Subscription Boxes: Epic Disenchantment

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We don’t do a lot of ~trend talk~ on this website, but occasionally I exercise my Power Over Your Inbox/Feed/Social Network Content to pull on your coat about something or other; my version of Peter Griffin’s “Grinds My Gears,” if you will. Today, it’s about the bunny-esque population of subscription beauty boxes. They trickled in slowly and now that a few months have passed, we’re wading through more beauty boxes than we can handle.

I remember when I first heard of this concept. Birchbox was my introduction to the Box Of Tiny Cosmetics idea and I really, really liked it. I was the type of kid who wanted to go to Costco with Mom expressly for the samples. Beauty counters in the mall were uncharted land, ready for my conquest. Little tiny things, I liked them. This would eventually lead to a hardcore office supply addiction, but that’s another story for another post.

Jen and I both immediately signed up for Birchbox. The first month or so was great (I even showed off my Birchbox haul during the happier times), then things started to go sour. My boxes weren’t arriving within the predicted amount of time, the products were becoming more and more abstract and irrelevant (a mascara guard, really? Spoiler alert: it’s a business card with a curved edge, come on), not to mention late. A month went by without a box, then Jen experienced a no-box month, yet the charges managed to withdraw from our accounts seamlessly. After some pretty embarrassing customer service experiences, Jen and I cancelled our memberships, which was a battle in itself.

Then, we got hearts in our eyes over GogoGirlfriend. The number of eco-friendly and organic products they included made us lusty with desire. We both signed up, once again, and the first box was cute. It was likely just the novelty of a new experience, in retrospect, but fun nevertheless. The next few months, however, were… uh, nonexistent. When we realized that the money was leaving our accounts, but no boxes were arriving, we contacted and asked for a refund. Instead of giving our money back, GGG offered free… boxes. The same boxes, I assume, as the ones they weren’t sending. They also were keen to remind us that our payment was for a “membership” to GogoGirlfriend, the boxes were just a “free gift.” This should have been red flags, everywhere. End result: cancelled membership. (Good on us, as it now appears that GoGoGirlfriend may have been a total scam.)

I was scorned for a long time. All of these piddly boxes started to sound the same. Pitch after pitch for “beauty this” and “sample that” – jaded, jaded, jaded. I stopped caring. Then, another subscription box offered to send us a box to review. I agreed. It took a while for it to get here… I forgot it was coming. When it showed up, I remembered that little glimmer of excitement that I felt with the previous boxes and allowed myself to get eager about it. It had been a long time, maybe these people were different!

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I opened the box only to find that 80% of the samples were tiny, single-service packages – all of which, I’d received in GoGoGirlfriend and Birchbox boxes.

It’s still sitting on the chair, covered in all of its frilly, paper innards, samples still unopened and untouched. I’m so over it, you guys.


Now there’s a site called SubscriptionBoxes.com which will basically allow anyone to send out a subscription box for whatever they want. I’m okay with this because I love watching ideas come to fruition through means of the internet, and sites like that provide an excellent springboard opportunity. That’s very cool! It also allows people to attempt to rip off the entire world through a structured, streamlined process. I’m sure there are policies and functions in place to prevent that sort of thing, but just take a look at GogoGirlfriend’s page on SubscriptionBoxes.com – pretty terrifying.


An image of a Conscious Box, the top-rated box on SubscriptionBoxes.com

There’s a light at the end of this tunnel, though. As I said above, sites like SubscriptionBoxes.com allow people to be sheisty, but it also gives people the opportunity to express themselves in a way that other people can enjoy. There are some spectacular people out there doing some really creative, exciting things with internet-fueled, direct-mail subscription boxes and I, though jaded, still actively and avidly subscribe to one: Julep Maven. My initial trust-seed was planted because they are based in my hometown, Seattle (right up the street, in fact) so I could find them if ever they tried to scam me… but my experience has been quite the opposite! Fabulous customer service mixed with an excellent array of nail colors and nail care products keep me enthusiastic about the product, the service, and the experience. (Plus, allowing me to send my friends and readers there to get their first box for one cent is unbelievably cool, and it’s totally legit! That’s how I got involved – code: MAVENINTRO)

Other subscription boxes worth noting have caught my eye, but none moreso than Julep. That being said, I am going to try to compile some lists of time-proven, worthy subscription boxes (in all categories) to hopefully help some weary, sample-loving thrill seekers find their light at the end of the fun-sized perfume.

What has your experience been with subscription boxes?

Are there any that you subscribe to and adore? Any horror stories?

  • I’ve found that GoodeBox (which has all organic and non animal tested products) is great. it’s a bit more expensive then BirchBox (at $16 rather then $10) but my boxes the last two months for which I’ve subscribed have been great and they give more then just one time use samples as well as codes to get the products they have included for cheaper then regular price. I would definitely say you should check it out its great!

    • Ooh, I will definitely check it out… Thank you!! :)

      • Tiffany

        Let me know how GoodeBox is if you end up trying it out, seems like something I might be interested in! :)

  • Cait

    I signed up for Birchbox the day before this post was published. I’m now holding my breath in the hopes that I have a better experience than you guys did!

    • You know, I saw their ratings on SubscriptionBoxes.com and it was pretty good! I think they must have improved their service. We jumped on them on their first year of life, so it’s possible they’ve matured! I hope you’re experience is better. :)

      • Cait

        Just got my first month and I’m a bit disappointed. A free razor that I already own, fashion tape, a perfume sample, lip stain sample and a full size eyeshadow stick. I was hoping for something more impressive, they are all products that I’ve used before and I’m not exactly a product junkie! I give it two more boxes before I cancel.

  • Tupou

    I’m in my 2nd month of Birchbox and so it hasn’t wow’ed. I’m guess I’m still a subscriber because I’m waiting for an awesome box like some ladies have received. If my next box isn’t satisfactory, I’m cutting them and going for Julep :)

    • Oooh, yes!! :) (If you ever have a spare buck to try out Julep’s 1 cent box, you totally should! Then you can give your friends your referral code and rack up the free months – for every two friends that sign up, you get a FREE MONTH! Seriously! Cheapest subscription box ever… haha!)