Build-A-Bear Madness
July 12, 2018 12:58 PM   Subscribe

A 'pay your age' discount on stuffed bears has led to shopping chaos. Though standing in line is not normally thought of as a positive experience, for special items, it makes you appreciate it even more. Some queues are even events in and of itself.

Though crowded and chaotic, the queues have been mostly peaceful. This could be due to the time-limited nature of the promotion, in contrast to those of the French 'Nutella riots'.
posted by Trifling (99 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had vaguely thought of taking my 1 year old son to this and getting him a giraffe stuffy but fortunately, the two locations in Toronto are at the end of the earth so I decided it was too much trouble. This makes my pleased with my decision.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:08 PM on July 12


That's so sad to think of the little kids deprived of bears, after getting all worked up about getting one. I mean, that's what life is like, but they deserve a few more years of illusions.
posted by thelonius at 1:10 PM on July 12 [14 favorites]


Teaching young it is a good thing to stand in/on queue/line for hours to save some dollars/quid is the lesson it seems.

Also, "...police were called due to the popularity." ?!? Did this turn in to one of those Black Friday sale things where people were pushing/shoving/fighting etc.?
posted by CrowGoat at 1:21 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Laying bear one of the crises of Capitalism, as it were....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:21 PM on July 12 [10 favorites]


Is $47 to pay for a build-a-bear?
posted by bendy at 1:23 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


I have a feeling the crowds would have been unbearable.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 1:26 PM on July 12 [11 favorites]


Yes, Build-a-bear is ungodly expensive, especially once you factor in the individual little accouterments to make your perfect custom bear. The only way to come out clean is to look for whatever is on discount and skip all the accessorizing (which is skipping the fun part, honestly.)
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:29 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


Someone posted a video of the line at my local mall and it was basically wrapped around the entire mall. I can't imagine any bear is worth the wait. My kid was never into this sort of thing but I think if I showed up and saw the line I'd teach him a valuable lesson in not getting a fucking bear.
posted by bondcliff at 1:29 PM on July 12 [28 favorites]


I don't understand at all why all these people thought it was worth it? I mean, hours for a teddy bear? And our local build-a-bear really doesn't have anything special and unique, I can't imagine somebody looking at that queue and going "yes, I will wait hours for a discount toy."

(That said, I have four teenage mutant ninja turtles from build-a-bear and they were definitely the most show-realistic option. ahem. But they don't do them any more and the my-little-ponies are not the best option because they have that cheap plastic hair. So not worth the effort)
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:34 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Some years ago north of Boston, a gas-station owner wanted his town to approve some new paving. His station was on the corner of an intersection, with entry from one street but not the other. He wanted to add a second entrance. The town refused, saying his station didn't get enough business. To prove them wrong, one sunny afternoon the gas-station owner slashed his prices. Cars lined up for more than a mile. Local TV stations interviewed drivers who had come down from New Hampshire, and people who had taken the afternoon off work, just to wait in line for a tank of cheap(er) gas.

I saw a video this morning of a Build-a-Bear line in North Carolina that stretched a mile: around one side of a shopping mall, into the mall's entrance, then back out another entrance and around the building again. According to news reports, that wasn't the only instance around the country where a line reached a mile. My favorite anecdote was on Twitter, where a guy fumed at Build-a-Bear because, he said, his wife was forced to drive a hundred miles and now their 2-year-old was having a meltdown.

There's gotta be some kind of Darwin Award for the weird mix of ignorance and entitlement that drives someone to see a stupid-long line, decide it's worth waiting a few hours to save $30 on a stuffed bear, feel genuinely surprised upon discovering this small retail store hadn't stockpiled two billion bears to satisfy this phenomenal crowd, and then—instead of using the opportunity to teach your kid a lesson—get angry and lash out at someone else.
posted by cribcage at 1:36 PM on July 12 [31 favorites]


And they're not even real bears! Just toys!
posted by aubilenon at 1:36 PM on July 12 [89 favorites]


And here I thought yesterday's 7-11 line was bad, amirite?
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:53 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Can you not just build a bear at home using items from the craft store? And make it even more unique by including more personal fabrics from old favorite clothes or other mementos? I don't see how this store even attracts anyone. People are weird.
posted by elizilla at 1:54 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


A child who is young enough to bond with a comfort stuffed animal probably doesn't really care how fancy it is, either.
posted by thelonius at 1:54 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


Build-a-Bear is so expensive so I understand the lines. My kids love doing it, but I took them for my eldest's birthday (two kids, two bears, one accessory each) and walked out over $100 poorer.
posted by robotmachine at 1:56 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


@thelonius, it has zero to do with the quality. BAB is popular and beloved by kids because you get to stuff it yourself and they make you do this inane ritual where you put a little heart in the bear. It's crushingly expensive because the store is lined with every sort of goofy accessory you can imagine and they are unfailingly $10 and up each.
posted by robotmachine at 1:58 PM on July 12 [8 favorites]


