Build-a-Bear Workshops have been delivering smiles for over 20 years in the form of customizable teddy bears. Each one can be a wonderful expression of love, or a memory for someone to hold onto for forever. With an array of customization you would never expect customers to take advantage and bring in weird and creepy items to stuff their bear with...
...or that's exactly what people do.
Reddit user, u/mttp1990, wanted to know:
I was not an employee but I interviewed. It was a group interview and they asked us all questions. Toward the end they asked us individually if we wanted to sing a song but stressed we didn't have to.
Only employees who sang moved on in the interview process. 099uyx
Not an employee but at the one in the mall near me the employees told me that a lady would come in with her pet monkey that she treated as her child. She used it as a clothing story for the monkey. She also tried to sue the local school district into letting the monkey attend but was unsuccessful. GMHGeorge
"Stop telling me to make a wish."
My mom and I are both adults and we both like stuffed animals. My mom wanted a lion from Build-a-bear a long time ago and the employee wouldn't let her finish making her look until she made a wish on the heart. The strangest request she probably ever got was, "Stop telling me to make a wish."
EDIT: For those who are wondering, the woman would not let her continue without doing the Heart Ceremony and my mother told her she 'reserved the right to make a wish later' so we were no longer being held captive by a woman with an unsewn lion. Frankly if it were me I would have complained to corporate that being condescending to adults lost them future business.
It's a shame because they do many animals where part of the proceeds go to the WWF, including my mom's lion and a wolf I got later from the person I was dating at the time. Sometimes you just wanna get a stuffed animal and support the wild, you know? Ivytongue
1 to 5.
I interviewed for them last year - My hair was a very light blonde but I had dark roots so it was easy to tell it wasn't my natural color - Although it was a very natural color, my interviewer asked me if I could dye it black because it was unnatural and "parents would throw a fit." I told it wouldn't be possible because it took me months to get that blonde.
She then proceeded to write the number one on a piece of paper. "This is what I have graded your interview on a scale of one to five." I didn't say anything and just walked out...
All because I didn't want to dye my hair black - oh and the hours? 10 hours a week while I went to school. lulalethal
My girlfriend and I were probably the weirdest group of the day at our local Build A Bear.
We went to Build a bear for her birthday and the promotional live action lion king bears were on sale, so we decided to get the ugly live action Pumba bear. For those who have not seen him before, he is an absolute unit with lazy eyes and an evil smile. He knows the sins he's committed and he is not remorseful.
Anyways we dressed him in nothing but a cowboy hat and marvel boxers, then named him Charles Entertainment Cheese. Oh and his voice box is also the Super Mario theme.
I like to imagine that when I die, the only thing that will be there is just his face in an endless void while the Super Mario theme plays ominously in the background for eternity.
The employees were super helpful but were obviously a little uncomfortable at how hard we were laughing at the creation of our stupid son. SuperOwnah
Since Maxine retired....
I worked at BABW for 7 years and I don't know that any requests were super weird. We put recordings of deceased relatives, recordings of fetal heartbeats, pacifiers, and squeakers from dog toys in animals - okay, that one might be a bit strange - but the rest were usually very sweet, and touching moments, and sometimes exciting for the kiddo who was "graduating" from their pacifier.
I did get called a lot of names when the holidays rolled around and we were out of the holiday animals (no longer an issue since Maxine retired and EVERYTHING was produced in ridiculous quantities, instead of limited ones). I was often asked to produce products we didn't have in stock, but that's retail.
I think the weirdest experiences were helping kids dress their animals - some folks have interesting choices in outfits. I remember one little bear left our store in a tank top, undies, and heels (with bows on the ears, of course) - the owner of said bear was a 6 year old girl, but she stayed within her budget!
I actually loved irking (and working) there and if I had any free time or ever needed extra money, I'd probably go back. JDPip
Back when I worked a few years ago, I had a customer come in holding a bag of what looked like at least 10 pacifiers. She spread the pacifiers throughout the inside of the bear, and told her son that they were a big boy now and didn't need the pacifiers anymore, but he'll always be close to them as they are in the bear now. So I guess it wasn't so weird as it was sweet. chinchingering
Not an employee, but a read a story about someone coming with one of their young relatives while they were doing the eevee thing, and when the relative asked OP what to name the eevee, he responded with "Sam", which got some looks from the employee handling the eevee. afterwords, the employee said to them "i know what you did."
