Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015: Month in Review (Hits and Misses)

As we did last month, I wanted to do a review of the hits and misses for subscription boxes for February. There were utter disasters again, as well as lots of amazing arrivals and new subscriptions.


As I did in January, I think it's better to start with the constructive so you can end on a positive note. Some of these are seriously bad and others were just not fits for me personally, although sadly I have to say I've seen less of just meh items than outright terrible business this month. I have noticed that you can get a fairly good sense of the quality of a subscription box by the service via email or on social media. The more active and engaged the company is, the more likely your box will really be what you expected and the more the products will be higher quality. Companies who seem to be interested in just jumping on a bandwagon of where they think they money is, or those who are far more interested in being huge, tend to place customers at the bottom of their priorities and it shows not only in their interactions but also in the way they put together the boxes and select products. Some are beginning to feel like a cardboard box full of nothing but ads.

Miss #5: Items that Didn't Work

Rather than focus on one particular box, since there are bigger issues in this month's Misses list, there were a few that were duds for me. Nerd Block Classic didn't really have anything that worked for me personally, although I don't think it was terrible, either. Love with Food included Pork Clouds, and UrthBox had a big stack of jerky. Both are somewhat annoying since the entire point of being a vegetarian is not to eat meat, and when you slaughter the animal to send me food anyway, it feels counterproductive. I also wasn't a huge fan of the bracelet from The Hip Humanitarian or my selection from Birchbox, but overall, these are all preferences. None of these companies did anything wrong. It's just the nature of blind boxes. Bulu Box felt like an epic fail, but again, it's a gamble and I'll see what next month looks like before deciding they're just downright awful since last month's was okay.

Miss #4: Bacon Cookies

The reason The Cravory gets a special mention over the others is because we specifically communicated about not including bacon in my cookie selections, and I only received one box before I got bacon. I understand they're a relatively small business but this is unacceptable. If it's not on their customer service team (who apologized and said the kitchen added bacon last minute), then it's a statement about their internal communications. Either way, the result was a dead pig in my cookies, which are already around $2+ each. Not cool.

Miss #3: Try the World

Since I still received the box, after the total debacle with this company, they're not at the top. The box was decent, minus the cookie crumbs, but their lack of ethics, utter disorganization, and terrible customer service continue to permeate their business model. I would like to see them succeed, since they have something cool to offer, but I need to see dramatic changes before I would ever give them a penny. Especially given the nightmare of the boxes to follow in this list.

Miss #2: Loot Crate

I can't even believe anyone in the world can be worse than Loot Crate, but surprisingly they're only #2 on this list. Everything about Loot Crate upsets me now. To start with, they're proud of announcing themselves as the "industry leader." However, as Peter Parker knows, with "great power comes great responsibility." Loot Crate, if truly the leader, should be setting the standard for other nerdy and geeky subscription boxes. Instead, their boxes get worse by the month and they've become pawns for their corporate sponsors. Recently a customer asked them about a Doctor Who themed box and they said that they don't stick to one brand because they want to have universal appeal. Now everyone doesn't like Doctor Who, that's true, and no matter what, someone will be disappointed in a blind box, especially when dealing with geeky pop culture items. Our fandoms differ and we just have to deal. However, Loot Crate is lying. They did an entire crate based on Titanfall, which has a MUCH smaller audience than Doctor Who. Not only does it not have 50+ years of an audience built in, it's also not a TV show (since basically anyone who can buy a monthly crate of collectibles likely has a TV). Titanfall is a video game, which makes it a smaller audience. In addition, it's a new game without a proven market and worse, it is an exclusive. It is only available for Xbox and PC, so PS3/PS4 and Wii gamers CANNOT play it. For them to claim they're about broad appeal is an outright lie.

