Mar 16, 2007

Fake, out!



Dear American Girl Place,

You promise that “lessons of love, friendship, courage, compassion, and tolerance are at the heart of every American Girl story." Please read on, to find out how right you are!

Thank you so much! I was really struggling out here in impoverished brownstone Brooklyn, trying to figure out how to explain to my six-year old daughter about the
importance of labels, and of the superiority of expensive things.

Etta had heard from pals at (public) school that American Girl Dolls were just fabulous, but when we looked at the website and saw the prices, we warned her that if she really really wanted one for Christmas, she wouldn’t be able to get too many fun doll accessories and other stuff. Plus, she has a 3 year old sister, and it would have been really hard to find a way to sit on top of Piper for the next three years to keep her from touching the impeccable and thoughtfully priced American Girl Doll.

Silly Etta, she chose to spend her own money (a mere $29.99!) a few weeks before Christmas last year, on an 18-inch doll at Target. The doll’s name is Gracie, and she came with a ballet outfit and several clever accessories.

You’d think the doll would be extra special for her because she earned every penny she paid for it, and you know what? You’d be right! It was special! She loved it. And she got another one for Christmas (named Robin) and her three year old sister got her very own Target doll too. Named Vicki, I think (but who can keep track of these random names, those dolls didn’t even come with books!). We weren’t so worried about the damage Piper would inflict on her cheap doll. We actually thought her doll was kind of cute (again, silly us!).

Poor thing, Etta thought she was lucky to have all of these great dolls--and she had loads of fun dressing them, carting them around, treating them like special little baby dolls. How on earth were we going to explain to her that her dolls weren’t REAL dolls and didn’t deserve her love and affection?

What were we going to do?!

American Girl Place to the rescue!

When her friend Julie invited her to go to the American Girl Place to have her doll’s hair styled, Etta was thrilled. “Come spend a day you’ll never forget!” the website promised. And boy did you deliver.

Frommers Guide to New York says “don’t forget to bring [your] favorite doll so it can get a makeover at the store’s own doll salon.” I know it’s craaaaazy that a Target fake (that cost only $29.99 of Etta’s real saved money!) would be her favorite doll but it was.

At least it used to be.

Back when she thought it was real.

She’ll never forget the feeling of waiting in line at the salon. The anticipation, the special feelings welling up in her body. She’d spent extra time in the morning dressing Gracie for the outing. Etta dressed extra-pretty too. Well, sort of thrift-store pretty. Hand-me-down pretty. Not expensive pretty. But she went off with her head held high. Feeling pretty and important and deserving. Courageous little girl.

When she got to the front of the line she was shown a menu of hairstyles to choose from for her doll. Her friend’s mom was surprised that the price had gone up from $10 a doll to $20, but Julie had earned this reward (and, as luck would have it, Etta really needed to learn a lesson), so it would be worth it.

“This isn’t a real doll!” the stylist exclaimed. (Thank your stylist!--we never would have had the heart to explain it that way!). And to prove that a fake doll isn’t worth the plastic she’s molded out of, she refused to do the doll’s hair.

I’m not sure exactly what’s in it for your company, because you still stood to make $20 off of my daughter for doing the fake doll’s hair. I have two thoughts on that. Either her $20 wasn’t worth the same as someone else’s $20 (in which case I’ve learned something new too!) OR it was worth the $20 to you to be able to be the one to break the news to, I mean, to *enlighten* my little girl. You do promise to teach little girls, don’t you?

And she cried and cried and cried, and your stylist held her ground. That was a good lesson for her too. That feelings don’t have a place in "the heart of Manhattan’s prestigious shopping neighborhood" (another quote from your website).

And did you realize how loyal to you all the other mommies in line were? You’d have been proud of them.

One chided Etta for not knowing she couldn’t bring a fake doll to the store. Tsk tsk. She’s in first grade now and can read by herself (taught herself, in fact). She probably should have done the research. There’s another great lesson for her. (Thanks mom in line!)

One mom muttered to another that Etta probably couldn't afford a real one. Great hunch! She's six!

