By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 22, 2015
Smiling woman on phone in front of computer
Phone interviews are a lot like open-book tests: You can have all the information you need to know (about the company and the person conducting the interview right in front of you). Also, to cut down on the papers-rustling-in-background noise, tape a copy of your résumé and job description to the wall, at eye level, for easy reference.
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T.S. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month, but clearly Mr. Eliot did not have three boys in five sports, not to mention final exams. Honestly. Anyone with half a brain knows that June is the cruelest month, hands down.

Among the playoffs/exams/sports banquets/end-of-year teacher gifts/etc., last week I had to engage, for the first time in my life, with the phenomenon that is American Girl. When you are a mother of all boys you really can spend 15 years of parenthood without giving American Girl so much as a second thought. But my seven-year-old niece is coming to visit in August and is keen to visit the New York City store, which is three blocks from my office. And according to my friend Heather, mother of two girls, it is never too early to make a reservation! And I had better get on it! Because if I do not make a reservation immediately I well may not get in!

Now might be the right moment to disclose that I have always found the whole American Girl thing vaguely disturbing. Blame it on the hordes of mothers and daughters carrying enormous red shopping bags that I pass to and from the train every day, but American Girl just seemed like a way to unload a lot of money, fast, on 5th Avenue. Why not just go to Saks? It’s just up the block.

Anyway, I’ve been all prepared to really hate American Girl, to think I am better than that, to reject all that rank girly materialism—that is, until I called to make my lunch reservation. And then I was suddenly prisoner to everything American Girl represents. Why? Because of this lovely lady on the phone. Here’s what she did:

• She gave me just the right amount of information

• She asked if any in our party had dietary restrictions

• She advised me on whether I should include my nephew in the meal (yes, for now)

• She did not ask me for money

• She told me about special programs but in a way that suggested to me that she really thought I might be interested, not because she seemed to be trying to sell me something

• She was polite

• She really did have the most soothing voice. It was like accupuncture, but with no sharp objects

Lord knows if I will actually like our lunch at American Girl. I may be transformed into one of those women with a giant red shopping bag—that is, a woman who does not realize she’d really much rather be shopping at Saks.

But just for one moment, the madness of June stopped, the world resumed spinning on its axis, and customer service was important after all.