Sunday, February 15, 2015

Corporate Capitalization on "Geek" Culture

This is a rant, but it's something that's been really bugging me in the last few months. To be honest, I started subscription boxes because of Loot Crate and Nerd Block, because they're the big ones. However, what I've come to realize is how little they care about customers (especially Loot Crate). They care about you if you have a massive YouTube following, but otherwise you're nothing. Your comments get ignored, your issues get resolved when they feel like it, and your boxes ship after everyone else's (their big name bloggers and celebrity endorsers who get them for free). Of course, it's important to have blog reviews and companies need them, but it's also not honest or ethical when paying customers are not treated the same way as reviewers.

I recently read a fellow blogger's rant on Loot Crate and I was saddened by her experience. She has been blocked on social media from having an opinion. What's funny is that her review wasn't really that harsh. She simply called them out because if they're promoting themselves as the leaders, why are their boxes the same quality as those from the up and comers like 1Up Box? They should have the ability to offer far more.

What I think this really speaks to is something I noticed with Loot Crate myself. They have horrible customer service and everything they do, in their emails, their posts, their partnerships, feels antithetical to what it means to be a geek. Geek culture is about embracing that which makes you a little odd, not about bandwagons. Geeks are obsessive and passionate about their fandoms, so when we get promotional content pushing the great Star Wars haul, we expect it. We don't want stickers. In addition, most of us are used to being treated like garbage outside of our fandom. Only other fans get our hardcore love of the same show, series, comic, movie, etc. So this insane push for more, more, more and the obsession with popularity goes against everything fandoms are about.

What it's really about here, I think, is that The Big Bang Theory is popular and mainstream culture is becoming inundated with all things celebrating nerdiness and geekdom. Of course, most of it is fake, but we all know the difference between marketing and fandom. Sadly, though, Loot Crate seems to be operating under the business model that geek = cash cow, not geek = passion. Nerd Block has some issues, too, but I do believe that the people at Nerd Block, somewhere in their mess, truly want to please their customers. I think they hire people who maybe don't care (as is the case with most customer service reps honestly), but at their heart, I do think Nerd Block is trying. I noticed that they posted recently asking for customer feedback, and they do seem interested in real responses and honesty. In contrast, the people at Loot Crate are arrogant and sarcastic. I have never seen worse customer service - and I've seen plenty of bad service. Customers are the reason Loot Crate is in business, but they certainly don't know it.

Meanwhile, new companies like Hero Crate and Collectible Geek are popping up to recover all of us who are so disillusioned and disheartened by this behavior. They seem to really love the stuff they're promoting. You also have people like Wil Wheaton and Naomi Kyle starting their own Quarterly boxes. Yes, everyone wants to make money, clearly, but I truly feel that Loot Crate has lost sight of everything they supposedly stand for in focusing on nothing else. (Although they're a completely different lifestyle, look at a company like FabFitFun. They're huge and yet each customer is treated the same. It doesn't matter if you're just a woman ordering a box or if you're Lauren Conrad - they value you as a customer.)

In communicating with them recently, they were arrogant, sarcastic, and rude. Worse, they actually wished me luck with other companies, bragging about their superiority. The idea that anyone would look down on new businesses, rather than partnering with them to help the entire industry and culture thrive, is sickening. I think people should be aware of the attitudes and behavior, because I understand that maybe they just hire people with no stake in the success of the organization, but that's no excuse to alienate customers.


  1. Continuing update on this saga. $110 paid for six months. 2 crates received. 4 supposedly refunded = $44. Hmmm. Guess they failed math as much as they failed customer service.

  2. Yes, I hate to admit it, but it's true. Some of the more popular bloggers (who will remain anonymous) do get complimentary free crates. They even state that bit of info right at the beginning of their review. Personally, I don't mind this but for the potential subscribers and readers....well, they're not getting a fair review.

    Honestly, Loot Crate has no business talking to a paying subscriber with that kind of attitude. Loot Crate = Rude Crate.

  3. Exactly. Bloggers aren't to blame at all. We are supposed to be offering fair reviews but we are still people and can't afford to pay for everything so freebies in exchange for review are the way of things. It helps us give readers a sense of what's good and I like to hope most bloggers are ethical so they are honest in their reviews regardless. It feels like Loot Crate, though, and a few others care more about PR and media coverage. But all that gets you is subscribers for a few months. Pissing off your customers is bad business - and misunderstanding your demographic, as Loot Crate does abominably, is horrible business. In reality, demanding constant referrals isn't very geeky. I'm not a marketer. If they're so amazing, why don't they rely on legit word of mouth rather than pressuring customers to sucker friends into shelling out cash?!

  4. I totally agree with you here. Even when I haven't had problems with Lootcrate support (I basically never needed them) I just unsubscribed from that crate. Besides January crate, all their last boxes have been abysmal: too much garbage and hardly 1 or 2 items worthy of the month's "theme". After the Ghostbusters' doorhanger debacle, I wanted to give them another chance but they are not up to standards. I consider myself a geek and a gamer, and I don't feel identified at all with the crated.

    I think I'll stick with Arcade Block and 1UP Box. I'm still looking for a more "Nintendo" oriented sub, but those 2 are at least filled with nice stuff that -almost- any gamer will appreciate.

    1. That's funny - I actually just unsubbed from Arcade Block because I find it's TOO much Nintendo. But that's a preference thing and I will keep an eye on spoilers in case something comes up that looks good. I mean, you can't please everyone. However, I can't say that the stuff in the blocks is bad, whereas with Loot Crate, it really feels like a marketing box.

    2. That's the thing. I've been subscribed to Nerd Block and, even when I unsubbed, I got to appreciate the quality of the stuff they sent me. I'm not fond of StarWars or Dr. Who, but the Dr. Who T-shirt from January? Good quality, nice colors. I felt I got my money's worth in stuff. Even when the franchises didn't appeal that much to me.

      LootCrate? Every time I open one I feel like I've been to a convention and I ended with this box filled with POP material, discount coupons and maybe 1 or 2 "nice" freebies (and I'm using the term "nice" loosely). Not that bad but it doesn't deserve my money, that's for sure.

    3. I think you nailed it there. I don't play Super Smash Bros., so I don't love the shirt in Arcade Block. However, I will wear it to bed or to run errands or clean the house. You can't really go wrong with shirts, as far as I'm concerned, because you can wear them to do chores or whatever. You can also sell them. Same with POPs (which yes, I love). You can't sell a bunch of LC exclusives and that bugs me. So basically I get the stuff and if I don't want it, it goes in the trash. Fine, but when the stuff is marketing swag, I get angry. I work hard. My salary should be spent on either things I like, companies that better the world, or an experience that is memorable. I don't get that with Loot Crate and then to have them mock me personally and attack other companies... that's just not how you manage a business. That's also antithetical to being a nerd, as far as I'm concerned.