Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Build-A-Bear and the difference between boys and girls.

Last Saturday, my daughters and I went to Build-A-Bear as part of an Adventure Princess outing. Adventure Princess, you might recall, is the father-daughter bonding club sponsored by the Y. On this day's event, siblings of the little princesses got to go as well. In total 7 girls and a boy were in attendance. I can only guess the boy had a karate class canceled on him.

If you have kids, you know from Build-A-Bear, that arch nemesis of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company and of every parent a budget. What a shtick they've got going. Each kid gets to pick out an unstuffed stuffed animal, typically your basic teddy bear but occasionally something more advanced (if the parent wants to fork over the extra scratch) such as a unicorn, lobster, or fuzzy version of Zac Efron. The kids are paraded through the store to the stuffing machine, where one by one each empty bear receives its first proctology exam as it is inserted, ass-first, onto a cold, steel tube and inflated with white fluff from a giant machine that looks like a cross between a popcorn popper and an ultrasonic humidifier. Then, the kids each get to select a little fabric heart to place in the bear, they can wash their bear in a fake shower that blows air, and then...oh...then, they pick the outfit.

Let me tell you, if cell phone stores sold phone accessories the way B-A-B sells bear outfits, we'd all be carrying diamond Blackberries. This place is a bit of marketing genius. Your child can select from simple dresses, to Harry Potter costumes, to police uniforms, to cowboy outfits, to biker leather. In fact with a little creativity you could probably outfit a half dozen of them as the Village People done in bear. I noticed that the girls all picked pretty little dresses (my daughters got matching skirts with T'shirts that said LOVE on puke), but the boy in the group went with the trusty Spiderman outfit.

After the outfit is selected (basic outfits are part of the price, but they get you with the accessories), the kids sit in a circle and talk about their new members of the family. Each kid gives the bear a name. With 7 girls and one boy, most of the bears were given names such as Princess, Fluffy, Butterfly, Rainbow, and Patches. The boy? Optimus Prime.

(Look it'll get it eventually).

If you're lucky, you can get out of the B-A-B store spending only $20 per child. However, there are a few things you need to watch out for. First, there's the bear club. Constant mail barrages of sales and specials, and extra outfits for your bear. God help you if your kid sees one of those in the mail before you get a chance to toss it. Second, there's the sudden need for extra accessories. "Mom, Butterfly Princess can't ONLY wear a ball gown...what's she gonna do on days when she has to stay at the palace? She needs the bikini!" And lastly, there is of course the online experience. I discovered recently that, rather than GOING to the store and getting your own bear made in front of your eyes, you can simply assemble a virtual one on their website and have it waiting for you to pick up at your local store. It's as if you were ordering a pizza. Time to get a password on that danged computer.

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