Someone got me a Toothless dragon from BABW once and he remains a treasured item of mine. I think, now that I have him, I can kind of see where the appeal comes from. Aside from all the accessories, BABW has really worked out a particularly comfortably squishable stuffed animal construction and he is by far nicer than any stuffed animal I had as a kid 30+ years ago.
posted by Sequence at 2:06 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


I once got a GUND. Now that was a stuffed animal.
posted by cribcage at 2:13 PM on July 12 [29 favorites]


Keep passing the open windows.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 2:24 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


There's gotta be some kind of Darwin Award for the weird mix of ignorance and entitlement that drives someone to see a stupid-long line, decide it's worth waiting a few hours to save $30 on a stuffed bear, feel genuinely surprised upon discovering this small retail store hadn't stockpiled two billion bears to satisfy this phenomenal crowd, and then—instead of using the opportunity to teach your kid a lesson—get angry and lash out at someone else.

As well as the people who thought this would be a good idea in the first place, right along with the Disco Demolition Night and Boaty McBoatface people.
posted by Melismata at 2:25 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


instead of using the opportunity to teach your kid a lesson—get angry and lash out at someone else It's called induced demand and mostly the lesson learned is that more money should be spent to make the Build-A-Bear store larger so it can support more people at the same time. The same people who lash out also get angry that other alternatives to Build-A-Bear exist, and comment mightily at City Council meetings and in the local newspaper.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:29 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I wonder what the demographics of the parents will shake out to be. On the one hand, these are people who are free to take advantage of a sale on a weekday, so I'd expect them to be wealthy and/or stay-at-home parents. On the other hand, a sale like this might be the only time that some families could afford it.

I also am puzzled by the incredibly long lines. I know that people will happily stand in line for hours for Black Friday, but this sale doesn't feel near the same level.

Some of it must be sunk cost fallacy, but why would people still join in after the first hundred start snaking out? I get the social aspect for a Harry Potter book release or something, but is that what's going on here?
posted by Trifling at 2:42 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


You could have made a killing selling cheap pre-built regular Teddy Bears to impatient parents waiting in line.
posted by ian1977 at 2:50 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]


If I'm gonna pay a lot for a stuffed animal, and I have, it'll be a Steiff.

A child who is young enough to bond with a comfort stuffed animal probably doesn't really care how fancy it is, either.

Proven by science!
posted by rhizome at 2:56 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


Doesn’t “pay your age” brush up against anti-discrimination laws in the US and UK?
posted by rh at 2:58 PM on July 12


Proven by science!
Patricia Hawley, Ph.D., is a professor at Texas Tech University. She is developmental psychologist and a power researcher interested in aggression, gender and fantasy.

allrighty then
posted by thelonius at 3:00 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


Age discrimination only applies to those over 40 in the States.
posted by Trifling at 3:09 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


We did this in London, and my kid still talks about it starry-eyed. The whole store is designed to get kids involved in multiple choices so they feel close to their bear, and the final part with the stuffing and heart placement is a clever ritual the kids take seriously. Like the Cabbage Patch adoption certificates, but on multiple layers. She fiercely loves all her toys and will happily play with a stick for an hour, but Build A Bear shops are an experience for her, notnjust a place to get a toy.

I hope they never do this here, the streets would shut down.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:12 PM on July 12 [9 favorites]


I first read this as 'pay your rage'.
posted by lagomorphius at 3:15 PM on July 12 [17 favorites]


Our local mall is advising a 6 hour wait time for anyone still in line, the lines are closed, and the mall is not allowing the media on site to cover it.
posted by MissySedai at 3:24 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Conspiracy theorists have been warning us about this sinister Build-A-Bear Group for some time.
posted by w0mbat at 3:35 PM on July 12 [31 favorites]


I was at my local mall at 3:30 and the line was at least 100 people (adult people) deep. Everyone looked miserable, especially the two mall security guys.
posted by minsies at 3:36 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Can you not just build a bear at home using items from the craft store? And make it even more unique by including more personal fabrics from old favorite clothes or other mementos? I don't see how this store even attracts anyone. People are weird.

This has got to be tied to the same psychological effect that makes things like Guitar Hero or cake mix popular. Why not just learn how to play a real guitar? Why not make a cake from scratch with ingredients in the same aisle as the boxed mix? Because making something is satisfying even if you take shortcuts. People use shortcuts like Build-a-bear or cake mix because they don't have the time, or the experience, or the self-confidence to make something the "proper way."
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:39 PM on July 12 [20 favorites]


If I tried to make my own bear from things around the house, I know it would be sad and pathetic. An ursine fail. If I had a child, I would think it deserved better than the turd sculpture that would be the result of my sincere best crafting effort.
posted by thelonius at 3:46 PM on July 12 [21 favorites]


plus if you ensoul it by sewing up anything inside it besides an unbaptized infant's heart, there's a good chance your bear will turn evil or reject existence itself and rend itself to pieces so it's worth going to Build-A-Bear on that basis alone
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:51 PM on July 12 [36 favorites]


Some of it must be sunk cost fallacy, but why would people still join in after the first hundred start snaking out?

