If you haven’t caught onto the crazy of subscription boxes, bless you. No really, you’ve avoided a bottomless pit of add-ons and meaningless crap. If you haven’t been so lucky, pull up a chair and pour yourself a glass of whatever’s at hand, alcohol is preferable, but if you’re reading this at the office, I understand your struggle *sips half-finished water bottle that’s been sitting next to my bed for three days*
Subscription boxes are a brilliant concept, don’t get me wrong. You get all of these trusting sheep that believe each and every month Christmas is coming, only to spend anywhere from $5-$200 a month (or bi-monthly, quarterly, etc.) and be mildly disappointed. I’ll say with the boxes I’ve gotten, sometimes I’m like “FUCK YES, I got such a great deal.” Other times I end up stashing the gold pans of eyeshadow and purple sticks of lip gloss into a cabinet I won’t look at until I need to change the toilet paper five rolls from now.
So, what’s the good of a subscription box? I think it’s a great idea as a one-time gift (many boxes let you do that). It’ll have curated items that’re often put together in nice packaging and it just looks like the effort you lacked to do it yourself (you know, old-fashioned go to the store and pick out specific things). I also think subscription boxes are fun ways to discover new brands. Yes, I will admit to that. Sometime I’m sheepish about committing to a $30 blueberry face wash (I did and was only mildly impressed with it…probably wouldn’t have done so if I had had a $5 sample in said metaphoric box). So yay, try new brands and maybe find some that you like.
Okay, so now are you ready for the bad and the ugly? It’s expensive. You may not realize it because “it’s only $10 a month,” but sweetie, that’s upwards of $100+ a year if you didn’t use a coupon code (I should do another post on that because, damn I love coupons and seeing that “you saved 50%+ of your order today” at the bottom of my receipt). Beyond price, you’ll likely end up with a lot of crap you really don’t need.
I mean it. Please tell me how the cutting board that’s half the size of the one you currently use is going to change your life? Or the blush that you already have five variations of (or in my case, don’t need another drugstore variety from said box because I’ve stocked up on my higher-end favorites in the event of a blush apocalypse and it’s discontinued. I know, I’m super weird, but I’ve been heart-broken before when brands I’ve loved have discontinued lines and then I’m like, “what the fuck am I supposed to use now? I trusted you.”
Melodramatics aside, I can promise you’ll end up with shit you don’t need. I recently discovered there are websites to swap stuff you don’t want from said boxes (reminds me fondly of swapping pins and trinkets as a Girl Scout at camp). However, a) it’s a lot of effort to list every lipstick you don’t want, and b) it’s a lot of extra effort and expense to package and ship them to whomever wants them (e.g. a swap, giveaway, or sale on a secondary resale site like eBay or Amazon).
Now, the ugly…and I mean it. Some people honestly think subscription boxes are the bees knees. Sure, I look out for my pink shimmery envelope from Ipsy each month, but dude, I was pissed when I found out the $10 I pay each month for “deluxe to full-sized samples” are often (almost) always donated by the brands in order to get exposure and/or the brands pay to be featured. Okay, so it doesn’t cost Ipsy a thing to curate these products. Sure, shipping costs money, but I’m pretty sure they get a sweet deal in bulk rates (every company does).
So not only do many companies not pay for the samples eager customers are dying to get their paws on, but even when there is a small out of pocket cost for an item, it’s ordered in such bulk, the actual per-piece cost is negligible. The last thing that really irks me with these boxes is the customer support. I’d say I’ve had issues with boxes I’ve ordered almost every month-sometimes it’s a broken item (yay, shattered eyeshadow on EVERYTHING), sometimes it’s missing items (like, you couldn’t even count to five items?), and sometimes it’s just nasty (can we talk about the lipstick that straight-up smelled like play dough?).
I really do love the idea of subscription packages, but I feel like as great as they are in concept, many lack in execution. As much as I love food and cooking, I can’t continuously subscribe to foodie boxes because I can’t eat half the items (sorry, spicy food). I do understand that some people live for these experiences because who doesn’t love getting mail? I’d subscribe to 50 boxes if a) it wouldn’t make me poor, and b) I could actually use everything, every time. While I realize the second point is kinda wishful thinking, I think this is what’s stopped me from signing up for every box that captures my interest (hi, box filled with fancy things from France).
At the end of the day, I love a good surprise but as I’m getting older, I’m trying (*keyword is trying*) to be more responsible with my money. While I might be able to say it’s only $10 a month and that’s like a really big Starbucks coffee, it all adds up, and I could always check out previews for different boxes and splurge for a full-size of something with those savings if it’s something I really want (yes, I’m talking to almost every face cream out there…I don’t know why I’ve been having so many moments with packaging that says “hydrating” and “collagen-infusing.” Maybe it’s the whole getting older thing and not wanting to acknowledge I’m only a few years away from the big 3-0 (that’s my 30th birthday, btdubs).
SO, if you’ve made it this far, pour yourself another drink, I’m done with my rant! But really, I do love subscription boxes and if you have one that’s continually pleased you (ha, like a good vibrator…or man, yes I know humans are capable of this too), please leave your thoughts in the comments! Maybe I’ll be convinced otherwise that these money-pit boxes aren’t so terrible!
P.S. I’ve tried a bunch of boxes, from dog toys and home goods, to makeup and skincare. Another good thing to point out is IF you are going to subscribe, either do it in shorter packages (like 1-3 months instead of a year), or do it with a brand that’s been around a while. There are a TON of articles about boxes that have gone bankrupt and people have been left with hundreds of dollars gone, no boxes, and shit out of luck (because how do you ask a bankrupt company for money?…that’s why they went bankrupt). There have been a bunch of really cute boxes I’ve been like “oh my gosh, yes,” but for whatever reason didn’t sign up and now they don’t exist…so there’s that too.
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.