Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Build-a-Bear Birthday Bash

Yesterday we spent the day putting up our Christmas tree (which I'll tell you more about on Friday, you want more Alaskan photos right?) and in an effort to alleviate my work load today my good husband volunteered to step in and guest post for me today.

Really! He's just that kind of sweet.

So he's writing about his adventures taking Lillian to a birthday party last weekend that was held at Build-a-Bear (another favor he did for me for which I am completely in his debt). A new experience for him and he tells it as only a dad can.


***

And there I was--a dad--standing in the midst of a group of moms at a birthday party at Build-a-Bear. I was Daniel in the lions’ den. Oh wait . . . that metaphor doesn’t work because Daniel survived.

“Have you been here before?” was the first question asked when I arrived.

“Uh, no . . . isn’t it pretty much just a store to buy bears?”

That answer received a chuckle. I’m certain that the mom thought, “You silly, this isn’t Buy-a-Bear, this is Build-a-Bear.” She then explained the process.

It’s starts by choosing a bear carcass, then a dress, then shoes, then bows and even an electronic song and anything else you can cram into (or onto) a bear. Then they hook the bear up to an apparatus full of bear guts and fill the skin one limb at a time. The limp carcass comes to life slowly--slowly, very slowly--one limb at a time like a hot air balloon filling with hot air and lifting off the ground and then they sew it up. Before all this happened I was just a bystander; but I was soon to be a Build-a-Bear victim.

Lillian didn’t need an explanation. She figured it out by herself. “Dad! Dad! Here’s my bear,” said Lillian tugging at my jacket. Her hands were full with the makings of her own personalized bear. A pink bear covered with white hearts, a sparkly blue dress with butterfly wings, and glass slippers. She would have made Elton John proud.

“Dad isn’t she beautiful?”

“Oh yes,” I said in that parental voice that didn’t want to break the enthusiasm.

The party proceeded mainly with activities to prolong the purchasing activity until the grand finale of stuffing the bear. During that time I started to look around at the merchandise and I began to notice that everything had a price tag.

I mentally walked through Lillian’s purchase and started adding things up. Eighteen dollars for the bear. Fifteen dollars for the dress. Eight dollars for the shoes. Eight dollars for the special happy birthday song to be played with a push of a button when you grabbed the bear's hand. I did the math in my head, “Forty-nine dollars,” I said. Then it sunk in . . . “FORTY-NINE DOLLARS! Holy cow!"

Or rather, "Holy bear!”

It was too much. But there was my daughter who had already named her bear, was holding the bear close to her heart and looking at it with adoration probably because the staff at the store had just spent the last hour in bear-bonding activities designed to cement girl and bear together in an eternal bond of love.

And there I was, about to break her little heart. Why? Because the birthday girl’s mother had quietly approached me to inform that parents were expected to pick up the tab for anything over $25.

“OoohKeay.”

Back went the shoes. It was too late to surgically extract the birthday song already embedded in the bear’s left paw right there on the store floor and I couldn’t bring myself to have Lillian put the dress back. At least we didn’t have to pay for the authentic beating heart thumping away in the bear's chest though it kind of gave me the creeps and brought me back to my days of reading Edgar Allen Poe when I was in high school.

Even after all was said and done the final bill--my portion of course--was $16. I didn’t know how this was going to work so I looked at the other mothers and they also had looks of confusion. All the girls had gone upstairs for ice cream by this time but we finally figured it out, standing in line--me with the rest of the moms--to pay our portion.

So I guess all I can say is: "Stuffed bear with actual beating heart? Eighteen dollars. Fluffy Disney dress? Fifteen. Brittney Spears singing "Happy Birthday! . . . Happy Birthday! . . . Happy Birthday! . . . Happy Birthday! . . . Happy Birthday!" ad nauseum when you squeeze your bear's paw? Priceless.

Oh no--wait--make that "Another eight dollars." Plus tax.

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Technorati tags: Build-a-Bear, parenting

29 comments:

Erica said...

Poor Dad, Michelle how could you do that to him? :)

Not sure I like the idea of going to a birthday party and spending money to be there...scratch that...definitely don't like that (note to self: Erin never going to build a bear party)

As it happens we have a build-a Bear, she hardly notices it, cost us about £30!

Peruby said...

Very popular birthday party sport here in Ohio, also! What a racket.

Jolanthe @ No Ordinary Moments said...

Oh my word.

Thanks for the early morning laugh - loved the "bear carcass" and the reference to Poe!!

Thankfully we don't have build-a-bear here.

Thankfully.

Chris said...

Oh yeah, the accessories is how they get you. At least you survived ;)

Blessed said...

yep, that's why I avoid "Build-A-Bear" it adds up so fast!

Michemily said...

