Build-A-Bear, which runs workshops across the UK where people can create their own teddy bears, held a ‘Pay Your Age’ day at its stores including one in Telford Shopping Centre.
People began queueing outside the workshop from 8am on Thursday, and families kept arriving until the line stretched around the shopping centre and curled towards Southwater.
Staff at the store let in a few groups at a time, and by mid-morning new arrivals were being turned away and given vouchers by apologetic staff. Build-A-Bear cited safety concerns.
People in the queue were being told to expect a five-hour wait before actually being given the chance to buy their bear.
Sophie Madden, 28, from Shifnal, started queuing but later gave up.
She said: "I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it is. When we got here we heard that people had been waiting since 6.30am. People travelled from an hour-and-a-half away as it is the closest one to them.”
Two women from Telford who attended criticised the organisation of the event. Georgie Walker was visiting the event with a friend.
Georgie, 21, said: "They definitely could have organised it better. They could have used a timeslot system or something like that.
"Debenhams, which is just next to the queue, did offer us free perfume and a drink for the parents and guardians.”
Emily Saunders, 25, brought her one-year-old daughter Sydney-Rose O’Brien from their home in Oakengates to get a bear for a pound.
Emily said: "I heard about the event on Facebook a couple of days ago. The last time I got a bear from here it cost about £25 so to get one for one pound would be brilliant.”
Mother-of-three Lisa Davies, from Dawley, said: "I couldn't believe the queues when I arrived, but I wanted to wait because it was such a good deal.
"I was furious when they told me I couldn't join the queue. They offered me a £12 voucher, but even then that's double what I would have paid.
"I can't believe that a big company such Build-a-Bear could get it so wrong."
One family travelled to Telford hoping to create the bears together.
The two adults and five children had travelled from Newcastle-under-Lyme to take advantage of the deal.
But when they arrived they were turned away.
One of the adults, who did not want to be named, said: "They closed the queue at midday, even though the shop doesn't shut until 8pm. They're not even offering to do the deal on another day. I'm not impressed – there's my five kids disappointed.
"It's a good offer, but at the end of the day you can't do something like that and then just switch it off when you feel like you've sold enough.
"They haven't been answering their phones. We've been calling to this one, the one in Warrington and one in Chester and had no response – for a company this size it's just not good enough."
The scene at Telford was replicated across the country, with Build-A-Bear noting the "unprecedented” response.
Beth Kerley said on behalf of Build-A-Bear: "The response to our Pay Your Age Day event at all of our UK locations has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history, and the safety of our guests and associates is our top priority.
"The crowds have greatly exceeded our expectations and, per local authorities, queues are at capacity and we cannot accept additional guests due to extreme crowds and safety concerns.
"We understand our guests are disappointed, and we are working to address the situation. We will reach out directly to our valued guests as soon as possible."