One mom just smiled and said "Well, American Girl Dolls aren’t for everyone, you know.” A sentence cleverly crafted to make Etta feel like someone cared about her but also to be aware that she really didn’t belong there in your fancy store with the other, richer, better girls. How compassionate!

So, another little girl had a life-changing experience at The American Girl Place!

Hooray for you!

To think, she might have gotten through first grade with her self-confidence intact!

As a former personal shopper at FAO Schwarz (the big one on 5th Avenue!), I know that rules can always be bent, and on-the-spot judgement calls are allowed. In some places, they actually have a ‘customer is always right,’ mentality. Ridiculous!

You’re no fool, American Girl Place! You’re in this to educate little girls. And educate Etta you did. She knows she’s inferior now. Knows her dolls are worthless. Knows her feelings don’t matter. Knows that fake dolls (even fake dolls willing to shell out $20 for an up-do!) won’t be tolerated.

You say that at American Girl, a girl "chooses the friend that’s just right for her--with a story true to the character or one she creates all her own.” I can’t wait to see how Etta adjusts her own self-image to match what she’s learned about her worthless doll!

As promised, her experience at your store gave her "memories she’ll cherish forever." You cared enough to realize that there’s a limit to what I can teach her at home and you rushed in and offered up some good old-fashioned and completely unforgettable public humiliation!

Good job!

Forever grateful,
Etta’s mom.

1,048 comments:

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Anonymous said...

This is sad.

Sarah said...

I just came across your story, surprised to see it happened 6 years ago, and that I hadn't heard about this. I am appalled and actually cried for your daughter. When I was little the most precious thing in the world to me was a doll my dad had bought for me at K-Mart. I am sickened by the way you were treated... I certainly hope American Girl issued an apology and that the "stylist" still can't sleep at night. I have a 3 year old daughter who will never own one of those dolls, now that I know what they are really all about.

NovaBrite said...

This is the stupidest pile of crap that you're so irrationally angry. I blame YOU as a parent for not investigating whether or not a company would work on an outside product from one of its competitors, before sending your daughter into that store with the doll. If you did actually objectively describe the events in question, and the stylist really was rude to your child, then she certainly did not handle the situation correctly. A more appropriate response would have been saying "I'm very sorry but I'm not allowed to style your pretty dolly's hair, since it's a different type of hair from the ones we work on here. Since I can't help you with that, how about we see if we can find you an accessory or t-shirt for your dolly that would cost the same price as the hair salon?" See, that's a nice way to say no. But bottom line, why are you surprised here? Your kid has not only a competitor's product, but an inferior product. I'm not saying this as a snob; it's objectively true. I restore dolls as a bit of a cottage industry of my own. I've learned a thing or two about re-wigging dolls. American Girl uses actual WIGS on their dolls, and they're extremely high quality. Dolls like Our Generation and the 18" Madame Alexander dolls use cheap nylon rooted hair which has a completely different texture and is rooted in the "scalp" rather than sewn into a mesh cap. You literally CANNOT style it the same way. You can't. Seriously. My daughter had an Our Generation and Madame Alexander "knock off" American girl. From just brushing their hair a couple times over the course of the first week of ownership, they became matted and ratty and ruined. I ended up cutting the hair down to the scalp and buying a doll wig online for $20 each and gluing them to the dolls' heads. Only then, with the new wig, did the quality come close to American Girl dolls (which I work on a lot; I've restored about 20 of them). Seriously, what you did is the equivalent of taking your Kia to a Land Rover dealership and then getting angry that they couldn't work on your car. It's a completely DIFFERENT product that is totally differently made. So yeah, you didn't do your research (I'm shocked that you didn't consider that they wouldn't work on a competitor's product) and then you want someone else to blame for your kid's hurt feelings. If the stylist was actually that rude, that sucks. The company's policies aren't to be blamed for things though; there are lots of valid reasons not to have tried to style your doll's hair. The stylist probably would have wrecked its hair and then you'd be calling out the company about that! Everyone of the ignorant sheep posting here has their hearts in the right places, but their heads aren't in the right place on this one. No one wants their kids to be sad; that's why as a parent, you have to be thoughtful about reality before you make promises that you can't deliver. You should have never let her take a Target doll to an American Girl store for styling. You wouldn't take your Gap jeans to Nordstrom and expect to get the complementary tailoring services, would you? Just think about it before you simply try to inspire rage in people who don't know anything about how the products are made (as you also clearly do not).

