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.
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.

Unclear Value. Normally, when you shop for any product, you can look at all the choices and compare their prices to see which is the best deal. But with a subscription box service, you get a different assortment of products every month, and you don’t even know what they’re going to be. That makes it much harder to figure out whether your box is really worth what you’re paying for it.

How Much Control Do You Have? Some subscription services send the same monthly box to every subscriber. Others, such as Stitch Fix, tailor the contents to your personal tastes based on a questionnaire you fill out when you sign up. A few, such as Julep, allow you to preview each month’s box before it’s shipped and skip that month if you don’t want it, or even personally choose some or all of the items you receive. This means you’ll never have to waste money on an item you don’t want – but on the downside, your monthly box won’t be a special surprise.
Stitch Fix is a personal styling service. You tell them your style and size preferences, and they send you a package of stylish goodies to try on at home. No two Fix shipments are alike. Each one is hand-picked just for you. Keep what items you like, and return the rest in a pre-paid return mailer. The services costs $20 a month for your stylist, but that fee is deducted from any items you choose to keep.
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