Build-a-Bear Workshop--that toy store where you get to select, stuff, then accessorize your very own plush teddy bear--had a great idea for a sale. Unfortunately, the deal was so great that the company had to shut it down yesterday within just a few hours when chaos erupted at stores nationwide, resulting in some very unhappy customers.

If you aren't familiar with Build-a-Bear Workshop, the company was founded in 1995 by Maxine Clark, former president of Payless ShoeSource. Clark's idea for a new business (inspired by the 10-year-old daughter of a friend) allowed kids to make their own stuffed animals, something that was completely new to the industry. The company became a huge success, spawning more than 400 stores worldwide. However, there was trouble on the horizon. Annual sales were about $358 million in 2017--down significantly from a high of $392 million in 2014.

So, what does every company do when it wants to kickstart revenue?

Have a sale.

So Build-a-Bear Workshop decided to set the bar high in its quest to boost sales: a Pay Your Age sale, scheduled to start Thursday morning. 

Build-a-Bear's stuffed animals aren't cheap, especially when you load them up with clothes, hats, cell phones, jewelry, and other accessories. So the opportunity to pay, say just $4 for a brand new toy for a 4-year-old child, drew many thousands of customers and their children to Build-a-Bear Workshops. Unfortunately, the crowds were so large and the lines so long that the company closed the lines to its stores shortly after the sale began over crowd safety concerns.

While many customers were understandably disappointed to be turned away before they received their discounted stuffed animals, the good news is that the company reached out to make amends by issuing $15 vouchers for a future purchase to those who were turned away.

There's a lesson in all this for companies: Don't make promises that you can't deliver. Thousands of unhappy customers--especially when those customers are angry parents and their crying kids--are never a good thing for any business to have. 

Published on: Jul 13, 2018