RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/CBS) - Massive crowds turned out at malls locally and across the nation for Thursday's "Pay Your Age" promotion at Build-A-Bear, causing the company to close lines at all stores in the United States.
The Build-A-Bear locations at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh and Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville were swamped Thursday morning with customers hoping to get a stuffed critter for the price of their age or their child's age.
At Crabtree, the line for the store nearly wrapped around the entire first floor of the mall, according to CBS 17 reporter Lauren Haviland. A sign outside the store at 10:30 a.m. said the line was closed because it was at capacity.
"We got here about 8:15 a.m., and if I had known we'd still be in line right now," I would not have stayed," Brittany Warner, of Wake Forest, said Thursday afternoon.
Raleigh mother Antoinette Ethridge added: "I don't think it was prepared."
Officials with the Raleigh mall said the situation was fluid. They said they were ready for a crowd, but not the kind of crowd that showed up.
"I think security has done a great job," Warner said. "I have seen them out. They've tried to control lines, trying to make sure people are staying where they are supposed to be."
In Fayetteville, Leslie McFayden and her 8-month-old Alexis went home bear-less after waiting in line more than two hours at Cross Creek Mall.
Build-A-Bear announced on their website just after 11 a.m. that they can no longer "accept additional guests at our locations due to crowds and safety concerns."
"We have closed lines in our U.S. and Canada stores. We understand some guests are disappointed and we will reach out directly as soon as possible," the post continued.
In Fayetteville just before noon, the manager said that the store would be "lucky" to still have bears available at 4 p.m.
For those lucky enough to get a stuffed animal, as part of the promotion, no one will pay more than $29 for their furry friend. The stuffed animals usually retail for $25 or more, but if you bring your child, or children, you will only pay their age. That means that if you go to the store with your 1-year-old child, you'll only pay $1.
To take part, however, parents or guardians must enroll in a no-cost Build-A-Bear Bonus Club rewards program by giving the retailer a valid email address and name.
The company had said previously that they will let customers buy a stuffed animal and come back another time to "build" it when the workshop is less hectic.
Build-A-Bear has more than 400 stores worldwide.
The company later sent out this statement to customers about the vouchers that were issued:
Dear Bonus Club Members,
Our first ever PAY YOUR AGE DAY event generated an overwhelming response resulting in long lines, extensive waits, and disappointed Guests. We understand that many Guests were turned away due to safety concerns created by the crowds when authorities in certain locations closed BUILD-A-BEAR stores or we were forced to limit the line. Given these circumstances, we were unable to serve all of our Guests for the event.
In response, we distributed vouchers to Guests who were present in queues to be redeemed for a future purchase. We have now made vouchers available to all U.S. BONUS CLUB members which must be screenshot or printed by logging into your account before midnight (CST) on July 15.
We encourage all of our valued Guests to learn more by clicking below and we'd like to reiterate our sincerest thanks for your passion and continued support.
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