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Why I’m Glad I Never Got My American Girl Doll

When I was a little girl, American Girl dolls were so cool. My best friend and I were obsessed with them. We both read the books and talked about how much we wanted dolls of our own, and poured over the catalogs, pointing out all the accessories we’d get when we finally got our dolls.

We both read the books, too. My best friend liked Samantha, whereas I was a Kristen and Molly girl. I liked the Molly books the best, but I wanted a Kirsten doll because she looked like me (duh!). Every time the catalog would come (which was often), I would beg and beg and beg my mom to buy me one.

Pssh! That never happened. My parents learned their lesson about buying me expensive things when I was four years old. They bought me a really nice gold locket – and I proceeded to stick it in my mouth and chew on it whenever I wore it. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything expensive since then, except maybe my car.

But my best friend eventually got her Samantha doll, and we spent some time playing with her, which mostly involves dressing the doll up and talking about the books. It didn’t take long for me to realize, even at a young age, that the dolls weren’t all they were cracked up to be. They just made you want to buy even more accessories for them – and the catalogs certainly provided enough of those for us to yearn for.

It’s not that I didn’t play with dolls. I had Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls – it-s just that I realized American Girl dolls were so friggin expensive, you couldn’t really do anything with them, for fear you might damage them. On my Cabbage Patch doll (which was reasonably priced since I was years younger than the craze period), I had no qualms using her hair to teach myself to braid. But American Girl doll hair was so delicate and pretty looking, I wouldn’t have dared style it myself.

What fun is that? A doll you’re afraid to play with?

Still, even today, the idea of owning an American Girl doll is pretty ingrained in my psyche. Maybe it’s because I loved the books so much. Or maybe it’s some residual jealousy that my best friend got one, and I never did. Or maybe it’s just ingenious marketing having left a permanent stamp on my impressionable brain. I. Still. Want. One.

Or at least, I did, until five minutes ago. Then I saw this post on Consumerist: American Girl Place Mocks 6 Year-Old For Having A Doll From Target, Refuses To Style The Doll’s Hair (which describes the blog post “Fake Out” by blogger “One of those horrible moms”).

Oh. My. God. There aren’t even words to describe my disgust. At this moment, I’m ashamed this company got my family’s money for the books, and I’m thanking all of my stars that I never put out the $80 or whatever it was for a full-blown doll.

I was actually looking forward to the idea of someday, in the far, far, distant future, maybe having a daughter and getting her one of these dolls. Or maybe even buying one for my niece in a few years (she’s two years old right now).

No way, now! Forget it, American Girl – you’re dirty. This also falls under my category of “Not Understanding Companies That Make It Difficult For You To Give Them Your Money.”

22 responses to “Why I’m Glad I Never Got My American Girl Doll”

  1. Flexo

    My coworkers with kids (daughters) talk about how their kids love these American Girl dolls… one family even when to some kind of American Girl show…. I had never even heard of these things before then. But what do I know, I’m a guy.

    When I was growing up, Cabbage Patch Kids were everywhere.

  2. Barb

    I’ve always enjoyed this company, had a lot of the books as a kid, which I just gave away.

    I always wanted the dolls but never got one, which is good since I never really played with dolls in general. I am in love with the website’s games though.

    I hope the article isn’t true but I feel compelled to read it.

  3. English Major

    You can rest a little easier–American Girl, which used to be an independent company, was bought out by a major chain pretty recently, so the company that was so unkind to this child is not the company that got your parents’ money (and mine!) when we were kids.

    I, too, had a Samantha doll, and my parents and aunts & uncles used to buy me accessories for her for holiday presents. I accumulated quite a collection. When I outgrew the whole doll thing (maybe I was 11 or 12?), I gave the whole collection to my little sister, who–still!–says this is the best gift I ever gave her. I have really fond memories of playing with those dolls.

    I don’t know if I’d buy one for my prospective daughter, though–it seems like, with the company changing hands, the focus has changed from a genuine interest in educational fun to a mini-materialist’s dream.

    Love the new design!

  4. Mom

    That story of the little girl being ‘dissed’ has been outed as fake. Having gone to AG Place numerous times, I have never seen anyone speak to children in anything but a syrupy sweet voice, they are always there to assist you with anything.

    As far as AG, what makes you think ANY other toy company is so great? With all of the safety recalls now, it shows they have ABSOLUTELY no concern for our childrens safety with their cost cutting and shady business practices. How many other companies manufacture toys that work/play better with new additions? A TON! You buy as much AG stuff as you want, no one is holding a gun to your head to buy more. Also, after you buy the better made dolls, you are free to buy the generic clothes that also fit.