I get the feeling that part of this is that children young enough to care about a stuffed animal don't actually care about it being this special, but on the other hand they aren't actually old enough to understand "we are leaving without a bear", either. I will admit I'm not a parent, but friends who are seem to have, in those younger years, been fairly heavily motivated by "which course of action will lead to the least screaming".
posted by Sequence at 3:53 PM on July 12 [5 favorites]


I got to do Build-a-Bear once or twice as a child and I fucking loved it. I would honestly go and do it now I'm an adult--it'd be a great day out!--except it's too expensive for me to afford. I am also the sort of person who enjoys painting my own glaze onto pre-fired mugs, though, and I loved getting to make all the little choices. (My roommate has a bear from them that has been impregnated with a little strawberry-scented heart, and she's incredibly fond of it.)

These days I only ever go in there because it turns out all those adorable little accessories fit cats about as well as bears. (Now that I think about it, I think Arthur Dent the kitten is finally big enough to be stuffed into the bathrobe...)
posted by sciatrix at 3:59 PM on July 12 [11 favorites]


My wife and nine-year-old attempted it this morning and quickly gave up. My daughter rolled with it, describing the line as "the Great Wall of China."
posted by 4ster at 4:00 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


an unbaptized infant's heart

Oh whatever I ensoul everyday objects with innocent spirits of the air and forest and they hardly ever turn sinister. The trick is to skip the store-bought fey and trap fresh spirits straight from nature untouched by man. I've never done a stuffed bear, but I have some leftovers in the containment urn so I'll give it a try tonight.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:02 PM on July 12 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I prefer a cow's eye, but whatever you're into I guess.
posted by rhizome at 4:03 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


If I'm gonna pay a lot for a stuffed animal, and I have, it'll be a Steiff.

I got a Steiff stuffed monkey as a literal baby that I still have nearly half a century later.

And it looks like it's been through hell although it's been pretty lovingly cared for. Because I guess child me was an animal or something.

But to the OP, the trouble with deals-causing-lines is that it's basically a lottery or at least a contest to see who arrives the earliest. I'm sure no one expected black-friday type lineups but once you get there and you see it, just turn around. My time has a money value and saving $50 on a stuffed animal isn't worth it.
posted by GuyZero at 4:07 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Can you not just build a bear at home using items from the craft store? And make it even more unique by including more personal fabrics from old favorite clothes or other mementos?

Oh, kids know the difference. Do they ever. No point of etiquette at a Habsburg court was ever enforced with the zeal of a kid who knows the difference between homemade and the Real Thing. Up to age four or so, homemade toys are just as good. Then some developmental switch flips and they become absolute little monsters about it until they learn values and/or manners, which can take between two and fifty years.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:10 PM on July 12 [39 favorites]


No point of etiquette at a Habsburg court was ever enforced with the zeal of a kid who knows the difference between homemade and the Real Thing.

Yeah, kids know stuff. Like, there were kids at my kids' elementary school who I knew did not even own a TV and whose parents had never purchased a comic yet somehow they could rattle off every Spiderman villain with encyclopedic accuracy. There's some insane Spiderman-based oral storytelling tradition in the schoolyards of Toronto.

Also to the OP, checking the site these things cost maybe $28 before you accessorize them? And I assume accessories were not on sale? So you're getting a $28 bear for, say $7 for your seven year-old?

I mean, saving $21 is great, but who drives two hours to save $21? Some of these people seem like they're not totally thinking things through.
posted by GuyZero at 4:14 PM on July 12 [9 favorites]


Yeah, BAB is totally designed to get the children totally committed to the stuffed doll. The experience is really a birthing and bonding process starting with the child choosing which doll to make "live" and the process goes from there. Imagine the monetization of certain emotional strings of the Velveteen Rabbit and the mythic stories of life being made from the void. Here is another one, you are the lovely fairy that made Pinnochio a live child. On one level I was bemused as I was being robbed and my children manipulated and by the end, I was in horrified admiration as the birth certificates were being printed for their dolls. If the experience hits the right age group it is powerful. Every toy that is loved has a narrative whether given by loving parents or relatives; friends and strangers. You can imagine the story of "on the day you were born" my bear...

