter of that age?

If you weren’t able to buy a bear for your kid Thursday, don’t lose hope. You can still participate in Build-a-Bear’s “Count Your Candles” promotion.

Bring your favorite boy or girl into a store to count their candles on any day during their birthday month and they can build a Birthday Treat Bear — normal cost $14 — by just paying their age.

There’s no doubt Build-a-Bear Workshop had a very profitable day on “Pay Your Age Day.”

But only time will tell if they lose a little goodwill from frustrated parents and children who waited hours in line and were still turned away.

Call IndyStar digital producer Dwight Adams at 317-444-6532. Follow him on Twitter: @hdwightadams.

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