One of my most charming personality traits (just confirm with my dear husband) is that I love a good deal. And by “love a good deal” I actually mean that I am obsessed with bargains…maybe it’s even a border-line addiction. I don’t even really care what the good deal is–I just love the hunt and chase. Maybe a little bit too much.
My quest for a good deal has taken me across the country and around the world. My deal hunting has given me great bounty such as: $2,000 from a shampoo company (filled out a questionnaire while waiting in a salon waiting room in Washington), pints of free ice cream (won an ice cream taste test contest at a county fair in Oregon), free dinners at my favorite restaurant (volunted as a “secret shopper” in Ireland), and free pizza for a year (woke up at the crack of dawn to wait in line with my 6-month old baby in order to be one of the first customers at a new pizza restaurant’s grand opening in California). I’m basically an Olympic-level bargain-hunting sportswoman. I should win a medal or be inducted into a hall of fame or something.
It may come as no surprise, then, that this week is one of my favorite weeks of the year: FREEBIE WEEK! Tuesday was free meals at Chick-fil-A if you dressed like a cow (don’t worry, I still have my costume if you want to borrow it next year). Wednesday was July 11th…better known as 7-11…better known as free Slurpee day (the tropical splash Slurpee gets two thumbs up). And this year we even got a bonus freebie day: Thursday’s “pay your age” day at Build-A-Bear.
What is “pay your age” day at Build-A-Bear, you might ask. Well, it is basically a day where you can trade your sanity, patience and dignity for a cheap teddy bear. Let me explain.
The premise behind “pay your age” day is that you only have to pay your age for whatever teddy bear in the store you want (for instance, my two year old would only have to cough up 2 bucks for a new stuffed lovie). The only catch is that all of the other moms also think this is a good deal so they all came to Build-A-Bear for “pay your age” day, too. And when I say “all the other moms”, I literally mean ALL the other moms. EVERY. SINGLE. MOM. IN. THE. WORLD.
We got to Build-A-Bear at about 9:00, 1 hour before the store was scheduled to open, with the idea that I’d just throw my backpack down outside the door to save my spot in “line” while we played in the mall playground for a little while. Bwahahaha! I can be so naÏve!
The already-full mall parking lot should have been my first indication that something was off…I mean, how many elderly mall walkers are usually sweating it out an hour before the mall opens on a typical Thursday morning? My second indication should have been the steady stream of moms hustling preschoolers and overloaded strollers into the mall entrance. But nothing–NOTHING–could have prepared me for the actual chaos that awaited me inside those doors.
Upon entering the mall you could hear the din of hundreds of children playing/screaming/whining/wailing. I couldn’t even see the store yet, but I could hear the mob waiting for their precious treasure. When we finally reached the store, I couldn’t actually see the store. There were too many hundreds of people already lined up and I couldn’t even see where the line began. So much for my idea to be the first one in line and just hang out for a few minutes until they opened!
I bent down to explain to the children that Mommy doesn’t have the will-power to stand in an hours-long line with expectant children who will likely end up with nothing when the inventory runs out before we even see the light of the Build-A-Bear sign. My lecture was interrupted by a friend who had arrived before me–she already had a spot in line and she convinced me to give waiting a try. My kids were all game, so we decided to hunker down and see what happened.
As we found our place in line, streams of people continued to pour into the mall and into the line. At one point the line stretched from one end of the mall to the opposite end (about a 10 minute walk if I’m hustling–I’m guessing at least half a mile). At another point the store manager came out and started counting groups–he got to 1,000 and told everyone behind them that point to come back another day because there aren’t enough teddy bears in the universe to accommodate that many deal-seekers. It was mob-level madness and I wrote my phone number in Sharpie on all of my childrens’ bodies in case we became separated in the mayhem. Fun. Times.
And so we waited. And waited. And waited some more. We made a Starbucks run. We took turns ferrying children out of line to play in the Lego store after it opened (we’d already been in line for over an hour at that point and had only moved a few feet). We played Pokemon Go. We dreamed of what magical furry friends were awaiting us in the mystical Build-A-Bear store in the distance. And then we waited some more.
After about 2 hours of waiting, I made a decision: I’d had enough. There were still hundreds of weary folks ahead of us in line and I could foresee an unbearable future should we tough it out and stay. By my calculations, it would be approximately 2026 by the time we made it through this line and exited with a furry friend of our own. So, I went against every code in my bargain-hunter handbook and I gave up the hunt. Sometimes, surrender is the true sign of courage. In the end, there are only so many hours of waiting in a never-ending line with three tired, hungry children that I can handle. I found my limit and, with great disappointment, we let the deal go.
Of course, the story doesn’t end here. Because you can’t just stand in line for multiple hours with the promise of a thing and then not leave the mall with a thing. My kids simply do not possess the mental fortitude to survive such a blow. Plus, I was weakened by the line-waiting and I simply could not face a struggle of the epic proportions that would come at this point if I told my kids “That’s IT! We’re going HOME!”. So, I did what any sensible parent in that situation would do and I bribed them. I told them if they would just quietly follow me toward the exit, they cold choose a Lego set on our way out the door. It worked and, with only a smattering of tears, we made a clean(ish) exit.
All said and done, I figure the Build-a-Bear “deal” actually cost me more money than it would have cost to just pay full price for the stuffed animals between the Starbucks runs and the Lego bribe. In the end, though, it was still worth it. I got to visit with friends in line and commiserate on the ridiculous things we do for our kids. I got to witness firsthand the social impact of a bargain (the lady behind me in line drove for 2 HOURS to get to this, the closest Build-A-Bear to her home!). And even though we didn’t get to build a bear, we got to build memories…crazy, stressful memories.
And I have hope. The future is full of more deals to be found and more bargains to be hunted. And now? Now I have persevered. I am better. Stronger. More hungry for a deal than ever before. Will I be deterred by one insane experience? Never! As the great artist Chumbawamba once sang: “I get knocked down, but I get up again!”. Life is full of obstacles, but this harrowing experience has taught me that I can endure even through the most trying of circumstances. I will continue my quest for a bargain, no matter what the obstacles.
Bring. It. On.