Secondly, Loot Crate has far and away some of the worse customer service in the entire industry, not just for subscription boxes but in business. Their CSM, Hannah, is so sarcastic in every response she sends. I've seen it and I've seen it from hundreds of others who post their experiences with her all over Reddit, the BBB, and Facebook. You have to dig for this, though, because in keeping with their unethical behavior, Loot Crate ensures that negative feedback is filtered. They delete what they can, leaving Hannah to ridicule anyone they can't delete. So the uninitiated see this as rare, when it happens ALL THE TIME.

Finally, I truly do not believe that the people at Loot Crate have a clue about geek culture. Their most recent crate was designed for kids, and the few items that were not were corporate partnerships. They did form a partnership with a book publisher to send out Ready Player One, but the book came out FOUR YEARS AGO. Honestly, any gamer or geek who would be super passionate about this book likely already has it. You aren't introducing us to something new. It's not a terrible item to include, but the majority of the box's value came from a book that the demographic mostly already has or is aware of and would have if they wanted it. That's simply poor market awareness on the part of Loot Crate. They're not a subscription box for geeks and gamers, but for families and people who think it's kind of fun that nerd culture is popular. This is fine, but let's just be honest about what you do.

Miss #1: French Box

I don't get French Box, thanks to their already inept practices. I am really happy I don't. Technically I may not be able to comment on them as a hit or miss since I don't subscribe, but what they did this month with their subscription box earns French Box the top place in the epic fail list, never mind on this one.

For starters, their box for February was awful. It was basically cheap stuff from the Dollar Store and their "French" items were products from L'Oreal. I'm sure anyone paying $24 a month for stuff from France would prefer sample sized product from France than a $5 lipstick from the local grocery store. But it gets worse.

A few days after the boxes were received, French Box announced that the items may be expired. This was not something that happened in error. They only reacted after customers complained. In addition, the products didn't expire in the few days between shipment and receipt. Therefore, the people at French Box decided to fill a $24 subscription box, advertised as items from France, with cheap and potentially dangerous items and pass it off as acceptable. Apparently they think their customers are stupid and it would just be fine. Their response was to cancel shipment for March, which demonstrates further that they don't have a clue what they're doing. If it was truly a mistake, the March boxes would already be under way. After all, it takes weeks for items to arrive from France to the US, so those should already be in the mail and the boxes should already be planned. I mean, most theme boxes have already been announced for March, showing that the products are mostly sourced. At the very least, the high value items are. Why is it the last week of February and French Box is not prepared for March?

Even worse, their apology was a convoluted excuse basically saying that they don't have a strategic plan and it's really hard to make money off $24 when items cost a lot. That's how it goes. You can send a mediocre box and you deal with the backlash, but expired products? French Box could not be more of a failure and it's really frustrating because they make subscription box companies look bad. Don't start a business if you can't manage it. Plenty of companies set cutoff numbers until they grow. Collectible Geek sells out all the time, as does Hero Crate. Fandom of the Month has locked subscriptions long-term and Fair Ivy only goes on sale a few days a month when there are spaces available. Little Lace Box shut down the internet when they opened new subscriptions because they limit subscribers in order to ensure that the box is of the quality they want to be known for. French Box chose to get greedy and couldn't meet the demand. Customers seem willing to give them another chance, but honestly, I feel like we all, as consumers, need to demand better from businesses. They're not children or a boyfriend who made us upset and deserves a second chance. This is their ethics on full display; spend your money on companies who have ethics instead.


Despite some really upsetting moments, I still think that February was an overall awesome month. I got to try a ton of new subscriptions and took chances that really paid off. There were far more than five hits, including Wine Awesomeness, Orange Glad, and the miracle hand cream from Eco Emi. However, to keep it to five, here are my top hits of February.

Hit #5: GlobeIn

Subscription boxes are an interesting business, because they're either useful, fun, or unique, but rarely do you get a great combination like you get with GlobeIn. Here you receive useful items that have personality and that are also ethically sourced and come from artisans around the world. I love a box that gives back and has a focus that allows me to use my money to improve business. I would much rather buy something from a woman in Guatemala than a corporation selling through Walmart, but it's not always that simple. GlobeIn makes it possible, for a completely reasonable price. AND the items are incredible. I was so impressed by this box and I hope they're all this good. I will use every item and they're everyday items, yet I am able to support people around the world in a way I don't normally have access to. This makes GlobeIn a definite win.