Anonymous said...

Aww, this is so sad! How can people treat her like this? Even though I buy from AG, I still can't believe they would treat her like this! I understand them not doing Gracie's hair, because they don't want to burn the hair off, but still, they can't make Etta feel like this! That lady probably just was just one of those cranky workers, because the salon ladies at AG Houston are really nice! My AG doll isn't those new ones, so mine gets criticized, but still, they have no right to do this to Etta! There is no such thing as a ''fake'' doll, all dolls are real and need loving! Tell Etta she and Gracie are awesome, and don't listen to what mean old elitists say. Me and Kaya are sad that this happened!

Anonymous said...

I just sent them an email about this! Can't wait for there reply about it!

Rachel C. said...

American girl has the WORST employees I've ever seen in my life. They are all spoiled brats that like to be rude to all either custermers. They don't care about anyone, and they are there just to make some money. I've heard so many stories like this one. And i have also had to deal with one of these brats. ( witch sadly is like this one... ) and I have seen a little girls heartbreak when a employee told the girl that she didn't have enough money to buy a outfit. ( witch she was only a dollar away from the price.. ) She also said it in a very rude way, witch made the little girl start to cry. Then the mom and her daughter walked out of the store upset. I have never liked their employees and I NEVER will.

Anonymous said...

I just called the American Girl Doll store; they allow any doll (even a non AG doll) or stuffed animal to be brought to birthday parties. The employee said it has always been this way; apparently the story of "fake" AG dolls is urban legend. You can all the store and verify for yourselves!

Anonymous said...

@NovaBrite
Who the heck do you think you are? How did you not comprehend the simplest, and most important, point in this post? It wasn't about the employee's refusal to work on the doll, it was how she insulted and humiliated a CHILD. If that is too difficult for you to understand, perhaps you should do the world a favor and just disappear. My guess is your hypersensitivity stems from having done something similar to what the AG stylist did. Perhaps you should seek atonement, instead of insulting a mother and her child who did not deserve the treatment they received. Now, go away please.

Audrey said...

Listen- to all you people leaving comments and the person posting too- I am so sorry about what happened to Etta, but I don't think you should hold a grudge against American Girl! They are a wonderful company with beautifully made dolls and clothing. I have six dolls (most of them i bought with my own money) and my little sisters have a few too, and we love them! the stories have great lessons and historical value! my Addy doll is my favorite- I learned so much about the Civil War- my teacher was so impressed! Also, American Girl is the only company who has actually answered all of my letters and ideas... something a company has never done to me before. Actually, I want to work for the creative team when i grow up! so as you can see, It really surprised me when I read this. It is so unlike American Girl to do this, because I had the EXACT SAME situation with my little cousin... and nothing like this happened- so it must've been the employee. American Girl will always be in my family, and I will get them for my girls in the future, too. Again, I am so sorry for what happened to Etta- Give her a hug for me. All I ask of you guys is to give American Girl another chance.
XOXO, Audrey- age 14

Anonymous said...

The mother who sent the child with a different brand doll, without even calling to check is completely responsible. Do you send a hoover vacuum to Dyson and expect them to fix it! Do you take a ford car to chevy! If a stylist a AG makes a mistake and ruins a doll they can replace the doll on the spot. Plus the knock off dolls hair are different from AG hair!

Anonymous said...

Listen, considering what could have happened your lucky. I mean what if you had been waiting for an hour and the stylist had said. EEWW GET THAT CHEAP IDIOTIC LUMP OF PLASTIC AWAY FROM ME!!! YOU CANT BRING A FAKE DOLL HERE SO GO AWAY AND THERE WILL BE A FINE OF 500 DOLLARS FOR BRINGING THAT IN HERE!!!

