Friday, October 12, 2012

American Girl aka Marketing Madness

Can someone please explain to me the allure of the American Girl dolls?
This will be the third year that my daughter asked for one. When she was six, she was interested, but it wasn't the highest priority item on her list. That spot was reserved for an iPod. When she was seven, it was much higher up the list, but still right under the iPod. Now going on eight, the number one spot, finally bumping the iPod down a peg, is Caroline, the newest historical American Girl doll.

Why haven't I bought my daughter the doll yet (especially when her birthday is also in December)? Simple. The damn thing is wicked expensive and she already two dolls complete with multiple outfits, to dress at will. Why am I going to buy her a taller one with clothes pricier than her own?

Obviously, I understand that kids want what other kids have. I remember getting a Darcy doll when everyone else had a Barbie. Darcy was just bigger and taller than Barbie so none of the Mattel clothes fit. Damn, did I hate that doll. When my parents finally did give in and buy me a Barbie, it was a Business Barbie, complete with briefcase. I get that my parents were trying to offer a solid role model and all, but the whole point of Barbie is her lavish lifestyle. The Dream House, the mall, the bus, etc. I wanted a Barbie who lived a life of leisure, not one who was a corporate shill.

However, I refuse to pay for something that we essentially already own. Call me cheap, call me practical, call me, maybe, but that was my stance. So my kid did a runaround and decided to hold lemonade stands in order to earn the money for the doll herself. As we live down the block from a high school and it is football season, she already had a prime location. I made the lemonade and bought cookies, her father set up the table and bench under a shady tree, and her brother would yell at everyone who passed by, "LEMONADE AND COOKIES!!!". In three games, and with a minor nest egg already accumulated, she earned enough for the doll ($105) and an outfit ($28). How? By cutting her brother almost entirely out of her profits, by stiffing her supplier on start-up costs, and by cleverly asking everyone who bought a 50 cent item, "Do you want your change?" By the time I caught on to this little game and started insisting she automatically give people their change, it was already the third game. Plus, she would smile so sweetly at people that many simply handed her a dollar as they passed by, without even taking a drink or a snack. Honestly, if I ever can't pay a bill, I'm just going to send her out to run another stand.

Of course, it won't end with one doll and one outfit. She already has her eye on the bed, the nightgown (for her and the doll), etc., etc., etc. This merchandising for the dolls is wide and varied. Oh, and did I mention expensive? I bought my son's actual bed for less than the price of Caroline's doll bed. Sure, I'm already trolling eBay, and etsy, and all the local craft festivals for off-brand items I can get for cheap, but I'm still paying more for a doll dress than I am for a human one. That's just wrong.

Right now, we are still trying to work out a date to get to the store. Internet shopping has been ruled out for fear the doll won't arrive or will arrive broken. (Her fear, not mine.) She wants to walk into the store, eat at the cafe (with her doll, of course) and bask in the insanity that is the American Girl brand. I'm sure we will visit the doll hair salon and doll hospital and I'll find myself at the sale rack (if it even exists) so that I can be a nice mommy and buy her a little something extra.

Will she still ask for an iPod, an iPad, and Taylor Swift tickets this year for her birthday/Christmas? Probably. But I'm leaving that to Santa.


  1. Oh, I hear you, sister. However, now that my oldest is old enough to read the magazine, I am in love with AG. I know, I can not believe it myself. The merchandise part is still cray-cray, but DAMN if that magazine isn't dead-on with great advice about friends and school and being a kick-ass girl.

    Good luck with lunch. You need to reserve crazy in advance and, like the dolls, it ain't cheap. Food's decent though, and there's booze.

  2. I wish I could explain it. In fact, I googled "what is the allure of American Girl Doll?" However, my daughter got a mini-her and I started looking at clothes. Then I found knitting and sewing patterns. Then I found the fringe stuff (like steampunk and bustled Victorian madness.) I still can't explain it, but I'm hooked too. I'm (shamefully) considering getting myself one - probably of the less expensive store brands - just to play with the costumes. They do an excellent job of sucking you in, that's for sure.