    What’s wrong with the generic dolls is quality. Our daughter went through many knock offs before she got a real AG…which she has had now for years and it takes daily abuse. The fact that some don’t play with such a nice and expensive doll is THEIR issue, it was purchased as a toy and will be treated as such.

    Show me a toy company that is honest and pure, not materialistic and I’ll show you the closet they are hiding their skeletons in. YOU have ultimate influence over your child, not a toy company.

  5. Other mother

    Amen to “Mom”. First of all, I thought the story was awful and I am thrilled to hear it is not true and still pray it isn’t true! I used to shudder in horror over the prices people pay for these dolls. “How crazy are they?” I say. Just some rich spoiled kids. Well my kid, and I-I must add, have become one of them. Spoiled maybe, but not rich. I absolutely love the idea of these dolls based on history. I’m not as big on the “Just Like Me” dolls. I do however, like the newer dolls who have stories about pride and determination in this day and age. The fact that a teacher created the original dolls to get kids more interested in history is wonderful. AND they get kids in to reading more, and more! And it’s about things they need to know happened and were real situations.

    I took my daughter to a newly opened store not too far from here the week before Christmas. It was a wonderful experience (except for driving in Dallas and around the Galleria)! The people were so friendly and helpful. There was no pressure to buy a thing (other than the wonderful displays). The workers regularly stopped by and asked if we were having fun and chatted with my kid. They were prompt to answer any questions and quick to find things out if they couldn’t help us.

    My daughter picked out Josephina for Christmas. Her father gave us money and my mom and I pitched in as well for her to pick out a few things and eat at the Bistro there. I have since purchased (used) Samantha and Kaya plus TONS of outfits and accessories that came with one of the dolls. I just love these dolls! And I was not a kid who liked dolls nor has my child been until recently.

    There are many sellers out there who offer adorable clothes for reasonable prices. Beware though some aren’t so great. I have found one seller who makes the most magnificent items. You can also buy any other stuff that fits an 18″ doll. I personally bought myself a sewing machine and decided I was going to start making some things myself. I will admit we have gotten too much too quickly and need to take it easy. However, it has become something that brings my daughter and I closer because we both love them! She has been informed that the other two are mine and she “gets” to play with them. FOOEY! on not playing with them because of their cost. I will admit I was a bit distraught over my daughter taking Josephina’s hair down but I got over it quickly. I also found a great website on doll hair care that made everything much better! That is our venture for the day (other than cleaning).

    All in all, the dolls are great and the good will and lessons they teach are good (as long as they stay positive). Yes, I think they have gotten a bit expensive for the extra items. However, they are VERY well made AND hold some value–thus they can be sold later for a return on some money. Loads of fun for the children, which is priceless, and a monetary return for the parent or for the child once they get older.

  6. laura

    Just FYI….DO NOT BUY A KIRSTEN DOLL!!!!! We bought our two girls AG dolls telling them they would be the most expensive toys they would EVER have, but beleived it was worth it because of the educational factor, plus we wanted them to just have a durable “nice” doll that would stand up to play and hair styling. Sam has been great, but Kirsten…? She belongs to my OLDER daughter who cared for her with such love. Her wig is so cheap that it frizzed and started shedding within a week of purchase. I’m rippin mad at AG for advertizing this doll to have “stylable” hair. When I called customer service they said I could send her to the “doll hospital” which would cost me at least $40 to have her hair fixed, or I could get a new Kirsten (same crappy hair) or exchange her for another doll. My daughter has some accessories to go with Kirsten and all the books to boot. She wants KIRSTEN. We’ve been had folks and I want to spread the word. AG needs to stop making these dolls with such poor quality hair or at least advertise the fact that you CAN’T take her hair out of the original style. They are dishonest in my opinion. And yet they rave about being customer friendy and “satisfaction guaranteed” is simply a lie.

    1. Bobio

      Your Kirsten must be one of the few that do that. I recently purchased a doll from the little girl I babysat for (she’s now a junior in high school). She really played with and loved that doll, but Kirsten’s hair is still as good as the day she recieved it. As for not being able to style it, her hair is currently in a french twist, so it is stylable. Was your daughter using a regular hairbrush or a wig brush made especially for synthetic hair? If she is and your still having problems try doing a Downey dunk on the hair. Instructions are available on YOUTUBE.

  7. yobert

    don’t say that you can’t do the hair, because you can. on the first day i got my molly doll, i took off the braids and just redid them.

  8. Traci

    I read the article about the stylist at American Girl place refusing to style a Target doll. Who could do that to a little girl. You are talking about 10 minutes of time and are getting a boatload of bad publicity that will be a long time going away. I would think the Amercian Girl Dolls parent company would take some type of action against the employee. She should be counseled on the value of recognizing a duty to a customer.

