Subscription shopping also has some big drawbacks. The most obvious one is that, with most services, you don’t get to choose the items you receive. You get the thrill of looking forward to a surprise package, but when you open it, the surprise isn’t always a pleasant one. You could find yourself stuck with a bunch of stuff you don’t actually want, and not enough of the stuff you need.
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Problems With Returns. Some subscription services, such as Stitch Fix, let you return or exchange items you don’t want. However, it’s not always easy to do, and so many people just don’t bother. Consumer expert Mitchell McCall, speaking with LearnVest, says people are much more likely to leave something on the shelf in the store than they are to return an item they’ve already received – even if they know they won’t use it.
Birchbox. This is the box that started it all, and it’s still one of the most popular, with over a million subscribers. For $10 per month or $110 per year, it provides an assortment of five beauty samples – all specially chosen to meet your particular tastes. Items include lipstick, mascara, skin cream, dry shampoo, and fragrance, all from high-end brands. If you like the samples in your monthly box, you can order full-size versions from the Birchbox website. Birchbox now offers a men’s grooming box as well, with products like hair gel, deodorant, and beard oil.
Can You Really Afford It? Although subscription boxes can contain useful items, most of them are clearly wants rather than needs. Even if a box is a good value, it’s not worth buying if you don’t have room in your budget. Financial planner Katie Colman, speaking with LearnVest, says it’s okay to splurge on a monthly crate of goodies only “as long as you’re meeting all your other financial obligations and it’s not impacting your ability to meet your goals.”
Is It More Than You Need? A box isn’t a good value if it’s going to tempt you into buying more of any one item than you would normally want. Even if the cost per item is good, it’s likely to be more than you’d spend buying just one item each month. Plus, you’ll be cluttering up your house with more socks, cat toys, or bottles of nail polish than you can use.
9. Birchbox: If you're someone who hates browsing through shelves at the local beauty supplier, Birchbox is the perfect subscription service for you. Just fill out a survey to help the service customize the selection based on your personal needs and sit back. Each month, you'll receive five deluxe sample-sized hair, beauty and skincare products tailored to your personal preferences. Every item comes with a how-to guide so you can easily test out different products. Once you've discovered your favorites, you can buy their full-size versions from Birchbox's online store.
Difficulty of Quitting. In theory, you can cancel a subscription box at any time. However, it’s not always easy to do. McCall says the hassle of canceling is often enough to make people hold on to a service, even after they’ve lost interest in it. He compares it to a gym membership you’re no longer using: As long as the fee is low enough to make it seem like a good deal, it won’t seem worthwhile to cancel the service.
Why We Love It: Trunk club is basically like having a personal stylist, but at a fraction of the cost. Their men’s and women’s style quiz is super thorough to ensure that each “trunk” is filled with clothing you’ll love. What’s even better is that you can approve its contents before it’s shipped to your door. Once you try everything on, you choose what to keep (and pay for) and send back the rest at no cost. You can do this on a monthly basis, or whenever you feel like you need to spruce up your wardrobe.
What’s the Return Policy? With many services, you’re stuck with whatever you get in your monthly box. Others let you return items you don’t want – but it isn’t always easy. Before you sign a contract, check it for details about how long you have to return items, how many items you’re allowed to return, and whether you have to pay return shipping costs.
Overbuying. While a subscription box usually costs less than buying all the items in it separately, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t buy all those items if they didn’t come in your box. For instance, a $29-a-month BarkBox subscription works out to $350 each year. Chances are, that’s a lot more than you’d normally spend just for toys and treats. Over the long term, it could add significantly to the cost of owning a dog.
Why We Love It: If you’ve ever had a large dog, then you know the struggle of constantly having to buy new toys for them to chew through. Bullymake specializes in durable toys and chews for those big dogs who can destroy anything they set their mind to. The best part is that if your doggo wrecks his new toy within 14 days of receiving it, they’ll ship out a new (and more durable one) for free.
4. London Tea Club: If you're a tea drinker who wants to get out of the comfort zone and explore the delicious world of rare and exotic loose leaf teas, you should subscribe to the London Tea Club already! Each month you get a new tea carefully packed in a glass vial. The box also includes a detailed note about the tea, tea estate where it was grown and the brewing instructions. The selection is curated with seasonal tea drinking in mind - something LTC's Director Cecelia Lau prefers herself. For instance, this month the subscribers got to enjoy tangy Zomba Pearls White Tea from Malawi. Lightly processed teas are perfect for summer as they are considered to be more cooling. These include white teas, green oolong teas and most young sheng and green teas. Meanwhile, roasted, fermented and aged teas which are considered to be warming are selected for their winter boxes. These include black/red teas, shou puerh, aged sheng puerhs, roasted oolongs, highly oxidized oolongs and certain roasted green teas like Hojicha. Moreover, the selection is responsibly sourced from small farms and independent cooperatives that encourage sustainable tea farming, so the curated teas are all-natural and organic.