Since I am on a kick ruminating upon the robot revolution, has anyone thought about the planting of these creative, controlling emotions being extended from stuffed animals to the simulacrums of live beings e.g., robots and AI? Are we training the children to really dig the framework of conferred and bought sentience? The robot revolution's face will be a teddy bear, it is a gentle gateway outside the uncanny valley. It becomes a sentient teddy bear that you brought to life and loves you, it is the familiar face that is the gateway UI to something possibly even more alien and mysterious.
posted by jadepearl at 4:21 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


My kids totally loved Build a Bear, and I patiently brought them there for birthdays. But now, when they are adults, the toys I am expected to care for and keep well while they get along with their lives are not the BABs. I guess that at some point they saw through the whole scheme.
posted by mumimor at 4:33 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I was just at BAB just two days ago, helping my daughter make a My Little Pony stuffie (Sunset Shimmer, to be accurate), and I would rather pay $28 (plus accessories... the stupid little shoes that fall off cost more than my kid's actual shoes, in the same way that the American Girl twin baby stroller cost more than my twins' actual stroller, so no we did certainly did not get it) than have had to come back today with her and deal with all that nonsense to pay $9 instead. Just like I would rather pay $2 for a Slurpee today than have stood in line in 95 degree heat in a sticky messy 7-11 to get a free tiny Slurpee. Opportunity cost is a real thing, people!
posted by candyland at 4:35 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: a valuable lesson in not getting a fucking bear.
posted by Wordshore at 4:41 PM on July 12 [10 favorites]


MetaFilter: a valuable lesson in not getting a fucking bear.

I was just going to get it for normal stuff
posted by GuyZero at 4:44 PM on July 12 [58 favorites]


I get that for a lot of us, myself included, waiting in line for hours wouldn't be worth the money saved but there are a lot of people out there who have a lot more flexibility with their time than they do with their money. If you don't have much money and you aren't working why not wait in line and get your kid a Build-A-Bear? That way they can have something nice and you can feel like you can actually provide for them instead of the usual just scraping by and having to do without.

Build-A-Bear could have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble if they had advertised that the first X people would get this promotion, like stores do with doorcrashers, and then just cut off the line at that point.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:57 PM on July 12 [20 favorites]


Everyone involved clearly wildly underestimated the popularity of this promotion. It seems like they had very little planned for raincheques or cutting off the line.

Next time they should run this on a wednesday in February and not when every kid in the western hemisphere is out of school.
posted by GuyZero at 5:11 PM on July 12


You can go the build at home route, but that may end up inducing more trauma than the line up you were trying to avoid.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:28 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


If you don't have much money and you aren't working why not wait in line and get your kid a Build-A-Bear? That way they can have something nice and you can feel like you can actually provide for them instead of the usual just scraping by and having to do without.

That makes sense, and it reminds me of the criticism that turning up your nose at Black Friday shoppers is classist, in that it ignores the real situation of people who aren't going to be able to buy a TV or laptop any other way: but I still can't imagine anyone thinking that waiting in a line for 6 hours with kids is worth anything not directly related to survival.
posted by thelonius at 5:46 PM on July 12 [5 favorites]


You can go the build at home route, but that may end up inducing more trauma than the line up you were trying to avoid.

That may be the best option ever for reusing grandpa's spare set of false teeth.

Personally I hate standing in even short lines, but for a lot of people lines are a validating and important part of the experience (see: long waits for new restaurants). For those people, the crazy economic calculations of driving two hours and standing in a mile-long line just don't matter.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:09 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


Double thumb up + like for the Steiff. I bought one for my daughter 35 years ago and she still has it and it's in great shape. Other items from that era are worn out and mostly gone, but "Piglet" is still on her bed to this day.
posted by CrowGoat at 6:13 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


When my oldest son was 3, he decided I needed a stuffed toy from BABW. So my wife dutifully took him and they selected a monkey holding a “Happy Birthday” cupcake and every time I squeeze it, there’s a little device that plays a recording of my son saying, “Happy Birthday Daddy to you.”

Now, you can all say BABW is the overpriced, exploitative peak of consumerist culture and I’m not gonna say you’re wrong BUT I will say that monkey is really fucking grand.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:23 PM on July 12 [40 favorites]


Some Facebook friend shared an ad about this a week or so ago. I assumed it was fakenews/scam, etc bc obviously this exact situation would occur so why would they do that?
posted by atomicstone at 6:27 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


My fb feed was full of parents sharing this sales event for the past week. I was 0% surprised that it became a complete clusterfuck. Kids seem to love the place. If it had been around when I was little I would have loved it. I feel bad for the kids but BABW should have been able to tell wtf was about to happen just from seeing all the posts on social media.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:09 PM on July 12


I paid $100 for a teddy bear once, but it's 5' tall and is aggressively present in half of my bed as a body pillow. He's named Tony.
posted by hippybear at 8:09 PM on July 12 [5 favorites]


Heh. A friend was trying to get my wife to go, and had actually been talking about camping out as soon as the mall opened at 7, but Mrs. NSAID wisely wanted no part of it.