Sam is the name of the main protagonist in a pornographic comic. Sam is also an eevee. in that comic. orifan1
Grandma ain't having it....Giphy
Customer, not employee...Years ago I made a monkey one for my cousin that I put a noise maker in the crotch that would laugh when you squeezed it. Got some really awkward looks from the employee helping me put it together. My grandma was definitely not amused when my cousin opened it in front of the whole family. KCtraveler25
I have been censored in my bears name twice at a build a bear. One happened when I was five, one when I was six. When I was five I got a bear who I wanted to name Honeypunch (shut up I was five). The attendant told me no punch is a bad word so she forced me to change it to bunch. The same thing happened with the second best next year, albeit different first half of the name. amazing9999
Bronies Ruin Everything
I worked there in high school about 10 years ago now. I guess the weirdest thing (but was very common) was putting dead relatives' recorded voices into stuffed animals. One was for a little girl whose father had died in Iraq. I was definitely crying while I sewed that bear up...
Other than that there were a few bronies that came in for Rainbow Dash. They were always very awkward but nice.
Showing Love The Only Way You Know How?Giphy
Watching a teenage girl make a bear dressed like her boyfriend, for her boyfriend, while he was there. I have never seen someone try so hard to look interested, but failing. Teenage love I guess.
The weirdest thing is all the middle aged women who come in Everytime somehow new is released. They collect them, but are always super weird people.
Speaking Honest Truth
My girlfriend and her grad school friends made a bear called Catastrophe Bear and he said "everything is awful"
Which is Worse: The Tooth Or The Man?
A Native family wanted to put a real bear tooth inside the bear (it was for a newborn). I made sure to check the sharpness of the tooth so it wouldn't puncture the fabric. Nothing weird with that job though.
Although, there was a time when this old, drunk guy walked by the store and tried to grab a little girl near the entrance. A father intervened and got her back, but people were more bewildered by this guy doing it so obviously rather than get upset.
I hated the store's music though (kids singing hit songs), i hated the chipper face/voice we had to put on, and I haaaated handling the fluff when refilling it.
SPOILER: Kids Are Gross
I worked at Build A Bear for 8 years. It honestly was a pretty great job. They weirdest request I ever had was a woman brought in a moose (not our brand). It was a gift from her boyfriend and her children had ripped the head clean off. She wanted to know if we could fix it.
I was one of the better ones at the sewing so the manager brought it to me. I told the woman I would do my best. I was able to get the head back on. Returned it to the woman and she said it looked as good as new.
One day we had a kindergarten teacher drag in this huge Eeyore stuffed animal that the kids love. It had gone flat over the years and smelled and looked just gross. We actually opened it up and refilled it. The smell as the air and stuffing went into it was awful. Sewed it back up and sent her on her way.
We had multiple people come in to put pacifiers in the bear to break there little one of the habit. One particular mom did that. Then came back 3 days later and had us open it up and remove it. The saddest was the woman who put a mini urn of her parents ashes inside.
Anyway those are the ones that stick out to me.
It's Not What They Put In, It's What They Refuse To.
I worked at build a bear for about 2ish years. I just recently quit this past April. My does time f-cking fly.
People put a lot of things in their stuffed animals, voices of deceased relatives was a popular one. I don't think that's weird though, we all grieve in our own ways and hey if a bear with Uncle Ted's voice in it comforts you whatever. The people who REALLY weirded me out were the people who didn't want ANYTHING. Not just no sounds or smells or whatever, I get it that sh-ts expensive and adds up quickly. I worked there and I couldn't afford a decked out teddy bear. I mean no fabric heart for the heart ceremony, no birth certificate, no box, nothing. ALL OF WHICH ARE FREE AND ENCOURAGED!!
I want you to remember something, this is build a bear. You are buying a $30 teddy bear for your kid. You can go literally anywhere else for a stuffed animal for half the price. Build a bear is about the experience of making the bear, customizing it, and taking it home for your kid to have it's own custom and personal furry friend (yes that is what we have to call them). Why the f-ck are you paying $30 for a random stuffed animal? Why are you doing this? What the f-ck is wrong with you at least put a fabric heart in dude! It's free! It's literally free to put in a cute little heart with a wish for your child!
