Build-A-Bear Workshop’s CEO apologized Friday after ‘heartbreaking’ promotion for stuffed toys goes horribly wrong, and the company made $15-off vouchers online easily available to those willing to provide an email address.
CEO Sharon Price John appeared on the Today show Friday morning to explain what happened and what the company is doing about it, one day after shoppers packed Fayette Mall in Lexington and shopping centers across the country hoping to nab the store’s bears and other characters for as little as $1.
Long lines and hours-long waits greeted Lexington shoppers. It wasn’t long before shoppers were turned away as the store ran out of stuffed animals and the company cut off lines nationwide. Vouchers for $15 off were given out to some of those who waited at Fayette.
The company announced later it would make the $15-off vouchers available on its website to members of its Bonus Club. However, Friday, users could easily sign up for the Bonus Club for the first time and still get the voucher.
Still, the voucher doesn’t match the Pay Your Age bargain offered in the Thursday one-day sale when families with youngsters could pay as little as $1. Children, ages 1 to 14, got stuffed animals for less money if they were able to get in the stores.
Customers have until 11:59 p.m. CDT Sunday, which is 12:59 a.m. Monday Eastern time, to print the coupon, the company said. The vouchers are valid through the end of August.
John told the Today Show the company couldn’t have anticipated the response to its one-day discounts and the crowds that showed up with many, including children, stuck in lines for hours if they weren’t turned away.
“It’s heartbreaking,’‘ John said. “I’m a mom of three, I know that the most disappointing moment is when a kid is super-excited and something doesn’t happen.”
Previous story: Trapped in line or turned away. Scenes from a day of Build-A-Bear mayhem at Fayette Mall.
Many deal-hungry Fayette Mall shoppers were turned away Thursday from the Build-A-Bear Workshop store after it had to cut off an enormous line of thousands of shoppers who were hoping to snag stuffed toys for as little as $1.
Some customers waited close to five hours to capitalize on the store’s Pay Your Age promotion, but most went home with a $15-off coupon as the store struggled to keep up with the unexpected demand.
Build-A-Bear Workshop stores across the country closed long lines to additional patrons as the company’s one-day promotion attracted huge crowds.
“Per local authorities, we cannot accept additional guests at our locations due to crowds and safety concerns,” read a post on the company’s Facebook page. “We have closed lines in our U.S. and Canada stores.”
At Fayette Mall, security personnel, who cut off the line, estimated 3,000 gathered. Store employees determined that a portion of the line would receive the advertised discount. Those who did not get the discount were to receive a $15-off voucher valid for the next four weeks, Build-a-Bear employees said.
During the Pay Your Age promotion, a customer could pay a price equal to his or her age for any furry friend. The minimum price for the bears and other stuffed animals was $1, and adults could pay the age of their children who were with them in the store. The prices capped at $29 for older patrons.
Usual prices for the stuffed toys can range from about $15 for an average bear to about $40 for a stuffed toy that might resemble a popular movie character. Accessories and clothing for the stuffed toys were not included in the sale.
According to interviews with multiple customers, the average wait for those who got a stuffed toy was about four to five hours. At its peak, the line reached to JCPenney, which is located on the other side of the mall.
Haylie Vaughan got in line with her family at about 7:45 a.m. a few hundred feet from the store’s entrance before it opened at 9 a.m. Vaughan checked out just before 12:30 p.m. Their family brought their two 1-year-old nieces to the store and got their bears for $1 each. She said the deal was worth the wait.
“They were just so sweet and shocked by what they got,” Vaughan said of her nieces’ reactions. But Vaughan added that many of the parents and kids around them were “exhausted, but I guess seeing (their kids’) faces—it’s worth it.”
Vaughan said her family considered getting out of the line twice, because her mother is disabled and they didn’t bring a wheelchair for the unexpectedly long wait.
“This woman behind us actually grabbed a stool for her,” Vaughan said. “And my mom broke down crying, so it was really really sweet.”
The hallway in front of Build-A-Bear was nearly overrun with strollers, worried parents and hundreds of kids who seemed to be happy being around so many other kids. Angie Hunt, who got in line at about 8:15 a.m. with four children, let her oldest child play Uno, a popular card game, with some other kids who were nearby in line.
“They’re her cards,” Hunt said while gesturing towards another nearby mom. “We all just met.”
Hunt said that it was tough to wait with small children for so long, because they get “restless” and need to eat. She said that she expected to pay about $10 for bears for all four of her children, and she couldn’t bring herself to leave the line because her kids would be too disappointed.
“They’re trying to give people coupons to try and shorten the line,” Hunt said. “But we’re all smarter than that. We want what we came for.”
Dylan Damrell brought his two 1-year-olds from Berea, got in line at about 10 a.m. and by noon, had about two hours to go. He was told by employees that his family may not get a bear because of dwindling supplies. He said that he wouldn’t do it again, but didn’t want to get out of line.
“We’ve come too far to give up now,” he said.
Others decided to get out of the line and vent their frustrations on social media.
“My wife spent 2 hours waiting in line when they opened at Fayette Mall in Lexington with my 1-year-old and received a $15 coupon for her trouble,” Michael Sutton wrote on Twitter. “Unacceptable.”