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My experience working at Build-a-Bear Workshop

Build-a-Bear Workshop is one of the happiest places on earth, right? For sure. Have you ever wondered what it's like to work there?




*Apologies for the LQ photos in this post, they were taken on a Blackberry in 2013, so... You know.

Many moons ago, when I was but a wee college student needing a part-time job to get by, I landed a job at a Build-a-Bear store. I'd applied no less than fifty odd times because I was so desperate to work there. Something about working amongst stuffed animals made the idea of retail seem a bit more bearable. IDK.

The interview process was... lengthy, but interesting. I remember going back for at least three separate interviews, which was actually a bit annoying because I didn't live super close to the store at the time.

The first interview was a group interview, which even to this day I love - I find them so easy to make myself stand out. There's a lot more room for error in a solo interview! The interview was as ridiculous as you could imagine - we played games, ran around the store, did a relay race with teddy bears strapped to our backs... The usual.

I think I had two solo interviews after that, on different days, then I was eventually offered the job.

My official job title was 'Bear Building Associate', which was cute (I guess). The main part of my job was of course the stuffing. If you've never been to Build-a-Bear, then A) you need to go ASAP and B) the general process is you enter the store, pick your stuffing-less bear (the staff call them skins, which is pretty creepy if you think about it), then you go get it stuffed by the associate that sits by the stuffing machine.

Stuffing the bears looks really easy from an outsider's perspective. It's actually pretty terrifying, and something I messed up countless times. The force that the stuffing comes out of the machine is way stronger than you think; I can't tell you the amount of times I misjudged it and ended up with the bear flying off the nozzle and a snowstorm of stuffing going everywhere, me just laughing like "LOL don't worry kids, I'll sweep it up later! Happens all the time!"

I also ended up with blisters on my fingers from stitching the bears up afterwards, as they are pre-stitched, you just have to kind of pull all the threads until they're super tight and snip the ends off. Having endless pieces of thread cutting into the sides of your fingers isn't that comfortable.

In general, though, it was pretty fun! It was nice to interact with the (mainly) young clientele, build a connection with them, let them kiss the little heart before they put it inside the bear. It's almost too cute to... bear. (I'm sorry.)

If you weren't on stuffing duty, you might be on greeting duty, where you stand at the front entrance of the store and greet everyone as they walk in. That part was pretty easy, but they didn't let you just stand there looking pretty. Nah, at the very minimum you'd have a giant bear in a backpack on your back. It seemed that every shift I worked, I not only had a teddy bear strapped to my back, I'd also have some kind of animal on roller-skates that I had to drag around the front of the store to entice children to come and spend their parent's money.

Rolling around a pug with a pink tutu and roller-skates on makes you look daft when you're not a cute 6 year old, I'm just putting it out there.

Aside from those small embarrassments, the most mortifying part of the job was if you were put on mascot duty. I still shudder thinking about it.



So, Build-a-Bear host children's parties, right? I never went to one as a kid but they always looked so fun. At these parties, sometimes the giant bunny or bear mascot would come out to say hello and play a few games with the children. Adorable!

Not adorable. When you're a child, you don't realise there's a human adult inside that giant bunny costume. Let me break down how many layers this mascot outfit was made up of:

So you have the furry trousers that look like legs and the furry torso, with furry hands and feet. You then have a little t-shirt and a pair of knickers to go on top of that. Then you have a gilet and a skirt to go on top of that. Then you have to put the giant bunny head over your own head, which is so furry that the eye holes are mostly obscured and you can't see anything past eye level. All this is put on whilst you still have your full work uniform on underneath, too.

Image credit

So, safe to say, you're sweating. A lot. You have to go out onto the shop floor, play games with these children, all the while you can't see or talk or communicate with anyone. The only way you can manoeuvre your way around the store is by a colleague holding your 'paw' and guiding you around. I remember having to play bloody hide-and-seek with these kids whilst dressed as a 6-foot bunny rabbit. Where was I gonna hide?

Overall, it was a fairly fun job but definitely not a long-term career. Working with kids is exhausting. I worked really hard though and always met my targets, leading the way with KPIs.

The funniest part? I didn't make it past my probation! I was taken to the side one day by my manager who said "oh, yeah, so this job isn't quite right for you, so we aren't going to keep you on. But can you finish your shifts for the week 'cause we haven't got anyone to cover you."

Long story short - I dressed up as a giant bunny for minimum wage and didn't last a month. Good job my future job ventures were better!

Have you had any ridiculous jobs?



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