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Stardoll.Com Refreshing But Flawed

Reviewing: Stardoll Ars/Superstar Membership  |  Rating:
By patek on
Badge: Author | Level: 1 | Gaming Expertise:

Stardoll.com has been a growing website since it's 2006 launch. As of October 2009, there are over 40 million members. Users dress up virtual paper dolls that range from pets and mystical creatures, to their favorite singers and celebrities. The targeted audience is between 9-17 years of age, however Stardoll often attracts younger users, as well as parents & grandparents who frequent the site with their children. Girls drastically out-number the boys, and more features, ads and clothing items are targeted to the pre-teen female demographic. Users can create their own account and make friends from all over the world, and purchase Stardoll's virtual currency to spend on clothing for their very own doll as well as furniture items for their 'suite'. Though I really enjoy and like the concept and website, some parts of the website fall absolutely flat.

Paper Dolls - This welcome, formerly known as Paper Doll Heaven, had only paper dolls initially, which is where most of the fan-base came from. Stardoll does not ask permission before making dolls of celebrities, therefore, dolls often disappear. Each doll comes with its own wardrobe and normally, several different hair styles. Users drag and drop clothing to nearly nude doll, males wearing boxers while women wearing panties and bras, and style them as they please. Some older dolls have features to change makeup, hair color and clothing color, however most newer dolls just have more additional clothing in various styles. The quality of the dolls is superb, and many resemble the celebrity to a T.

Accounts - If you want to save your paper dolls and dress ups, you need an account to save them on. Accounts are completely free, and offer a multitude of features including your own customizable Medoll, several room Suite that you can alter as you please and a closet that always has space for your ever growing collection of virtual clothes. You can also save your paper doll dressups to your Album. All users begin with a standard room layout that is customizable by purchasing stardollars and then spending them on furniture. I was amazing by some of the rooms I saw created by simple items! These items can be rotated and resized, you can only change the colors of the walls. With an account, you can also interact with other members by sending messages, signing their guestbook and commenting on albums and sceneries.

Kidlock - Like many websites offering safety features to users 13 and under, Stardoll automatically assigns a lock their account. When a member is a Kidlock member, she cannot interact with other users. Comment boxes and message buttons do not appear for her, or to others attempting to interact with her. No other limitations appear to be active with Kidlock, making this a positive feature for me. It takes away little compared to a non-Kidlock member.

Superstar - Users can purchase Superstar membership in denominations from 1 month up to a year. Payment methods range from cell/mobile phones, credit cards, paypal and now prepaid cards. With most memberships, the user receives a small denomination of Stardollars each week until the membership runs out. Since becoming more and more popular, the website has begun to make much of the features strictly Superstar-Only. This includes the new paper dolls and a vast selection of the Starplaza shop & Mini-shop furniture. New features typically are restricted to Superstars for anywhere from a few days/week[s] to months. The only visual difference between someone who is a superstar and someone who isn't is a gold frame around their avatar.

Starplaza - This is Stardoll's section to purchase clothing. Real designers have teamed up to offer virtual versions of real life clothing, referred to as 'RealBrands'. Some of these brands include Mudd, Babyphat, Stuff by Hilary Duff, Mary-kate & Ashley and DKNY. Stardoll also periodically offers limited edition brands of clothing items, 'LE', that are ridiculously overpriced and are only available in small quantities. The average price of a normal dress in the Starplaza is not normally over 10 stardollars, however 'Limited Edition LE' is offered that nearly 250+ stardollars. Users and myself alike are noticing a subtle increase of prices as Stardoll is around longer and longer, both for items and Stardollars alike. What I like most about the Starplaza is the vast selection and brands. They offer girly, pretty clothing and dark, punk clothing, as well as everything in between so you will find something you like.

StarBazaar- Similar to the Starplazar, this feature is like a thrift store. People can sell their clothing, granted it is no longer being sold in the Starplaza, from 2-50 Stardollars. There are thousands upon thousands of items in this bazaar at any given time, and many users find leisure in 'hunting' for specific items. With a feature in the bazaar, users can search for items based on color, type or brand and adjust the min/max price.