Hit #4: Game Box Monthly

Again, subscription boxes are dependent upon blind trust and some months are great, while others are just okay. But this month, Game Box Monthly knocked it out of the park for me. I have wanted to try Love Letter for a while and have been thinking of buying it, so to open the package and find an item I desperately want was awesome (as much as I complain about Ready Player One being in Loot Crate just because I already have several copies, I feel like this is probably how some subscribers felt about getting it). I also love that they included the original for those of us who don't have it, as well as the exclusive version for the box. This is probably where Loot Crate failed. Even if they had gotten someone to write a special intro to their edition, it would have made it more valuable than yet another copy of a book many of us have. Game Box Monthly was able to provide us with something we may not have, and if we did, we got something special as well. I love that and I think it's an example of how well they run the business. Plus the bonus pins were great, too!

Hit #3: Companion Tees

The only reason Companion Tees isn't higher is because I technically haven't received my first subscription yet (although it's on its way). My first experience was a random shirt purchase, but everything about them is incredible. I am truly impressed by everything they do - their product, packaging, shipping, and especially customer service and communication. I was recently told there are only five of them working there so I'm always really excited to see something so incredible happening with small businesses. In fact, the majority of my best experiences tend to be with small businesses, and my fails come from the bigger ones who are either already corporate or hoping to be. I love when real people are rewarded.

Hit #2: Wantable 

Wantable just gets it so right all the time. We have now tried Makeup, Accessories, and Intimates and Wantable could start new collections and we'd be on board. The process is perfect, because you can adapt your preferences to each shipment and they really won't send you things you don't want. Plus you can return the box or selected items if you truly hate them. You can skip months, order more in another month, and really control every aspect of this box. It's probably not truly a subscription box in the way that it does allow so much control, but there's something super exciting about their box arriving. You have no idea what's in it (they're really good about not sharing the links for review until your box is marked as delivered, so you can't cheat and find out in advance). Every time a box comes, I get giddy. The thrill of the mystery makes me keep ordering new boxes and this is honestly so much fun, while also being a collection that you end up using and enjoying. I can't recommend Wantable enough! If you aren't subscribing or haven't tried at least one collection, you truly need to do it!

Hit #1: Geek Power

I got into subscription boxes originally because I loved the collectible opportunities that Loot Crate and Nerd Block provided. Unfortunately, I also realized there were cons to being into these boxes, since some are disappointing and Loot Crate was so rude and disrespectful that I almost gave up subscription boxes altogether. Fortunately there are others and I'm so glad there are good ones in the geek world, too, because I do enjoy these boxes most of all.

This month, My Geeky Goodies reached the top again, which is awesome. I loved the He-Man DVD and shirt and I really feel they know their audience. This is a truly geeky box, not a family box or a generic broad box for people who sometimes watch TV or movies. The audience here is made up of the people who thrive on pop culture and who are hardcore fans. That may still not mean you're a hardcore fan of these shows or items, but this box still feels like it's actually items that reach into the deeper edges of fandom rather than worrying about mass appeal. To me personally, geekdom is antithetical to popularity and mass appeal, so I love that this box feels like it's curated differently.

In addition to My Geeky Goodies, I tried Collectible Geek for the first month and was in love with my box! Not only were the items great, but they were the kinds of things I would ask for during Christmas or would buy my husband. What I loved most about Collectible Geek, though, was the fact that the Funko POP! figures came in collectible cases. This added touch made me feel confident that I was giving my money to a group of people who completely understood what mattered to me as a collector, fan, and nerd.

1 comment:

  1. I like this post! Thanks for sharing! We tried Wantable Accessories and it was a definite hit and super fun. The lipstick from Wantable Makeup broke, however. I really like their no-questions-asked return policy though.

    I also saw their previous months' boxes. When they first started out, it's worse than the new startup boxes these days.