Anyway, I'm more partial to a place in town called Build-a-Breakfast/Build-a-Burger.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:15 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


I mean, it's not just a stuffed animal, it's an experience and a very special treat due in no small part to the price. So, for parents who love doing these kinds of things (I kind of do not but for some parents I know this kind of consumer experience is totally worth it) and so they are, like, "Hey! What a deal! I can finally do that thing and it won't cost an arm and a leg!" and may or may not realize what kind of ordeal they are in for. Unfortunately, the sunk-cost fallacy can run right up against a kid's disappointment and the whole thing then goes really haywire.

And for some, there's a real thrill in getting a bargain. I think it's like how some people are like, "I don't play slots to win money, I play them for fun!" I think there's a similar kind of sparkly brain hit for getting the free ice-cream cone, for clipping immense amount of coupons and monitoring special shopping days.
posted by amanda at 8:15 PM on July 12 [7 favorites]


My girl got a Build-a-Bear as a youngster, and I bought her a number of outfits for her bear as the years (maybe two) rolled on. The prices were usurious, as she realized as a mall-haunting tween (another two-year phase). She apologized for making me pay so much for those stupid things. Haha. Some things never change, they just reappear in different iterations.
posted by kozad at 8:57 PM on July 12


I took my teenage daughter to the mall to let her shop some; I knew nothing about the Build a Bear sale. She took one look at the mass of people and said, "Dad, we need to get out of here." We turned around and left. I'm realizing that she has better instincts than I do.
posted by jabah at 9:16 PM on July 12 [11 favorites]


And for some, there's a real thrill in getting a bargain. I think it's like how some people are like, "I don't play slots to win money, I play them for fun!" I think there's a similar kind of sparkly brain hit for getting the free ice-cream cone, for clipping immense amount of coupons and monitoring special shopping days.

yeah. I'm pretty sure if I just walked into a build-a-bear on a random day and handed out a few $20 bills the reaction would be positive but nowhere near as intense.

that said, I'm sure people would line up for miles to get a $20 bill too.
posted by GuyZero at 10:26 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


As well as the people who thought this would be a good idea in the first place, right along with the Disco Demolition Night and Boaty McBoatface people.

Boaty McBoatFace turned out to be a GREAT idea because it gave us Trainy McTrainFace which is an actual real thing that exists.

Please keep Boaty out of this.
posted by Vesihiisi at 10:35 PM on July 12 [13 favorites]


I've generally not been the demographic for build-a-bear, but I do have a distinct memory of passing by one, and seeing the display - which was a bunch of stuffing being swirled around in some sort of mixer, that was set up in a way so that it looked like there was a bear doing the churning.

So to put it clearly - their primary display was a bear churning it's own species guts... it was forced to do this task with no escape against its will, and it would be consigned to this gruesome duty for as long as the shop managers felt it was appropriate. There were even supervisor bears watching it churn away endlessly. My brain, ever the helpful one, filled in background sounds foe me in the helpful format of screams of agony.

It's probably worth noting that I had recently familiarized myself with the works of Hieronymus Bosch.

So all I can ever think of when I see one now is "bear hell."
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:03 PM on July 12 [18 favorites]


Build-A-Lemming.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:15 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Is $47 to pay for a build-a-bear?

*Is $47 too much to pay for a build-a-bear?
posted by bendy at 11:46 PM on July 12


I bet 99% of these people are mages stocking up on spell components and are too hipster to go to Dollar General like everyone else
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:53 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]


The prices were usurious,

And the bears were ursusious.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:20 AM on July 13 [33 favorites]


I noticed this in the news yesterday. In true British fashion, there were literal fights in some of the queues and police had to be called out for crowd control.

It seems to me that people who are willing to wait in a queue for nine hours (which is what was reported at some shops in this country) to save £20 on a bear must value their time at little more than £2 per hour. Especially if you have to take time off work to attend this event, it'd be cheaper to go to work (minimum wage being £7.83) and then pay full price for the toy at a quieter time.

Having said all that, I'd never heard of this shop despite the fact that its location means I must have walked past it 100 times. I have now heard of it, job done, trebles all round for the marketing team.
posted by winterhill at 3:37 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


The economics of queuing is not where I would have thought this conversation was going to go. Still you live and learn ::sigh::
posted by Faintdreams at 4:46 AM on July 13


So, my kid loves Build-a-Bear. We had her 3rd birthday party there, and she still sleeps with "Cheesecake" every night. We went together last Valentine's Day as a special treat, the two of us, and she made herself a stuffed horse, and I made myself a rainbow lion in a denim jacket who smells like pizza and belches when you press his hand. It was a really lovely day, and I'd been going through a hard time, and I sleep with Starshine the Pizza Lion every night now too.

