It seems like only yesterday that I staggered out of the American Girl Place in midtown Manhattan, desperately clutching my credit card as it tried to slip through my fingers and ring up sales for more and more dolls and their accessories. My oldest daughter had caught the American Girl bug from a friend; since I had to attend a function that same night at the Marriott Marquis, I decided to do my shopping in the eye of the storm, just to see what it was all about.
What I found, dear reader, was something that combined the most striking features of a gated community, a toy store on steroids and one of the outer rings of Dante’s hell. The official line on American Girl dolls is that they offer a wholesome alternative to the hooched-out Bratz and Barbie, but the money-humid atmosphere at the American Girl Place reminded me less of Little House on the Prairie than Dynasty while Joan Collins was on a rampage. This very entertaining WaPo article gives a pretty good idea of what it’s like to visit the store: four stories of activities, dreams and consumer fantasies, each with its own hefty price tag.
We got another American Girl doll as a Christmas gift for Dances With Mermaids, but we were careful to order online. Under no circumstances will we ever take her to the Manhattan store, and neither should you let your kid go there. Felicity, Molly, Kaya, Elizabeth, Josefina and Addy may be cute by themselves, but let them gang up on you and you’ll end up in bankruptcy court.