Surviving Build a Bear – A Review
A few years ago I used to write reviews for one of those websites. I wrote this review for the Build a Bear Workshop based on my very first visit and purchase there. This was back in 2008 when my eldest who is now 11 was just 3 years old which is the age that Siena is now. I thought it might be fun to turn it into a blog post.
13.12.2008 (Build a Bear, North West England)
Well today I was very brave and went into the Build a Bear Workshop. Me and the Three Year Old have often browsed in there but to be honest I find it quite terrifying.
I ventured in there alone today with the mission of buying a bear for the Three Year Old, well actually it was for Santa to give to her but I figured that he could be too busy to get in there before the big day. There are two reasons why the shop normally scares me, it is usually rammed with kids and their parents, and the staff terrify me with their ‘Have a nice day, squeeze a bear’ bonhomie.
I was intrigued to see that today the shop was practically empty, this struck me as very odd considering the date and all. So I decided to proceed. The first thing you need to do is choose your bear or rather bearskin. Me and the young one had already decided on a twist on the traditional ted and gone for a white and pink hearted variety.
There is quite a range though including traditional bears of various colours, other animals like rabbits and cats, and then popular characters like Winnie the Poo and Hello Kitty. Next, you need to join the queue to have the bear stuffed. There were only two people ahead of me so the wait wasn’t too long but at peak times I have seen it up to 10 or 12 people, so be warned.
Now, the idea is that normally the child would go through the whole experience but I had decided to go it alone so that the magic of Christmas remained intact for another year, big mistake! As it got to be my turn to be stuffed (as it were!) I realised that the ‘friendly’ (read scary) shop assistant was going to go through the same rigmarole with me that she had just been through with a six year old (I am 37). So, I joined in gamely as she stuck my bear skin on the end of a tube and encouraged me to press the pedal so I could feel part of the experience. The bear takes about 5 mins to stuff and I was impressed with how skilful she was and that she managed to get the stuffing so evenly spread. You are then asked to cuddle your bear to ensure that it is stuffed to your liking. At this point you can also have a sound of your choice inserted (ranging from Brahms lullaby, Happy Birthday and various voices and animal sounds or you could also record your own personalised message – price between £2-£5). Not feeling quite in the mood to do a cheery Ho Ho Ho, I decided to pass on this one.
Just before ted is sewn up you have the choice of a beating heart or a bog standard gingham one, the difference being about £4 (ie the gingham one comes free with the bear). This was the bit I had been dreading as I had already witnessed my fate with the said 6 year old. The assistant/surgeon asked me to pick a heart, kiss it on both sides, rub it on my heart so it was brainy, on my tummy so it never went hungry, nose so it never had a cold and cheeky because.. well I can’t remember because I was completely mortified by this point. Then I had to make a wish (tempted to wish for a quick exit from the shop with dignity intact but chose a wish for the three year old just to show MY heart was in the right place!). I inserted the heart and that was that the bear was almost mine (or rather the Three Year Old’s).
The next stage in the ‘experience’ is to register the birth of your bear (somewhat reminiscent of the Cabbage Patch adoption certificates of the 80s). I thought this would be the easy bit, sit down at a PC, register the birth, how hard could that be? Well, 15 minutes later and some well meaning technical advice from an 8 year old and I had it sussed.
You need to enter basic details such as your name, child’s name, name of bear, but the best bit is that you scan the bear and that registers it so that if owner and bear are separated and bear is found, she can be returned to her rightful owner. The cynic in me thought that this was more of a way of getting parental details to bombard them with marketing emails in the future but we shall see. The delay in registering the birth was down to the fact that the PC which mainly operated on touch screens was incredibly slow, this coupled with the fact that the kids who had been on before me had thought it would be funny to change the language to Swedish meant for a prolonged and labourious process which I found to be the hardest part of the purchase. It is difficult when you do not know how to say ‘refresh’ or ‘start again’ in a Scandinavian language.
Apart from the bears the shop also does an amazing range of clothes and accessories so that your new addition becomes the best dressed bear in town. You can find, shoes, boots, trainers, underwear, outfits, pyjamas and even sportswear and dressing up gear for these pampered cuddlies. And also buy beds, hair care kits, toys and wardrobes for them. I can imagine that this is where the ownership of such a bear could become a costly commitment. I bought the bear a new raincoat and some matching wellies which cost in the region of £12 for the outfit but the prices range from £2 for a pair of sunglasses upto £12 or £14 for some outfits.
I took my purchases to the till and paid. The bear cost £15 but I did have a £3 voucher off which I had received on one of our browsing sessions previously mentioned. In total I spent £28 (including discount) for the bear, raincoat and wellies and a teddy for the bear (I know, I know). The bears seem to range from £12 to £18 but I think that the real expense comes with the outfits particularly because you wouldn’t want your bear to get cold. It would probably be reasonable to budget for around £30 to £40 for your bear if you include a couple of things to wear and some accessories. Or maybe do as I have done and ask relatives or friends to buy stuff for the bear. Apparently most items in the store work on a one size fits all basis but it might be wise to check sizings with some items.
Just to point out that this shop also seems popular with boys too and there are certainly some more masculine looking bears with outfits to match.
The bear comes in a cute cardboard box with the birth certificate which I think that the Three Year Old will be very happy to open on Christmas day. Sadly she won’t appreciate the trauma that I went through to bring ‘Clarita’ into the world and thus the bosom of the family!