I'd made plans to go to this as soon as she got out of daycare at 1, and then later in the day, to take her to see Hotel Transylvania 3 at the same mall. I'd planned on keeping it a surprise so that she wouldn't be disappointed if we didn't get one, but she dragged it out of me. As soon as we arrived at the mall, I got a message on my phone from a friend that they were no longer letting people line up. So I prepared my kid, who was sad, but holding it together. We walked around Target (so many frantic parents buying their kids toys there instead), got food at the food court, walked around a few stores. My kid spent the entire time a the food court gazing longingly at a group of three children with their brand new bears. Blegh. Our mall is small, and on the way to Claire's we walked above the Build-a-Bear, and my daughter looked down and squealed about how they were still open and begged me to go down there. I said I would check whether they were staying open or not, coached her in keeping it together while I went and asked. The line was really short by this point, though there were a bunch of armed security guards (!) there. I spoke to an employee who told me we weren't allowed to line up, but once the line "dispersed" they'd be open until 9:30, as usual, the sale would be still going on until closing. I asked her twice, just to be certain, that they would still be open. She kept saying they would. So we went to see the bad kid's movie.

Came back later, and guess what? Store closed, metal gate down. The store was full of employees and looked fully stocked, too. That's the point when my kid lost it. I get that the employees were having a bad day, most likely, but as they stuffed a $15 off coupon through the metal bars, I tried to ask the name of the employee who had told us to come back, so I could make a complaint, and they got super cranky with me. First they said they'd been told to close by corporate at 10:30 am. When I said I'd been told this at 5 pm, they said "Oh, we must have been told right after 5 to close our store." And they refused to tell me the name of the employee ("There are so many people working here there's no telling who told you that."), and the manager initially refused to give me her name.

It was just handled super duper poorly. Why tell me to drag a 4 year old back to the store, getting her hopes up again? The whole thing just felt cruel. Also the $15 off coupon isn't nearly the same deal, and they're only applying one to each "account" so people with multiple kids aren't getting a discount. I saw someone claiming to be the CEO arguing on fb yesterday about "entitled" parents and children. Ugh.

Anyway, we went to target and for $20 my child picked--the irony!--a plastic Build-a-bear "stuffing station with two tiny teddy bears to stuff, and now Cheesecake and Pizza Lion have their own teddy bears, and she's happy. Christ.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:08 AM on July 13 [15 favorites]


Ugh. We were not subject to this particular debacle, but I have ISSUES from Build a Bear from back when my son was in pre-k. His preschool decided that it would be fun to have an outing to Build a Bear for the kids in his classroom. They told parents it would be $12 for a bear that we could pay in advance. They did NOT tell us that Marshall from goddamn Paw Patrol starts at $28 and that's before you start adding the hat and vest and backpack.

So my son was THAT kid and had a full on meltdown in the store and the preschool had the audacity to tell us he had a "red" day for poor behavior. My son is not neurotypical, and is high functioning autistic (the preschool knew this). It's very manageable most of the time, but when you hype him up all week and then take him to Build a Bear and tell him he can only have Base Price Bear and not Marshall from Paw Patrol, that he can SEE proudly sitting on the shelf RIGHT OVER THERE, well things aren't going to go well.

Fortunately Build a Bear allowed us to bring Base Price Bear back to the store and exchange it for credit toward Marshall. He slept with Marshall for about 6 months.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:13 AM on July 13 [5 favorites]


When my kid was born, my mom made me promise that she could take him to BAB, when he was old enough.

When the time came, we went to the mall, and where there used to be a BAB, there was now a Hot Topic. The End.

(I did mail order a nifty blue and red toy stroller (bear accessory) from there when he was toddling. He LOVED it, literally to pieces.)
posted by 41swans at 6:20 AM on July 13 [5 favorites]


Ugh. We were not subject to this particular debacle, but I have ISSUES from Build a Bear from back when my son was in pre-k. His preschool decided that it would be fun to have an outing to Build a Bear for the kids in his classroom. They told parents it would be $12 for a bear that we could pay in advance. They did NOT tell us that Marshall from goddamn Paw Patrol starts at $28 and that's before you start adding the hat and vest and backpack.

Yeah, I mean, that was the thing with this sale. The licensed bears/plushes are expensive. When we hosted a BAB birthday party, it was the same deal--basic bears included, but not the fancy ones, and we ended up paying extra for those. That this sale was on any bear was a big deal. The $15 coupons they're giving out instead don't cover the cost of pricey plushes, and they're now offering a birthday club but only on specific birthday bears.

I don't know, the arguments spinning around on the corporation's fb page about this--that kids who cried about it are entitled spoiled babies and that we shouldn't expect anything more than the bear bare minimum from corporations feels pretty close to how people treat millenniums who voice any opinion at being saddled by student loan debt and high health care costs. Buck up, Johnny. You should know better than to expect to be treated well, and aren't you foolish for getting your hopes up.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:30 AM on July 13 [9 favorites]


We dodged this particular bullet because Tiny Croft is still too tiny to get something as abstract as "come someplace where you're not and get something really cool that you can't actually see right now." But I'm guessing if she were a little older, we might have gotten drawn into this.

But as I think about it, it seems to me that this is just the logical conclusion of a business model built around triggering meltdowns of over-stimulated kids as a matter of course. It's just on a larger scale here because they managed to make it go viral.

