New York

‘Not Worth It!' Child Decries 4-Hour NYC Build-a-Bear Ordeal as ‘Extreme Crowding' Shuts Down ‘Pay Your Age' Day

"There’s people who have been out here for seven hours with their babies”

What to Know

  • Build-a-Bear Workshop offered a sale for customers to pay their age for any animal in the store
  • The company said the promotion drew "unprecedented" and "extreme crowds, forcing it to close lines at US and Canadian stores
  • In New York, lines were around the block in Manhattan with frustrated parents who waited hours to get in

Parents and children waited in line for hours outside a New York City Build-a-Bear workshop to cash in on the company's first-of-its-kind "pay your age" promotion only to be told they would not be allowed inside. 

The same fate befell shoppers at every one of the company's workshops in the United States and Canada on Monday as Build-a-Bear Workshop, which had offered people the chance to pay their age for any stuffable animal, had to shut it down due to "extreme crowding" and potentially dangerous congestion. 

At a Build-a-Bear workshop on 34th Street, parents with small children still waiting on line at 1:30 p.m. said they been there since 7 a.m. The line -- which stretched around half a block to Sixth Avenue -- was closed, but some patrons were still being allowed to trickle in.

A lack of regulation on line was causing tensions to boil over just before 3 p.m., with mom Nicole Castro confronting Build-a-Bear staff about the lack of monitoring of those who were skipping line. 

"We need somebody!' she pleaded with a staff member, frustrated. "There’s people who have been out here for seven hours with their babies.”

Those who did get inside weren't necessarily pleased. 

"We got in line about 9:30 and probably waited about two hours and then about two hours in store," Andrea Homer-MacDonald said. "It was not worth it!" a member of her child entourage chipped in.

Chaotic scenes and long lines were seen across the tri-state, with people sharing photos from a crowded Rockaway Mall in New Jersey, and the nation -- from Chicago to San Francisco to anywhere Build-a-Bear Workshop had a location.

The company said in a statement on its website that the response to the company's first-of-its-kind sale "has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history." It added that at the request of local authorities, new customers were not being accepted at stores over safety concerns.

"The crowds have greatly exceeded our expectations," Build-a-Bear said.

A spokeswoman later said in a statement to News 4 that Build-a-Bear has distributed vouchers to guests who were turned away, to be redeemed for a future purchase.

"It is our sincere desire for all of our guests to enjoy the best Build-a-Bear experience possible," said Anna Axley. "As such, our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible. Therefore, we strongly encourage Guests to consider delaying their trip to Build-A-Bear, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience in this matter." 

With kids and adults hoping to get a customizable animal for cheap, social media posts showed workshops around the country stuffed with eager customers and throngs of people spilling into the hallways of malls.

The discount was also being offered at U.K. stores. Police said lines formed at a workshop in England "about a mile long," the BBC reported. Several stores closed for the rest of the day due to the crowds.

The sale allowed customers to choose any of the "furry friends" available at local workshops and pay their age number for it. The company said no one would pay more than $29 for a bear on the special date — regardless if the purchaser is in their 30's or older. Build-a-Bear required no identification or proof of age.

"Build-A-Bear Workshop takes seriously the privilege of providing our valued Guests with an opportunity to make a furry friend. It is with that spirit that we created our Pay Your Age Day event and the new, year-long 'pay their age' for our new Birthday Treat Bear during their birthday month," said Axley. 

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