Christine Ruis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elizabethb said...

I know all mommies are protective of their child. But please allow me to read through the bias of your article.
1) The mothers who said rude things (the first two mentioned) should be ashamed.
2) The third mother likely wasn't saying this in the way you portray. And no, I'm no relative and don't know her. But I know if I were stuck in line and heard two women be rude to a little girl I would have said the same thing, meaning, "Not everyone has to have a "brand name doll," you jerks." You were upset and took it the wrong way.
3) The stylist was perfectly right. Do you realize that materials make a difference, and doll hair is not real hair? American Girl processes are formulated for their materials. What if your doll's hair was made of something that reacted badly? You'd likely want a refund and to be reimbursed for the cost of the doll, not to mention seeing little Gracie's hair shrivel up or turn orange would have traumatized your daughter just as much. Could they have adapted the process? Maybe, but without knowing the materials your doll is made of it's an iffy process.
4) You chose to make this a trauma to your daughter. It is a severe disappointment, but the fact that the stylist "stood her ground" means you chose to stand there and argue with it. Take the girl out, explain to her that sometimes we make mistakes and that the company's site should have been worded better, comfort her. Don't make her stand there in front of an employee who feels bad that this child is crying, is mortified that she chose the wrong words to say to the child (haven't we all?) but STILL CAN'T DO THE DOLL'S HAIR. I grew up with a mom like this. She argued everything. She thought she was teaching me a lesson and was always right as the "customer." You know what it taught me? NEVER do that. Your kids are humiliated and just want the situation over. You come off looking like a jerk who doesn't understand that some things can't be changed just because you want them to. You make the person dealing with you hate you. (And no, I'm not related to the company or stylist, either. Just a person whose mom "taught lessons" like this.)

Cindy S. said...

I just stumbled on this while Christmas shopping for my 10 year old niece Libby. I really hope AG handled this. I tried to read through the comments but don't see a response from AG so I emailed them.

If they won't allow other dolls at their hair salon (for at least select services)then I don't want to buy her another AG doll or anything else in that store. I've been so proud of what AG stands for and was delighted to be the one to buy her first doll. I truly hope they have addressed this policy and the approach of that stylist. I've moved cross country and we were actually planning an AG visit for my niece's spring break trip. We were both very excited to take her doll for a hairstyle and ear piercing.

I reviewed the hair styles in store to figure out how much money I was forking over (and to see if my sister would kill me if I bought a couple of extra pairs of shoes too) and saw how simple the styles were, most consist of a simple bow, headband or braid. It's hard to believe that these styles could damage any doll hair.

My niece is extremely excited about our upcoming salon visit but she's also a very smart and compassionate 10 year old. If I have to tell her that AG is so elitist that they discriminate against other dolls I have a feeling she'll lose interest in the AG dolls rather quickly.

Also, I'm sure Libby would have kind words for Etta and tell her that her doll is awesome. And I'm proud to say that if Libby overheard that treatment of Etta she would have comforted her right there and said she wanted to leave vs. give those people any money of ours. I'm sorry those other girls and mothers didn't behave with more compassion.

Donna Mann said...

Well i can certainly see why you tagged your comment annonymous. You stated "If you buy a fake doll...." LOL news flash they are dolls, they're all fake. They are all approximately 5.00 worth of plastic and cloth. So you can be a robotic follower who spends over 100.00 for 5.00 worth of plastic because of a label or you can be a wonderful individual who makes a choice from her or his own heart. Those of us with sense know that it is not the "popular" name or the price tag that makes a doll special, it's how it makes a child feel. I am 52 years old and come from an era as a child where labels were not considered when purchasing toys. I still remember all my "fake" dolls with much fondness and loved everyone of them. The march 23, '07 author, the doll hairstylist (which by the way maybe her choice in careers is what has made her so bitter) and the rude mothers in line need to strive to be more like Etta.If they did I know they would become better human beings and definitely triple their I.Q's.

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Holly said...