It makes no sense and to this day frustrates me because to me there's no better way to say "I don't give a sh-t about what I'm getting my child for Christmas." Than that.
Also as a bonus people who were super weird with gendering their kids stuffed animal weirded me the f-ck out. It's a teddy bear Kyle your daughter can give it a tiara and name it Michael Jackson if she wants.
Been Around The Block A Few Times
I've worked for the company for almost 4 years. Overall the days follow the same routine of families come in with a budget and kids have fits when they want something outside of that budget. But I have certainly encountered some weirdos and just weird situations.
Weirdest: mom wanted me to put a sack of her late daughters baby teeth inside the bear with a recording of her voice. I feel like there's a lot of other sentimental items that could be kept with the bear other than teeth, but I guess everyone grieves in different ways.
Crappy: parents will actually stuff things like the sounds in the bear before bringing them to the machine in hopes of pulling one over on you, like I'm not going to notice the hard plastic sound in your otherwise empty bear eyeroll
Heartbreaking (at first, but it gets better): parent booked a birthday party and requested me as the leader (pretty typical, I have usual costumers that come in and we have a bond at this point). I knew the costumer and I was excited because I knew they've been going through the ringer with their middle kid in and out of the hospital, so I was really happy that I'd be able to be part of a happy celebration with them. Well mom came in to talk to me early and it turns out middle kids has cancer and prognosis is not great, so the party is so her siblinggs and cousins can all come and each make her a bear to have in the hospital with her (begin the water works here). So of course I made the party as special as I could and during the wish ceremony some of the kids said their wishes out loud and it was all wishes for the kid to get better. I was in tears by the end of the party and had to leave as soon as it was over because I was a mess. (Last update I got from the family though she's doing better and in remission!!!!!)
One I had to encourage against: man came in wanting a bear for his girlfriend for this last Valentine's Day. He wanted to put an engagement ring INSIDE of the bear and give it to her and then after a few months rip it open in front of her to propose. Ultimately he agreed it was not a great idea and he'd just stick with a cute bear and find a different way to propose. They came in last month making a flower girl bear for their flower girl to be!
It's an interesting job and totally not for everyone, but I honestly love it. Not my forever job, but it's been great while going to undergrad and grad school! Some days I leave full of bubbly laughter and over days I leave in tears, keeps things interesting!
Well, At Least His Spirit Has A Forever Place
Back in the earlier build a bear days, I was asked to put an urn that contained the ashes of their father who had recently passed from cancer into the bear. I didn't know what to say and my manager was on break. They were really sweet and I completed the task for them (reed teddy, if I recall correctly). They also had previously recorded his voice so that also went into the teddy.
20 minutes later when my manager returned, I informed her of what happened and how I handled it and within the next few months we had a store policy of "no deceased remains".
Looking back on it, I'm happy I could do that for them. They even dressed it like him, and had planned to have it on the mantle for the family and grandchildren to press the hand and hear him.
Again With The Remains?
Not weird, but heartbreaking:
Had an older woman come in and request 5 bears, each with aa personalized voice box. She was in late stages of cancer and was getting a bear for each of her grandkids, with a different message to each one to remember her by.
Potentially heartbreaking, ultimately awkward, and traumatising for those involved :
A coworker used to work in a different store, and one day a person came in, picked a bear, and sort of faffed about a while before taking it to be stuffed. Coworker puts bear on the machine, hits the pedal, and is covered in a cloud of "dust", along with the guest, and the store. Turns out the person had poured their late partners cremains inside the bear and not said anything. Tip: if you want to put ashes in a build-a-bear, get a little urn and put some ashes into that, and put that in the bear. Loose ash = bad.
I worked there for almost 5 years back in the early 2000s. Once there was a woman who came in with her son's monkey and asked for a hole to be stitched up. This was common and we all knew how to do a basic ladder stitch so my manager agreed to do it. When she took it in the back, she noticed that there were holes only in the crotch of the monkey and that the fur was matted. That's when she realized that this woman's son was (probably) doing the deed into the doll. I don't remember if my manager put on gloves and stitched it or offered the woman a new doll, but that was by far the craziest request.
I also once had to get into that bear costume after someone wore it for 2+ hours because a woman complained that her son wanted to meet the bear and we had packed up 10 minutes early. That sucked really bad.