Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 2015: Month in Review (Hits and Misses)

I feel like it's important with subscription boxes to consider them not only on an individual basis, but also as a whole. Some months work and some don't, but that's rarely reflective of the actual subscription overall. However, I do like to think about what worked and what didn't after a month so I can reevaluate what I'm subscribing to in order to make room to new boxes and cull some of the waste. With that in mind, here are my top five hits and misses for January.


It's always better to end positive, so let's look at what fell flat for me. Many of the items weren't necessarily awful, but they just weren't for me. There were some exceptions, but most of the products I didn't like were just better suited for someone else. 

Subscription boxes can be tough, because on one hand, customization is awesome. You don't want a box of things that aren't relevant to you and with customization, you can get the items that are tailored to your style and personality. On the other hand, when you subscribe, you're going in already liking the box to some degree and customization can also mean you see other unboxings and wonder why you got a crappy draw that month. Personally, I like a mix. I like when the majority of the items are the same with possibly some adjustments for taste/preferences, yet there's also maybe one or two items that are based on your interests. That way, if they get it wrong, you're still getting similar products to other people. I hate seeing other people's boxes and wondering why mine was so sad in comparison.

This is an easy item to give away, but it was a very big jar of gummi bears, which I can't eat. I also feel like a candy or food subscription should have a little room for adjustment based on dietary restrictions. While I appreciate that they don't want to guarantee anything regarding safety for people with allergies, it's not that hard to provide something without gelatin in place of this jar. Especially given the size of the jar and the cost of the subscription. When you are getting basically three items and a couple small bonuses, it's disappointing to lose 1/3 of the box out of the gate. These bears are the main reason I've put my subscription on hold and only plan on ordering here and there. I just don't want to spend that much every month if I'm likely going to miss out on 1/3 of it. With the other snack boxes, if you don't like one thing, you still have a big mix. I couldn't eat several items in KarePax's box, but there were plenty of items I could eat and a large portion wasn't off limits. Plus they went out of their way to accommodate, while Candy Club doesn't have any flexibility. 

Miss #4: Selections Based on Profile (Birchbox Women and Men)

I was torn on doing these separately, but the reason they're both on here is the same. For both of my Birchbox subscriptions, I found that the box didn't make a ton of sense given the way I answered the profile questions. For me, I specifically said I wasn't concerned about aging and that my makeup preferences were natural and almost nonexistent. So aging creams and bright red nail polish feel a little like this box was thrown together with no real consideration for the information I provided (technically this was December, but January's wasn't a giant improvement). The same can be said for my husband and his emphasis on minimal effort. Hair shaping wax and a bright orange handkerchief feel like leftovers that they threw in the box to get a set number of items. I am giving Birchbox the benefit of the doubt and hoping once they get more feedback from us, the items will improve. I also have seen some improvement in my spoilers for the upcoming boxes.

Conscious Box is a great example of the dangers of seeing other people's boxes. I paid for the same thing that others did and they got tons of snacks and all good sizes ones. They also received several products like personal care items and these weren't just foil packets or coupons (with purchase). Meanwhile, I spent $20 for a snack size bag of bean chips and a soda can. This was an epic fail for me and I canceled this box. I was not impressed and I sincerely doubt I would go back at this point, because I can't trust what I see in other people's boxes anymore, either. 

Everything about my experience with Try the World was an absolute nightmare. The drama continues with French Box (stay tuned for my review of that debacle this weekend). These are likely in the top five worst companies I've ever had the pleasure of contacting in all of my years shopping and existing. Between charging me and never sending anything I ordered (yup - BOTH of them), having an impossible cancellation process when they decided not to mail me anything (Try the World), sending me several updates when they had already sold out and not mentioning that a month ago when I paid (French Box), and likely the rudest customer service people on Earth (both, although French Box may be the winner in ridiculously bad service), these will probably remain the biggest fails of the year. It would take a lot of top them (although you never know and I don't want to see what happens if another company does) for awful. Even thinking about it upsets me. There are no pictures, of course, because there were no boxes. On the plus side, after these messes, we've changed our subscription box list to include only those companies we feel comfortable telling a reader to check out. Maybe they are like Candy Club or Birchbox and have meh moments, but at least they try (and Birchbox has good customer service - and a super easy process for canceling, ordering, contacting them, etc.). 