True- the stylist (and especially other moms) had absolutely no cause no to be rude to a 6 year old girl. However, I think the coach analogy still applies to whether they should have styles her hair. I realize it must be a delicate situation with little girl's feelings to only find this out while standing in line in front of other girls and mommies. They should plainly state their policies on their website.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody not consider that those $29.99 Target dolls are complete copies of the "real" American Girl brand? Of course the AG brand has value, otherwise all the knockoff companies wouldn't be mimicking it so closely!

Anonymous said...

this is first time i seen this and this is so sad that people can be so cruel my daughters first doll was from target and she cared for her so well and honestly i find them to be made better never gets loose legs arms or head hair seems to stay better did you send a letter to american girl and if so did they do anything for that poor girl

Anonymous said...

Shame on them. I am an avid doll collector and I was planning on buying an American Girl doll, however, I will not buy anything American Girl. I will stick with my favorite doll company Madame Alexander who has dolls in many price ranges such as the My Life Dolls at Walmart that actual little girl can afford. I get offended when people refer to these dolls as fake or knock offs. Who decided that American Girl dolls were the only "real" dolls anymore?

Anonymous said...

FUCK AG because moms are just wasting their money on some dolls

Anonymous said...

Actually, it sounds like *you* set your daughter up for failure. Different dolls are made differently, and an American Girl Doll Stylist is probably trained only to do American Girl Dolls. It feels like you're trying to cover up your own embarrassment and guilt over traumatizing your own daughter by shifting all the blame onto the American Girl stylist. (Though I concede if that's what she really said to your daughter, it was not appropriate.) My recommendation? Go talk to the manager or a representative of the company before writing a snarky blog that smears their reputation. I get sick of the sarcastic thanking of people who have wronged you style of writing. It's sloppy blogging.

Anonymous said...

I agree with American girl. The stylist probably only knew how to style a real american girl doll, because the hair is different. This story is saying the rich people who can buy their kids an american girl doll are horrible people, but it is no true! SO the rich people work their butt of to get a good education so they have a good job that pays a lot of money and no they are the bad guy it is ridiculous the rich people worked for their money in college they are not horrible people. This story is too much about rich vs.poor! It's not anyone else's fault you can't afford an american girl doll for your kid. And it's quite obvious that the company wants to make money off their products so it's not their fault you didn't tell your kid to bring another doll or not go. I think the stylist did the right thing!! Good for her keep the company money in their products. I also think the mothers should have not gotten involved because it had nothing to do with them, but the stylist was right.

Anonymous said...

Your daughter maybe sensitive. It is your fault for not doing research, and it is obvious they wouldn't style her hair.

Anonymous said...

no wonder most of the comments are good you are deleting all the bad ones! You call yourself a reporter? You should leave ALL opinions!!

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Cindy Torrey said...

What an awful experience! I am so sorry for your innocent little girl. If I was there I might have told the stylist that perhaps she was bitter because she isn't quite talented enough to style "real" hair, so she has to crush small children's feelings. I am furious!

Cindy Torrey said...

Sorry, I was so angry I clicked submit before making sure my comment made sense. By real hair I meant human hair. For such an arrogant woman, perhaps she should reflect on the fact that she styles doll hair, for God's sake. She needs a big slice of humble pie. I am just beside myself with outrage. Your poor daughter.

Katelyn said...

Oh My gosh! This is terrible! I hate american girl it is a scam to make money off of, get this, CHEAP PLASTIC FIGURES. A doll is created out of love, not fancy material. And FYI Ag, Ag dolls are the same materials as the ones that are sold at Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, etc.

Nancy said...

I just came across this story and was very angry about the way your Daughter was treated . My Grandaughter is 6 and her first doll was from Walmart My Life Doll. She loves the My Life Dolls and I feel the quality is just as good as AG dolls. She now has some Our Generation dolls and they are good quality dolls . How can a doll be fake just because it's not AG . I can afford an AG doll and was going to get my Grandaugter one for Chriatmas , this story has completely changed my mind . She can get 3 My Life or Oue Generation dolls foe the price of the AG doll .These snotty people need to grow up .