Wow. The things we do when we're in groups. I'm sure I would have done the same, but if no one else had been there, I would have refused. Poor girl.

Jennifer said...

Only a guy would call the unstuffed bear a "carcass"!

I don't get the appeal of spending so much on a stuffed bear either though. Someone made one for me once and it never came out of the cute little, white and blue box. Then, when we moved, I had to deal with the guilt that it wasn't coming with us!

Jonesey said...

Hilarious. I agree with Jennifer about the Bear carcass.

Tammy said...

So very funny! I appreciate the laugh this morning!

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Maya's favorite stuffed animal is Alia, her 'build a bear' leopard. We had a party for Maya and 1 (ONE) friend, because we wanted to pay for everything. Two bears, all the crap, $80. Gulp. That was before they did all the talking stuff.

Several years ago, Maya made me a stuffed lion, and recorded her own little sweet voice saying, "Happy Christmas Mama". I LOVED that. Of course, the voice part died eventually. I do cherish the bear, though.

But really, it's a racket. Except for those two. ;)

Daisy said...

I'm still laughing at the poor neophyte's shock. Build-a-Bear is a genius operation, really. They charge lots of $$ for a simple process.

CoconutKate said...

That place is designed to excite children in a way that melts parent's hearts and wallets. It so happens that our daughter has 4 of those animals...only one actually bought by me, for me, years ago before the daughter was born. We try to stay clear of that place but sometimes you get sucked in...oh...YOU KNOW! :0)

Kristen M. said...

This is why I've never allowed my children to set foot in a Build-A-Bear Workshop. The bears are cute but $49??

Lisa said...

You were so smart to send dad on that one!

Holly Crosley said...

I must be the biggest sucker in the world - I love BAB and love that my daughter does too. She has over 50, I think. I think it is a great deal for a truly personalized bear. Maybe it is because I have one child....

I do think like Dad about the carcasses (that is how I have referred to them telling others about the joys of BAB) and the creey beating heart (WHAT IS THAT???).

I do understand why I am the sole voice in the wilderness, but I still love it.

Kathryn said...

Wow! I'm so glad that boys aren't into to that kind of stuff!!

Chris said...

That was priceless......

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bobbie in AK! said...

I must be the only parent who actually loves Build A Bear! The key for me has been to set limits and go right at opening to avoid crowds.

ewe are here said...

Not the first blog story about being overwhelmed and hit with huge bear expenses at the build a bear stores... total racket!

The Random Muse said...

I have a build-a-bear. Got it when the stores first started popping up. It was the cheapest carcass in the store and wears only a ribbon; the only reason it got the ribbon was that the employees couldn't stand to let 3 bears leave the store naked.
I think even with three bare basics and nearly naked bears, my dad regretted letting my sister drag the family into the store.

cndymkr / jean said...

I love Build a Bear. Did they make the girls do a ritual dance as they insert the heart? That is my favorite part (NOT). My son has a few of them, a monkey, a turtle and a tiger. And just yesterday I found that Williams Sonoma has Build a Bear cake pans. Very cool.

Jill in MA said...

I took my kids to a Build-a-Bear party just this past weekend, too. However, the spending limit was $20 and the store employee who ran the party only gave the kids choices that kept them in the spending limit. They could only choose from 4 $10 animals and they did a "fashion show" of only the $10 outfits. My kids absolutely loved it!

But I could see how a greedy Build-a-bear store might let the kids run wild at the parties so the parents pick up the tab on the extra cost the kids rack up. Clueless parents should be warned!!

Alexis said...

Yup everytime we walk by there I try to cross to the other side of the mall. The last two times we didn't get out of there under $50 for two dinos (mind you they are different my son told me) that now reside on the end of his bed for show.

Wow I wish Rick would go to a party for me. Hmmm ... yup even praying would get that wish to come true :)

ChefDruck said...

The time I cringe the most at build a bear parties is when kids ask why the same options are not available as at another kids. Translation, why are these parents so cheap. Painful. And the stitching always comes out on ours.

AlaneM said...

Oy! I'm glad I've never been to one. There's always been a voice in my head screaming "TOO MUCH MONEY, TOO MUCH MONEY!" when I've walked past.
Great post!!

planetnomad said...

Yikes! Way to set up the parents.

The twins got gift certificates last year, and we made them do the math in their heads and not go over. I couldn't believe how expensive all that "high-quality merchandise" was! I will say that they love their animals though.

Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home said...

Okay, I really needed to read this. Two of my daughters have birthdays in the next week and they wanted to do a Build-a-Bear birthday party. Thanks for the heads up on what could happen! (Glad you survived.)

IQ Derma said...

I've never done an "official" build-a-bear, but one time I was up North near Santa Cruz and there was a little independently owned build-a-bear type place where i had one made. It was fun! I know it's mainly for kids but...whatever it takes to feel young again!