“Can we just stop in the American Girl Doll Store?” These are ten words that really, truly scare me.
Now before you get all “What do you have against dolls?” on me, let me explain. Although I can appreciate the theory behind American Girl (learn about history) and the strength of the brand (the colors, the numerous dolls, the consistency [The hair salon? The cafe?]), American Girl dolls are first and foremost about one thing: consumption. And those prices? Your entry-level fee (doll and costume) is about $100. (The “starter kits” hit you with two bills, including tax.) These aren’t dolls; they are status symbols.
My question is, “What type of status are you trying to show?” That said, I think it’s important in the process of teaching kids about money to let them spend the money they’ve earned via their allowance in their Spend Smart jars with a reasonable amount of autonomy. So I answered yes when my daughter asked me to go in. For those who know me at all, that was a big step. Also, she had brought only six bucks with her, so I knew there was no real chance that we’d purchase anything at an AG store.
I quietly walked around with her as she pointed out various interesting features on the dolls. (She of course knew many of the names.) It’s a testament to their marketing machine that even someone as jaded as I am gets drawn in by the brand (that just screams to be parodied in Warholesque style for its impressive sameness). Finally, Quinn asked me the price of the Chrissa doll (which she calls “Little Eileen,” as it bears a striking resemblance to my wife). As objectively as I could, I told her that Chrissa (who apparently took home 2009 AG “Girl of the Year” honors) was priced at a cool $95. I explained that it would take her about four months to save for the doll, and that was accounting for the fact that she had already saved over forty bucks in her Save jar. She stared at the doll.
This wasn’t our first conversation about AG dolls, and I have consistently tried to steer her toward other, less expensive dolls. See, I’m not anti-doll! I think dolls are a natural part of a girl’s development, just like Han Solo in a Bespin outfit was for me. (I kid, I kid.) I mention that this wasn’t our first conversation because, without prodding from me, she looked up and asked to leave. I imagine this won’t put an end to her AG fascination (The fact that so many of her friends have them is a big driver.), but it’s part of the process. I’ll keep you apprised.