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Build-a-Bear’s Pay your Age Day promo goes awry, but Fresno store keeps line moving

On Thursday, Build-a-Bear will host its first ever Pay Your Age Day and sell any of its "furry friends" at the cost of the child's age. Outfit and accessories, however, are sold separately. Both the Fresno and Visalia stores are participating in the promo.
On Thursday, Build-a-Bear will host its first ever Pay Your Age Day and sell any of its "furry friends" at the cost of the child's age. Outfit and accessories, however, are sold separately. Both the Fresno and Visalia stores are participating in the promo. The Fresno Bee

The promotion almost seemed too good to be true; a stuffed Build-a-Bear for as little as $1?

That was the promise before the company’s one day Pay Your Age promotion was shut down, just hours after it began. Build-a-Bear posted an “urgent alert” on its Facebook page Thursday morning.

“Lines closed for Pay Your Age Day event. Per local authorities, we cannot accept additional guests at our locations due to crowds and safety concerns,” it read.

According to the company, response to the promotion was “unprecedented” and lead to significantly longer than expected lines at its early-opening stores. There were lines snaking around entire malls. The wait time at one store was four-and-a-half hours. This prompted authorities to limit and then close the line lengths., according to posts from Build-a-Bear.

“We understand some guests are disappointed and we will reach out directly as soon as possible,” the company wrote.

The line at the Build-a-Bear location at Fashion Fair Mall was not capped, according to a store employee. As of 3 p.m. around 400 people were still waiting in a line that extended outside the store into the mall.

According to the employee, everyone in line would get in as long as supplies last. The store closes at 9 p.m.

Shutting down the lines at some stores, even for safety and operation concerns, alienated customers and hurt the Build-a-Bear brand, said Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData Retail.

“A lot of parents are now upset that they cannot fulfill promises to their children, and many who made special trips to malls are frustrated that their efforts have come to nothing. In our view, Build-A-Bear is going to have to take some action to remedy this, maybe by offering deals and special offers to those affected,” he said.

Already, the company offering $15 vouchers to all its Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada. Members must log into their account by midnight July 15 to redeem the voucher, which will be honored through Aug. 31.

“It is our sincere desire for all of our guests to enjoy the best Build-A-Bear experience possible. 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,” the company wrote on its website.

“We strongly encourage guests to consider delaying their trip to Build-A-Bear.”

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee
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