Monday, June 24, 2013

The NOT-SO-GRAND American Girl Place Columbus Grand Opening

We had an unexpected free weekend, so we decided to drive to Columbus, Ohio to attend the American Girl Place grand opening.  When we lived in Maryland, we attended the grand opening of the Washington, D.C. store (view post here) so we thought we knew what to expect.  The D.C. opening impressed me with how smoothly everything was run. Unfortunately, the Columbus opening left me highly disappointed.  They clearly underestimated how many people planned to attend and did not plan well for contingencies AT ALL.  For those of you who have not attending an AG opening before, you have to get in line to receive a ticket to enter the store.  Tickets are issued in groups.  In D.C., each group was 200 people.  In Columbus, each group was 50 people.  After you get the ticket, you then wait for your group number to be admitted to the line to enter the store.  

Anyway, we got there and got our tickets around 4:30 and the store was open until 9 pm. The lady gave us tickets for group 90 and said it would be close whether we were admitted or not based on how it was going.  Apparently when they got to group 80 (around 1 pm based on what people we talked to said), they were already saying that you may not get into the store.  So you wait and wait and wait and see all these excited but somewhat wary looking little girls, hoping their dreams aren't about to be crushed.  Shortly after 8 pm, they announced that group 83 was the last group to be able to line up.  Everyone else with a ticket was left with...NOTHING.  They did hand out the free gift to any girl who wanted one.  It was the Rebecca Just for Fun book that is on clearance for $4 on their website.

What really made me angry was that they continued to issue tickets to people even though they knew AG would likely not be honoring them.  After the announcement that no one else would be admitted, there were angry parents, sobbing children, and oddly cheerful crowd control employees.  The crowd people refused to honor the existing tickets the next day or offer new tickets for Sunday to anyone who had been waiting 4-7+ hours for nothing on Saturday.  I would really like the powers that be at American Girl to explain why on earth they just kept issuing tickets instead of saying, "Sorry, we're at capacity for today."  Why issue a ticket you're not planning to honor?  Why raise the hopes of all those children only to dash them and anger their parents in the process?  Why make all these people wait the better part of the day for nothing?  They clearly did not plan well and did not have any back up plan.

We've been shoppers at American Girl for around 10 years, this was our fifth location visited, and we have never received such poor service from them.  But, since we drove four hours for this and were lucky enough to have a hotel room for the night, we decided to try again Sunday.  My wonderful husband got in line at 6:30 am Sunday morning for the 8 am ticket process.  We got group 2 and were admitted shortly after the 10 am opening.

The store was packed and it is a fairly small store.  We entered the store in the historical and book section.  I found the historical section to be laid out quite oddly.  Instead of having each doll's items all together, it was grouped into little displays, like all dolls' bedding-type items together, all dolls' school-type items together, etc.  Mixed into all of this was the girl of the year section.  The salon and doll t-shirt area adjoined part of the historical section, which made it even harder to navigate.  The registers were in the middle of the store, then in the back part was the today items, bistro, and Bitty Baby and Twin stuff.  The Bistro in this store is microscopic!!

I only got one picture in the store since it was very difficult to navigate with so many people in it, let alone try to get a clear shot.  This one took me three tries before people didn't walk in front of us.

After the disappointment of the day before, the staff inside the store operated at the level of service we have come to expect.  While my daughter and I were shopping, she managed to lose our doll's glasses.  We tried to find them, then asked for help.  The first man we asked was only a stock person, so he got a shopping assistant to help us.  We waited quite a while, then another lady came to help us.  She took my name and number so that we could finish our shopping.  Long story short, we received the call that the glasses had been found and we had to ask for Loss Prevention to retrieve them.  That took another four employees, but we did get the glasses back mostly unscathed.  One of the lenses got scratched.  The initial employee who helped us and talked to my daughter was named Brittany.  She remembered my daughter's name and recognized her over half an hour later while we were in the checkout.  So, yay Brittany! 


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