Does @KaiRyssdal hate everything?

I’m a fan of National Public Radio, which means I listen to WNYC here in the greater New York City area. On the way home from work, I usually get a dose of Marketplace. Kai Ryssdal is the man who explains the world’s money to me in a way that my feeble brain can understand, and I love him for that… but I am a little concerned about some of his recent reports.

The above video “Kai Ryssdal vs. The American Girl store” is leaving out the finer points of his story, but Mr. Ryssdal’s general sentiment is clear with that “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” bit at the end. Here’s the real deal – you can listen to the 7:17 radio segment here.

He went to the American Girl store located on the West Side of L.A. and although I’ve never been there… well, it sure looks like a fancy neighborhood. Here in New York, there is a location on Fifth Avenue at 49th Street, so when a store is located down the street from Rockefeller Center and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, I know they’re not kidding around. I presume Mr. Ryssdal knows L.A. as good or better than I know New York, yet he seemed totally shocked by the high end experience that he encountered.

It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Listen to the inflection in his voice when he says, “I’m not going to pay $140 dollars to get that doll for my daughter. I’m not.”

Brrr! It give me the chills.

It seems to me that Mr. Ryssdal’s opinion of American Girl is that it’s BS… and I tend to agree. I appreciate that the dolls are high quality and customized… or customizable… or whatever, and maybe this purchase is no different than a video game console, but… it’s BS. I don’t know exactly how much the babies or the girl dolls cost, but whatever it is, it’s too much. I know people start businesses to make money, but the American GIrl markup would make even a bartender plush. (Or maybe I should say popcorn vendor. We’ll get to that in a second.)

But we know what American Girl is – it’s an expensive product for those that can afford it. If your kid has an American Girl doll, your family is probably doing well. The shock, the outrage… it even took Jean McKenzie, the head of American Girl, by surprise. She probably thought they were going to do a piece on their share of the market, why the product sells despite the price and not a story about how Kai Ryssdal is outraged that you can get your doll’s ears pierced. Mr. Ryssdal’s attitude toward the product became the story, and I didn’t see that coming.

Another surprise was a revelation from this story: Kai Ryssdal doesn’t control the money in his family. I don’t control the money in my family, either, but I’m not the host of a national radio show about the financial world! I don’t know anything about his personal life – but that bit of insight surprised me. Maybe this is connected to my overall point (sorry, still getting there), maybe not…

Then just yesterday, Mr. Ryssdal had some disparaging words for my beloved recliner seats at the movies. That really hits me where I live because one of my favorite things to do is to go to the movies and sitting in comfy big recliners just makes it that much more enjoyable. The idea that the big seats put you to sleep is mind boggling to me because there’s a film running on a giant screen right in front of you! What are you, five years old? It’s not time for sleeping, it’s time for watching! Do I really need a big seat to watch a movie? Yes, ideally, yes! His guest agreed with him, but then, that guy watches movies for a living, and I’m sure that if you spend eight hours a day in a movie theater, you would get sleepy in a dark room over time. That’s fine, but that’s not most people’s experience.

For some reason, the audio file at leaves out the bit concerning how movie theaters aren’t in the ticket business, but in the concession selling business as that’s where theaters generate their profits. I think everybody knows this, but going to a movie is a three hour commitment at most – you don’t have to buy the $10 popcorn (which generally tastes awful, anyway). Movie theaters tend to be close to your house – unlike, say, a sporting event, which can be a four hour commitment (at minimum) for most folks. At a sporting event, you can either go hungry or pay the inflated prices, but at the movies, you’re not in such a lurch. You have a choice! Yet it seemed as though Mr. Ryssdal thinks the inflated snack prices were a true injustice and I just don’t understand this sentiment. Just eat before or after the film… this is not a difficult situation to deal with.

The point of all this is that Kai Ryssdal seems to be taking a stand against things that no one needs to take a stand against. I’m a champion level complainer, so if I think you’ve gone too far… yeah, you’ve probably gone to far. I’m even more boggled to see that an admittedly ancient article reports that Mr. Ryssdal earns a six figure income, so I’m fairly certain that he could afford all of these luxuries if he wanted them. This somehow makes me feel that my connection to his side of the argument is slipping away even further, as if I’m in a boat that’s quickly speeding away from the shore.

You seem agitated lately, Mr. Ryssdal. I’m sorry about that. I guess I’m here to overstep my bounds and suggest you lighten up. We live in an expensive world, in a country where some of our chief consumer products are entertainment and junk we don’t need. Maybe it’s not a great situation, but when I flip through the the international news, I think it’s clear that it could be much worse. My advice is to sit back, relax, and enjoy your success in any way you want to.

Just don’t cast aspersions on me for enjoying the big seats at the movies.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on August 5, 2014, in movie review, observations and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I only tend to fall asleep in movies when post hypnotic suggestion kicks in. (Yes, including during explodey bits. It’s quite frustrating, honestly).
    … what, you weren’t expecting me to mention the trigger, were you?

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