American Girl Dolls
I will start with the disclaimer that I know nothing about dolls. Never had them as a kid (except for one much maligned Barbie). Never wanted them. I was a tomboy with a love for animals, and I was going to be a vet. But now I have a daughter. And now I have to learn about dolls. We started a few months before Christmas with the “but everyone in my class has one” discussion. American Girl Dolls.
As near as I can tell, the American Girl Doll racket is one of the shrewdest, savviest marketers out there. Not only have they been out for years and maintained market share, but they sell an amazing number of dolls and accessories, at the highest possible price. My mom ordered my daughter one of those blasted dolls for Christmas after she begged and whined and wheedled. Let me just say that my daughter has never played much with dolls and this is probably all peer pressure. $129 for something she probably won’t play with for two minutes.
The choice of dolls is stunning. They have a doll of the year, every year since I don’t know when. You can special order a doll that looks just like you. With freckles even. My daughter wanted McKenna, the doll of the year who is a gymnast, supposedly. McKenna does not exactly look like her. She doesn’t have freckles. But McKenna is what she wanted, and McKenna is what she got.
You can get matching outfits for the girl and her doll, so they are both wearing the same thing. You can buy pets for your dolls. You can buy schoolhouses and books for your dolls. Along with getting that doll for Christmas, my daughter got one of the girl/doll matching outfits as well. And let me tell you what else she got. This is where the story gets ridiculous.
There are several American Girl stores around the country, in major cities. But these are not just shops, oh, no. They are full immersion ripoff centers. I guess peer pressure never ends, because my mom heard her best friend tell about taking her granddaughter on one of these pilgrimages to the American Girl Doll store. She decided that she would bring my daughter after Christmas during New Year’s break to Atlanta where the nearest doll center is.
So here’s the deal. This trip is a full package. You check into a hotel within walking distance of the store that has the American Girl Doll package. There is a separate special check-in area for families with their girls with these dolls. When you get to your special American Girl Doll room, the walls are printed bright pink and there is a special bed for the doll that you get to keep. They bring pink lemonade and cookies to the room at night. Then the doll fun begins. You go to the American Girl Doll store, which has a bistro where you can dine. They have special high chairs at the tables where the dolls can sit. Once you go into the
Death Star shop area, anything is possible. You can go to a special salon and have your doll’s hair styled and curled. You can go to a special area and get the doll’s ears pierced, for an exorbitant fee no doubt. They sell all the American Girl Doll accessories, and when I say all, I mean all. They have special movie nights with American Girl Doll movies. These people are marketing geniuses. And I can’t believe this child talked my mom into something like this, because it wouldn’t have even been considered when I was a kid. Not that I would have wanted to go, being as I hated dolls and all.
So hats off to the American Girl Doll empire! They have developed the most immense marketing racket of all time, practically. And this has been going on now for about two generations. When I told a nurse at work about my daughter’s little trip, instead of being horrified as she properly should, the nurse merely remarked, “Oh, I have five of those dolls.” FIVE??? What the hell do you do with five $129 dolls (and that’s on Amazon, which is pretty reasonable)? I guess you buy matching outfits, and books, and movies, and classrooms, and on, and on, and on. And of course now there are myriad American Girl ripoffs – dolls about the same size and look as the originals, with cheaper accessories and such that will fit the real dolls. Everyone wants a piece of that pie. My daughter’s friends carry their American Girl catalogues to school with them, and sit and compare dolls and accessories and what they are going to ask their mommy for next. Each tries to outdo the other.
I am amazed at the excess of the American Girl Doll immersion phenomenon. It would never have occurred to me, did I not have a daughter, that this empire existed. Now that I know, I am disgusted and awed. I just hope that new McKenna doll doesn’t get tossed off to the wayside, with her newly pierced ears and styled hair, and special bed and Husky dog pet. I do know that my mom and dad and my daughter probably had a weekend that they will remember forever. It will be a great memory for my daughter. But I know my daughter. And we’ll see how long this phase lasts.