With terrible service and experiences notwithstanding, January has actually been a good month overall. Candy Club more than made up for one crappy item and Birchbox has potential still. I did find one item in both boxes this month that I liked. Conscious Box may have been a disaster for me, but I think they're hit or miss and I just don't have the patience given how many other snack boxes are doing it better.

There were some super awesome items and experiences this month. In fact, there were so many that I feel like five isn't even enough. I am leaving out the meal delivery services, because food is such a personal preference. Sure, many of these items are as well, but food is just too hard to rank. I also left off my geeky lip balms since those aren't a subscription box item. I couldn't even include Awesome Pack, Sports Crate, Escape Monthly, FitSnack, Geek Fuel, or FabFitFun, either! So, overall, a great month.

Hit #5: Jalapeno Cashews (Nature Box)

I had a hard time deciding on snacks, because there were several awesome snacks this month. However, these jalapeno cashews were so good in the sampler, they convinced me to order the full monthly subscription. In addition, we included them in our first box and had them polished off as soon as they arrived! They're not in this upcoming month's pantry, but I already have them first to get included for March. So I have to say these are a definite hit. My husband was even asking about just getting five bags and nothing else (or splitting the box between these cashews and the Asiago and cheddar crisps).

Hit #4: Entire Box (The Music Box)

When I signed up for The Music Box, I didn't give them any information. Still, they managed to put together four amazing albums and a sampler I will listen to repeatedly. To not miss at all with that much randomly chosen music is very impressive, especially since I anticipated there would be at least one country, pop, or R&B album (things I don't like much). Instead, it felt like the box knew me - and that was without filling out my info. Of course, The Music Box has very high expectations now moving forward, so I hope they continue to deliver. Another highlight was introducing me to The Truce Initiative, one of the best organizations I've seen in some time. I am so glad I know about them now thanks to The Music Box.

Hit #3: Metal Beer Flask (My Geeky Goodies)

Seriously, this is adorable. I love it so much! This whole box was great and I truly enjoyed it. The reason it's #3 rather than higher is that I don't think we'll actually use this, as great as it is, and also, I've had some trouble with the majority of the geeky subscription boxes. I don't really like to focus on the negative and there's nothing about them that would make me say any of them are a mistake, but lately I've had a bad feeling about these boxes in general. You'd think for companies who pride themselves on being geek friendly, they'd be a little less... corporate and eager to be embraced by the masses. My Geeky Goodies still seems to be doing okay, but like I said, it's a slight fear and one that pushes it down a little lower. I hope I'm just feeling paranoid. I only worry about these boxes turning into The Big Bang Theory and starting to be more interested in securing approval from people who like things because a Kardashian or someone told them to, rather than focusing on appreciating the fans who truly appreciate what they're doing. (I almost selected the Dalek from Geek Fuel or the shirt from Nerd Block in place of this, but I think My Geeky Goodies and Geek Fuel tied for best box overall. And I received My Geeky Goodies first, so I gave them the edge.)

Hit #2: Peaceful Patchouli Soap (Wholly Hemp)

This soap is incredible, as is this box and company. Part of the proceeds go to women in developing nations to help them establish a foothold in their communities. The products are made by hand, with hemp and other sustainable ingredients, and they're cruelty-free. Plus they smell amazing. Another thing about this soap is that I had a little box where I could enter some info and all I said was that I like patchouli. So the first box out included my favorite scent. That's pretty awesome service and also shows how aligned this company is with my personal preferences. Really, it's $10 a month. Please go try this! They almost don't market at all and rely on word of mouth. I don't have a referral link - I just love this soap and you need to try it!

Hit #1: The Cup (PopSugar Must Have)

I debated about making this #1, because, well, it's a cup. How exciting can a cup really be? Except it is that exciting. My experience with PSMH has been up and down customer service wise and I hear that's a common issue. I hope that's not true, because this box was pretty awesome overall. But if it doesn't work out long-term between us, at least I'll have this cup. I love coffee and this is the perfect size cup, it's reusable, sturdy, can hold hot and cold beverages, and it has just enough pink to make me happy without being super girly. Not to mention that I have started using this cup all the time. My husband just takes it out whenever I ask for anything now, because I love it that much. So it's probably my top item this month.

That's January. What items did you see that made you want to continue/start a new box, or made you reconsider one you were thinking of getting? What would you like to see more of from boxes or less of overall?

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