Anonymous said...

its happening all over we had the same deal so my freshly turned 8 yr old got the very same target doll with 100.00 of stuff for christmas, we just couldnt afford american girls 120.00 doll only when that in its own was mearly our budget and one present under the tree with a toddler sistet and baby brother would look horrible. moral of the story she loved the doll until some rude kid at school said thats not real. end of doll. recently i was able to pick up second hand american girl dolls and now to dress them geesh. however my little girl was so upset that the used (real) one made her so happy!!

Anonymous said...

Come on guys. This cant be real. And evwrnt if it was, its an AMERICAN GIRL STORE. where you go to buy and service AMERICAN GIRL DOLLS. they arent going to break their poilcy just because one little girls family cant afford an AG doll. Leta face it, most families who can afford AG have money. What kind of idiot parent would take their kid with her offbrand doll to an expensive boutique like AG? That parent set her little girl up for failure. I mean, do we take our toyotas to ford dealerships to service them? Come on. Get over it. American girl osnt going to style the hair of a non AG doll. If it were so, anyone could take their crappy old doll to an AG store to get it styled. They have policies people. They stand by their brand and products and arent going to break policy (and probably risk punishment, and or their job) for some little kid.

Evie said...

Talk about fail. Just.....no.

Anonymous said...

Well first of all I am very sorry to etta. But as it is ag could be a tinse right. Trying to teach the lesson to girls through THEIR dolls is ironic.But being rude isn't the way to go.this taught etta that not everyone will love you like some people do. But still it is very rude to say something like that. But etta can get as many dolls as she wants but not everyone will be kind to her. But still as a mother of 4 boys I feel you.

Anonymous said...

As a little girl I wanted an American girl doll too my mom tricked me and got a out generation doll for $20 and I thout it was real until I saw it did not get in American girl doll clothes

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Anonymous said...

I feel so bad for Etta. My daughter had a similar experience in walmart. She had not gone to the restroom before we left and she peed her tights. I heard moms teasing about how maybe I couldn't afford a kids potty or diapers. To make her feel better I asked them to stop and told them I had enough money. They did stop but my daughter still cried.

Anonymous said...

This horrifies me. I know this lost is several years old but I hope Etta still loved her dolls. When I was her age I had my own "fake" doll from Target and even when I got an American Girl Doll a few years later (a joint present from my parents and grandmother) I still loved her. I to this day still have her proving posts saying to buy the "real" doll because the knock offs will be thrown away later wrong.
I hope Etta knows she those "richer, better girls" are in fact not better. She, having bought her own doll loved her more than those girls who had ten American girls their parents bought them. I think the value of something especially a toy is in the love a child has for it. It's worthless otherwise.
I hope it was just that one stylist too and not company policy. I have seen a video on YouTube of a Target doll getting her hair styled so my fingers are crossed.

Eve Waverly said...

I can't believe it.
That's horrible.
My heart breaks for your little girl.
I don't want to ever support American Girl now or get any of their dolls or products.
Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

I am 11 yrs old I really wanted Lea CLark not anymore now I know never to buy an american girl doll

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a big fat attention getting story. Get the frikfrac over it and use your brain! Oh I'm sorry did you bring your own home made skin to Build a Bear to stuff. Fucwit.

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Anonymous said...

I can't believe what those people did! I'm 11 and a HUGE AG fan, but my first 18" doll was an Our Generation Audrey-Ann that I got when I was 5. I think that the other 18" dolls are not fake, they are just a different brand!
Norah

Leslie Lim said...

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Unknown said...

Omgsh. I know this comment is almost a decade late but I hope Etta realizes now that she is way better and awesomer than those terrible snooty mommies in line and that awful hair stylist. Like seriously who cares if a child has an OG doll or an AG doll? It's what she loves that truly matters. I bet Roland Pleasant the lady who founded American Girl would cry at this if she saw your post. My heart broke when I saw this. I bet AG truly became money hungry after Mattel took over.

Norah said...

You need to know that Our Generation has rooted hair, not wigged (American Girl has wigged) and what they do could mess the doll's hair up.

Norah said...

Also, unknown, it's Pleasant Rowland.

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