Sooner or later, isn't a kid going to just fall apart on a normal visit to this place? Thus they throw parents off the rails and make them desperate to get the kid back under control. And there they are with an expensive solution to the problem they just created. Build-A-Bear is like disaster capitalism for toddlers.
posted by Naberius at 6:48 AM on July 13 [11 favorites]


So, my kid loves Build-a-Bear. We had her 3rd birthday party there, and she still sleeps with "Cheesecake" every night.

Heh, the orange cat my daughter made at Build-a-Bear years and years ago was named "Cake". I feel like the company should make pay-your-age the regular price. The ludicrous accessories have to be where the real money is, and as it stands now, most parents have to put their foot down at getting at most one accessory. I have to assume it would be easier to sell people a shirt, pants and a hat for $10 each if they've only paid $8 for the bear. Maybe pay-your-age on your birthday?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:49 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


I have to assume it would be easier to sell people a shirt, pants and a hat for $10 each if they've only paid $8 for the bear. Maybe pay-your-age on your birthday?

Yeah, they've now created a "birthday club" that's pay your age but only on specific "birthday bears." Guessing it's this one, but I'm not sure.

Which is how it goes at this store. We went in for the first time because we had a $15 off coupon (they give those out for everything, like candy--handed us one when we scheduled the birthday party, plus a stack to give parents money off accessories, which of course weren't included) and ended up still spending...$71, I think, because my daughter had to have Everest from Paw Patrol and then an employee upsold us on Everest's pup pack and vest and voice box. The store is sort of an exercise in managing expectations with a child not really developmentally able to do that, and I suspect the corporation knows that. Inevitably, you go in and end up looking like the bad guy because you don't want to spend $54 for a complete bulbasar multipack.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:58 AM on July 13 [8 favorites]


I was born in the early 80s and so of course I had to have a cabbage patch doll. I remember my mom telling me stories about how hard she worked to get the damn thing, standing in line for hours etc. Eventually she bought one "off the back of a truck" which I am realizing right now might mean she got it through nefarious means. Huh. She's not the type to steal, but that is pretty damning.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:52 AM on July 13 [5 favorites]


...wait, you can make Toothless? Oh dear.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:15 AM on July 13 [5 favorites]


I suspect the corporation knows that

Oh they TOTALLY know that.
posted by 41swans at 8:23 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


I tried to ask the name of the employee who had told us to come back, so I could make a complaint, and...they refused

Did you really need her name? Yes, specific details lend weight to complaints—but this isn't a random, unknown situation. It's an international spectacle. The company is aware. It definitely sucks that you were told to come back, and maybe you deserve more than the $15 coupon that everybody else got; but that employee was probably giving you the best bad-info she had at the time, and I wonder whether she deserves to be thrown under your bus.

Just as a point of reference, Build-a-Bear's CEO reportedly makes between $1–3 million per year, while the company's retail employees reportedly earn between $8–14 per hour.
posted by cribcage at 9:14 AM on July 13 [6 favorites]


Build-A-Bear is like disaster capitalism for toddlers.

I need a cigarette after reading this.
posted by thelonius at 10:27 AM on July 13 [6 favorites]


Toothless. Oh man, now I wanna build a Toothless.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:15 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: a complete bulbasar multipack
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:43 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


It definitely sucks that you were told to come back, and maybe you deserve more than the $15 coupon that everybody else got; but that employee was probably giving you the best bad-info she had at the time, and I wonder whether she deserves to be thrown under your bus.

Not for nothing, but the person was dressed like a manager, which is part of the reason I was both extra frustrated and extra confused. Part of the reason I was asking because I wanted to confirm that it was one of their employees and not, say, a random employee of the mall.

"Thrown under your bus" is a little needlessly harsh, anyway. The manager and employees weren't particularly apologetic or even kind and pretty much treated me like I was an annoyance, too, even though I was mostly just exasperated and trying to keep my kid calm. Don't really need the extra guilt trip.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:24 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Arcticwoman if it makes you feel better your Cabbage Patch doll was probably not stolen, it was more likely a counterfeit, which were a huge thing at the height of their popularity. Either that or it was only semi-shady in the "the person who sold them would get fired" way, not the "would get arrested" way. (As in, a store employee hoarded a bunch for themselves, legitimately paid for them while the managaer wasn't looking, then sold them out of their trunk in the grocery store parking lot for 2x or 3x face value).
posted by Poogle at 12:27 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


The manager and employees weren't particularly apologetic or even kind and pretty much treated me like I was an annoyance, too, even though I was mostly just exasperated

Think about their day for a moment. Is there any chance they, too, might have felt exasperated? But they don't get a pass? Consider the various actors: the corporate officers who planned the sale; the retail employees assigned to work; the parents who chose to attend; and the hopeful kids. Who do you think had greater ability to affect this situation—the retail employees stuck working it, or the parents?