  9. Allie

    Just because one person did that doesn’t mean the whole company is like that.
    Also,I Play with my american girl dolls (I’m a kid)and they are loads of fun. I style their hair and it is still in great shape. I think the dolls are what they’re cracked up to be, as long as you don’t go overboard on buying stuff for them. They are pretty expensive, but they last forever. You can also find them used. I have a used Samantha doll. I don’t recomend giving one to kid until they are at least seven though. I cut my sisters molly dolls hair when I was 4.

    1. Daughter

      I love Samantha! u r lucky to have her. I say the same about the age because my cousin had Kaya and to make a long story short I left her bald!

  10. Alison

    I was searching for doll stories and this one caught my eye…glad to hear the original story wasn’t true…or was it? Perhaps it’s the American Doll propaganda machine in motion. :-)

  11. Daughter

    Im only 12 and me and my friends are in love with American Girl! I have more than 5 but i do not believe the story of the little girl getting dissed.

    Because i saw a girl at the store in Natick with a fake doll (you could tell) and they gave the doll a hair style.The little girl was maybe just looking for fame. After all everyone wants to be famous.

    American girl is a great company and it’s helped me learn more of life as a slave,a pioneer,and so much more.

    So just stop dissing American Girl just for article!

  12. Kiya

    I have been a fan of AG all of my life, reading the books the best way for me to learn and grasp some kind of historical facts. I didn’t get my first doll, Josefina, until I was 14 years old. I got her for my birthday from my parents, but I found that the idea of saving up appealed to me better. I now have 35 of the 18″ dolls, and I have saved for every single one, which makes them more valuable to me. I had never played with dolls until I got the AG dolls; it is something about saving up for a more expensive doll that makes you want to take care of them.
    With the economy the way it is, I have seen changes in the attitudes of AG customers at the stores. Instead of parents throwing items into their baskets, I see parents enforcing that the child can only buy what they have saved up for. And I will instill that same attitude in my daughter.

  13. Chris

    Sounds like you are still bitter about not getting Kirsten

  14. Marla

    I am one of the “old school” AG fans, and I have had the same Addy doll since my 11th birthday. 16 years later, my doll has survived (gracefully!) 3 younger siblings, 4 relocations, and a couple years in box (fyi, you’re not supposed to store them in plastic boxes longterm). She is in fabulous condition without even a single trip to the doll hospial. Clothes are in great condition, and have been handwashed by me, even as a kid. I would buy a doll for my own child, as my AG books and doll enriched my childhood by giving history a bit more of a life. My parents didn’t want to get us dolls at first, but when you see the quality, you won’t mind the price. They can handle time and some rough play, however, these are not dolls to be played with in the mud or at the beach! I can’t comment on the current quality, as the company is owned by Mattel now, and Mattel quality isn’t great. If you’d like to get one, I advise buying used, pre-Mattel to be on the safe side. Aside from being fun, the actual Pleasant Company dolls are known for being beautiful and well made.

  15. sidney

    i got julie

  16. melisa

    I work at American Girl in Chicago and i tell everyone the same thing about the hair. a lot, a lot of water and only use the metal wired brushes like the ones we sell. i used to work in the hair salon so i know everything.

  17. melisa

    also, this is a wonderful company that prides itself on quality and the sincere desire to make every young girl happy. this blogger is just bitter she never got a Kirsten and that’s why she wants to bash the company. you don’t know shit. you’ve never been inside the inner circle of AG so how would you really know what these dolls are made of and how durable or undurable they are? they have a lifetime gaurantee if the girl truly takes care of it. the hair only gets nasty when the girls don’t properly follow the brush/water rule. also, they possess extremely high play value and are very “playable.” you wouldn’t know this though of courze because you’ve never had one.

  18. Samantha

    I got my first AG doll (Samantha, of course!) when I was 5. She went everywhere with me, and I played with her all the time She was followed my a girl of today (before they became glorified Brats dolls), and Kirsten. I was never once afraid to undo their hair or take them outside with me or do whatever with them. (In fact, my Kirsten doll in now sporting a shoulder-length haircut as her hair got too tangly at the bottom and I just said screw it. Pigtails work as well as braids, no?) I’ve had Samantha for nearly 16 years now, and though I’ve had her head replaced twice, she is still a beautiful doll and her clothing (most of which is just as old as she is) still looks brand new in most cases, even after heavy play. I threw away all my Barbies because everything was tangled, torn, or faded, but all three of my AG dolls still sit in my room. Even though the days of playing tea party or boarding school or spy adventures are over, I still deeply appreciate and love these dolls.