Stardollars - This is the virtual currency of Stardoll.com. Without Stardollars, you are somewhat limited to fun. Members start out with 25 stardollars [aka 'sd'] which they spend as they please in the Starplaza or Mini-shop. Though you can earn more stardollars, purchasing them is much more popular. You can purchase Stardollars with your credit card, cell/mobile phone, land-line home phone, paypal or buying a Prepaid card offered by a participating Retailer. Prepaid cards are offered in denominations of 10$, 15$ and 25$. The cards can be redeemed for superstar membership, up to 6 months with a 25$ card, or if you are already Superstar, you can choose to redeem your card for Stardollars. The exchange rate for Stardollars varies because of how many countries can purchase them but if you have disposable cash, it's not going to put you in debt. But Stardoll becomes heavily addicting, don't be surprised if you end up spending hundreds, if not close to a thousand dollars, within a within time. A real downer about Stardollars? You can't purchase them unless you are a superstar.

StarDesign - A newer feature of Stardoll. Users can create designs using shapes and colors. This design is then multiplied into a pattern, which can be resized to increase or decrease how many times the pattern is multiplied. A user then drags a silhouette of a clothing or furniture item to their pattern, then the feature automatically crops to create an item. Users can then add stickers to their creations. They offer jeans, shirts, dresses, couches, curtains and more. Before you can sell these products to anyone else or wear them, you need to purchase them. They generally cost more than purchasing a normal item in the Plaza would. Due to the lack of moderating, it is quite easy and very common to see clothing items with explicit contents and words, however users tend to ignore it, as these creators are rarely ever removed. Kidlock members CAN see these items. One downside to this feature is you are limited to what you can and cannot do.

Item quality - There are thousands upon thousands of items created by Stardoll. I would not be surprised if this number grew to over 1 million soon. They release new clothing every other day, and furniture items less frequently. The quality of clothing varies, however is mostly impressive and very life like. The furniture is a bit more cartoon-ish and is not as realistic as the clothing tends to be. The older items by Stardoll are poor quality and not always wearable, but the most recent just keep getting better. WARNING: Collecting these virtual items is a hobby nearly all active members engage in. Members have been known to pay real money through paypal, upwards of 100$ for single virtual items. Due to this, users get greedy. They also sometimes harass one another, some even resort to scamming. Stardoll does not give back scammed items, nor do they do much to help users, regardless of proof or not.

Scamming/'Rip off' - This is to be expected with any website that harbors young girls and fabulous virtual items. There has been a dramatic rise in people stealing and scamming one another since the ability to sell and buy clothing from other members. Members are urged to be cautious, however once scammed, don't expect to get your item{s} back. Due to this, I MYSELF, urge you to become fully aware of the website, how things work and all types of Stardoll scams before you sell or purchase from users.

Customer Service - I wish I could say more positive about the customer service. It is in my opinion that without decent assistance, this company takes a huge strike and I would not at all be surprised to see action being taken against them specifically due to the lack of help. I feel that the staff members run more on getting the next message read than actually resolving the problem written about. This is why myself, along with frequent users, often complain about the lack of help they receive about problems. They rely largely on the Terms of Use, all users must agree to when signing up, as for an explanation as to why their problem does not have to be resolved instantly, if ever. I find that I am frequently told the problem I am having is being worked upon, or that it is my fault I am having the problem. After some time, the staff will completely stop replying to users, I personally feel this may be an attempt at ignoring them in hopes they 'go away', to speak. In the recent year, more and more users have been taking action against Stardoll such as file various reports and complaints about them all over the web, and the BBB. This has caused customer service to shape up, but only so much. In my opinion, it is still heavily flawed. I suppose it largely depends on how quickly your problem could be resolved and how much effort/time it will take to do so.

Overall, the concept of Stardoll is refreshing, addicting, and bitter sweet. The users take it a bit too seriously, which can result in some arguments and altercations, which are not likely to be resolved with the help of staff members. Moderation is not that helpful, I frequently see complaints of users being deleted and reported falsley, and the staff does not bother to look into these before taking action. There are so many positive and amazingly awesome features, but greed is a clear motive, which makes a potential bad experience likely. You may not want to let your child user this site without checking on her frequently, but it is not so mature that she needs to be monitored 24/7.

Overall Rating: C

BBB Rating of Stardoll.com: D

Would I tell my friends to join? Yes, but I would advise against purchases.

Addiction level: 4/5

Additional notes: Newer users seem to be more active and enjoy the site more than experienced users.