As an adult shopper, usually flying solo, the store reps have both been bugged by and totally ignored us opening doll boxes. But we just keep doing whatever we want to do.
As long as you treat the dolls with care, you should be fine with whatever doll-choosing ritual you have. You are the customer and you are planning on dropping a large sum of money on a doll. And the customer is always right.
We find a quiet corner of the store and gather a bunch of doll boxes over there.
If you cannot find a doll on the floor, ask one of the AG reps wearing black aprons to get you several boxes of that doll from the stock room. If you cannot find a good enough doll from the floor dolls, ask an AG rep in a black apron to get you more of those dolls from the stock room.
Do not be afraid to ask for help.
Do not be afraid to ask for a manager if someone gives you attitude (they absolutely should not be giving you attitude -- so don't feel ashamed if they do. Just get angry. You should be angry if a customer service representative is being a boogerhead.)
We only have one to two doll boxes open at a time. We open the lid. Turn the doll's head both ways. Look for flaws in the face structure and marks on the skin. We look at the eyebrows to make sure they have good placement. We want them to be even, and not surprised nor angry.
We look at the eyes from a variety of angles. We make sure the eye sockets are approximately equal in size, and one is not higher than the other. We look for eyes that both look straight ahead. And we look for eyelashes that are straight out, not pushed up or askew. Also, we try to pick a doll with eyes that have equal amount of white showing. We don't choose dolls with wide-eyed zombie looks. Each eye should open and shut without difficulty.
We examine the wig -- its hairline, if it has been glued on properly. If there is visible excess glue. If the hairline is too high. If it looks uneven. If the wig is too close to the ears, over them, or too far away from them. If the wig has weird bumps in it.
No, we don't take off the hair nets. But we try to examine the wigs as closely as possible through it. If the hairline and what you can see has issues, chances are that the whole wig has issues. Someone did not take care when plopping that wig on. If the hairline hairs look dry, matted, or weird -- chances are the whole wig looks like that.
If you are an adult with a child, the store reps will be much more understanding if you want to open a doll box.
PS = Personal Shopper
If you have a PS appointment, then they will let you open the box, take out the doll, and look it over completely. But they probably will not like you taking off a hairnet, as those are a pain to get back on. Often they want to be the ones taking a doll out of a box.
If you are an adult and opening up doll boxes, they sometimes give you a hard time. They are wondering if you are being spastic and its a sign that you need help. Like you don't know which doll to choose.
They don't often deal with people who actually know what they are doing I guess. Perhaps they have dealt with too many adults who just blindly wander into the store and say: "I am looking for a doll for my daughter/niece/grandaughter. What do you have?"
Often the reps don't understand why you are looking at 10 of the same doll. They have no awareness that even the "same" doll can be/look different. Most of them are not aware that adult collectors exist, and many do not even know what OCD stands for.
But if you have a PS appointment they will be okay with you being a spastic person that needs to look at 10+ dolls before choosing one to buy.
If you can find a nice PS to help you, that is the best way to really look over dolls. But it really depends on the PS. If you are just an adult, sometimes the PS's don't have a ton of patience. So I would research which PS's have the best personalities and most patience at your AG store.
Sometimes American Girl Playthings message board members can help guide you to a great PS. You can join that board if you are 13 years old or older.
Any questions? Please let us know!