Sorry, but the parents who were just trying to keep their kids calm left and went to the park. You were standing outside a closed gate after you'd been given a $15 coupon, arguing about whether you were also entitled to two retail employees' names—"so I could make a complaint," you said. I think what happened to you sucks, and I'd write a letter to corporate, but I don't think that letter is less likely to get you a gift card because you can't name-check Marjorie and Janet.

I think the kids who didn't get bears for $5 will be just fine. Between the four categories of participants, I feel sorriest for the retail employees who were stuck working yesterday.
posted by cribcage at 1:31 PM on July 13 [8 favorites]


I don't understand how someone could have seen the gigantic lines, the stories on news and social media building all day, to see the clouds of the epic shit-storm rolling in and still say "I don't understand why we didn't get our discount bear" "I had to explain to little Spencer that sometimes you don't always get exactly what you want"
posted by Megafly at 2:05 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


When I encounter a shitty retail employee I presume its because they work for a shitty manager or corporation. From the BABW planning and response it seems corporate is miserably incompetent, yet managed to create a product and experience kids love. So basically they're all going to get huge raises for this debacle! Fucking MBA's.
posted by charlielxxv at 2:18 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Huh, I have friends whose house I go to almost every Thursday night for dinner and last night their 5 year old son greeted me with the monkey he'd made at the "build-a-bear" day at his preschool, so they must have taken them to this, though I have to imagine the lines were not this insane. He really was so excited about it - spent about 10 minutes showing me all the different things about it and the various choices he'd made for it. So the engagement aspect seems like a big deal.

Of course, then he spent another 10 minutes telling me about how it was "water day" at school and he jumped over a sprinkler! Kids have an amazing time at preschool these days.
posted by lunasol at 2:22 PM on July 13


Sorry, but the parents who were just trying to keep their kids calm left and went to the park.

Like I said, we'd made other plans at the mall before I even knew the whole thing was canceled. I would have certainly skipped returning to the store if I knew it would be a double dose of disappointment at that point. I wasn't--am not--super interested in compensation so much as employees acting empathetically to children and their parents when it's a primary part of their job. And it is, these guys run kid's birthday parties and have children kissing fabric hearts on the regular. A simple, "Hey, sorry, I get it," would have gone a long way. Instead, they, and lots of people armchair quarterbacking the whole thing, were super blamey. Which is uncool. I was just trying to do a nice thing for my kid, man.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:25 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Either that or it was only semi-shady in the "the person who sold them would get fired" way, not the "would get arrested" way.

That sounds pretty likely. I'll have to give my mom a call tonight and ask. :D
posted by arcticwoman at 2:35 PM on July 13


Off topic about lining up for Build-A-Bear but on topic about people valuing their time much less than they should: some clients came in today and said it took them 2 and a half hours to get here. I asked why they didn't take the toll highway which would have got them here in less than an hour. One of them said it would cost $45 (it would actually be half that) but three people wasting an hour and a half in traffic works out to 4.5 hours. Their time is worth more than $10/hour let alone $5/hour. But they were on time for their appointment so it didn't matter to me.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:46 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Apparently I'm the only one who wants to know how the gas-station story ends.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:10 PM on July 13 [2 favorites]


No, me too on the gas-station. My guess is didn't work?

Unlike the BAB thing which ABSOLUTELY worked gangbusters. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free advertising. The only risk they were taking was that someone got shot or badly beaten by a fellow line-stander or security guard and I guess that didn't happen...
posted by MattD at 4:27 PM on July 13


people valuing their time much less than they should

But the idea that your time is worth money is kind of abstract, unless wasting an hour literally stops you from billing for it, or being paid for it; but the toll road requires payment in actual dollars.
posted by thelonius at 5:06 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


I guess I'm lucky that my kid, at 2, is young enough that he didn't realize what he might potentially get out of going to the mall. I told him we were taking a special trip before school, and we got to the mall about 30 minutes before they opened, only to find that the line wrapped around the building. A security guard told us that the line was over 1000 people long. Some parents turned around and left; others were hanging around outside the Disney Store, apparently in hopes of a consolation prize. Me, I headed over to Great American Cookie Company, where the enterprising employees had decided to start selling early, got my kid a sugar cookie, and took him to daycare.

Of course, I had told him that if he was very lucky, he might get to see Toothless the dragon. And given how things turned out, I'm glad that I made no promises. As it is, when I asked him tonight if he wanted to go anywhere this weekend, he asked if we could go see Toothless. I wonder if our store is restocked yet....
posted by Daughter of Time at 9:18 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


These days I only ever go in there because it turns out all those adorable little accessories fit cats about as well as bears.

WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME THIS BEFORE?!
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:14 AM on July 14 [6 favorites]


« Older Who's the "Crazy Evil Genius" Behind a Global...   |   The Tapestry of the Search for Terrestrial... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.