SAN MATEO (CBS SF/CNN) — Build-A-Bear CEO Sharon Price John apologized Thursday for a sales promotion that overwhelmed several Bay Area malls earlier this summer.

Build-A-Bear Workshop created a frenzy at malls across the country in July when it held a special Pay Your Age event.

More people flocked to the stores for the one-time stunt than expected, creating massively long lines and a media frenzy. Build-A-Bear had to give out vouchers to those who were unable to get into the insanely crowded stores.

The customizable stuffed animals usually retail for $25 or more, but during the promotion anyone who brought a child would only have to pay as much as the child’s age. So a parent with a 2-year-old could get a coveted bear for just $2.

“We did not expect crowds of that magnitude. There was nothing in our planning that could have predicted the enormity of the turnout,” Build-A-Bear CEO Sharon Price John told CNNMoney.

A security guard at Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo speaks on a cellphone while observing a line of people waiting to enter Build-A-Bear workshop. (CBS)

In San Mateo, the cancellation of the promotion came too late for people at Hillsdale Shopping Center, some who lined up before dawn and still had hopes of going home with a bear despite the cancellation.

“Definitely a lesson in patience,” said one mother told KPIX 5 as she waited at Hillsdale. “Did not anticipate this huge crowd or wait time, but the things we do for our kids, right?”

The Hillsdale Build-A-Bear store decided to stick with the promotion even after the company cut it off. The store was closed temporarily for workers to clean the store and to reopen for promotion-seekers until 9 p.m.

People who missed taking advantage of the Pay Your Age promotion were offered a $15 coupon toward a future purchase.

Many people were disappointed and blamed the company for poor planning on its Facebook page.

“It doesn’t make it okay that we disappointed guests,” Price John said, noting that some stores were unable to handle the volume of shoppers that came in for the Pay Your Age event and had to close early.

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