Build-A-Bear ‘pay your age’ promotion leaves parents growling and kids crying

SALT LAKE CITY -- It was a regular Thursday, but it sure seemed a lot like Black Friday at malls around Utah and across the country.

“There were hundreds of people coming in and lining up behind us,” Dominic Martin said. “It was insane.”

Martin, his cousin, and his father all lined up outside Fashion Place Mall around 7:45 Thursday morning, over an hour before the mall even opened. Everyone lined up for a teddy bear, a Build-A-Bear to be exact.

“There was at least 400 people already there,” Martin said. “It wrapped around corners, went all the way back and across Dillards to the Container Store.”

The store was running a promotion, Pay Your Age, where customers only had to pay their age for a bear. So, if you were ten years old, you pay $10. But shortly after the mall opened, Martin said they got an unexpected message.

“We moved about 10 or 15 yards and then the security guard came out and told everyone that they were canceling the event, that the turnout is more than they expected.”

On the company’s website, they apologized for customers getting turned away and offered $15 discount vouchers for the future. People who didn’t wait around to get those can go online to the company’s website, sign up by Sunday, and still receive one.

“It was just a quick turnaround, I didn’t even bat an eye,” said Jerry Naylor, who took his two 4-year-old twins to the mall, but turned around right away and headed for the nearest alternative toy store.

“The Disney Store is the first thing that popped in my mind,” Naylor said. “We told them what happened at Build-A-Bear and they were like 'yeah, we’ve been so busy because everyone’s coming here instead.'"