What a racket! The Sicilian Mafia could learn from these guys!”
That was my exclamation upon exiting Build-A-Bear Workshop at the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake the other day. I have never seen such a collection of over-priced fluff and very little fabric except for the time I accidentally walked into Abercrombie & Fitch.
In a spirit of public service for those of you who haven’t been shaken down by this cartel of cutesyness, I here provide my own account of the horrors awaiting you if you ever take your child through its portals.
Upon seeing the ignorant expression on my face as I walked in the door (I gotta work on that) the friendly “dons,” er… I mean “pawsitively pawsome bears” immediately guided me and my wide-eyed spawn onto an “assembly line.” First thing you do on this trail of fiduciary irresponsibility is pick out a pelt for your new bear (cha-ching). You then select a heart and other internal organs for the creature that will forever play an annoying tune or say “I love you” whenever you sit or step on the thing in the future (cha-ching). Then your child watches in stunned horror as a worker rams a metal tube into the hide and blows fluff, which they call “love,” into it. The worker then asks your child to stuff his collection of organs into the creature’s guts. She then stitches the bear up while you hear it say “I love you” every time the needle goes in. I guess it’s never too early to teach children that love hurts.
Next, your child gets to take their new friend to a “shower” — presumably to clean off the imaginary blood from its surgery — that blows air all over its fur. I failed to see the point of this exercise and even my 4-year-old daughter looked at me with confusion.
“Just follow the line, honey, while Daddy checks his bank balance,” I said. She doesn’t see the point of bathing in general anyway.
Next comes the spending frenzy that I can only imagine a Democrat enjoys when a new “need” is discovered. Little bear clothing — from miniature tennis shoes to cowboy hats — is laid out for your child to drool over (cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching). They even have little bear underwear with a hole in the back. No, not for that, but for the bear’s little stubby tail to poke through (cha-ching). “Oh, forgot to charge you for the hole,” (cha-ching).
Don’t worry, it gets worse. You must then create a birth certificate for your bear. This is where you register the bear on a computer so they can contact you with the new spring lineup of accessories in the future. You also get to pick out a name. Fortunately, they don’t charge you for the name, though I think they certainly would if they thought they could get away with it. (“That will be $2 per letter, sir.” “How about ‘A,’ son? That’s a good name. I hear all the cool bears are called ‘A.’”)
It was here that I looked around for other fathers in the store. I saw them, all with pale expressions and forced smiles as they watched their sweet daughters rifle through mounds of miniature tiaras and pink bear halter tops with iCarly logos. They, like me, sullenly watched as their child’s mother aided and abetted this plunder of the family budget. They started to get visions of their little angel’s future wedding and watched that new boat or cherry red roadster fly away through the clouds to the land of what might have been.
For me, with three kids all wanting their very own bear, this all began to add up quickly. I tried to talk them into a communal bear, but my children can’t even share stares without starting World War IV. (I say World War IV because III was already fought and lost about a year ago when the boy “accidentally” flushed Barbie’s head — something I don’t want to dwell upon except to honor the fallen.)
As I exited the store listening to the ungrateful fruit of my loins argue over whose bear was cuter, my wife asked about the damage.
“Oh, you mean other than my broken kneecaps?” I said. “Well, what do you say to beans and rice for dinner tonight? And how about every night for the next six months or so?”
Even though the boy’s bear was soon confiscated for beating up his sister’s bear and the little one’s bear has lost its pants but still has that disturbing underwear, I hope that one day in the distant future one of my descendants will bring one of these bears to the Antiques Road Show where the appraiser will say, “These bears were a prized item in the early 21st century, but many were inexplicably ‘lost,’ particularly the ones that said ‘I love you’ in the dead of night when the child rolled over on them, waking their paranoid fathers. This one, however, except for the dried blood stains, is in remarkable condition considering its age. It was probably confiscated from the boy on the ride home from the mafia front store called Build-A-Bear Workshop where it was purchased and which single-handedly caused the Great Recession of 2011. Now these bears will never regain their original purchase price, however…”
John Hamilton, creative director for Transcript-Bulletin Publishing, is venturing into the world of punditry and riches beyond imagining.