Subscription Boxes Can Feel Like Christmas, But Are They Worth It?

One of the hottest retailing trends is subscription boxes; a goody box delivered to your door with samples from retailers tailored to fit your tastes and interests. Here’s what The Washington Post had to say about them:

“These curated goody bags have exploded in popularity over the past few years, and now even major retailers, including Target, see that there may be money to be made. Much of the appeal for retailers is the personal data they collect from customers — from their food and fragrance preferences to their income — while collecting feedback on untested products.

“New York-based start-up Birchbox kicked off the trend in 2010 by sending women tailored cosmetics samples. Now subscribers can choose from boxes of pet food, baby products, fishing tackle, video games, adult toys and even marijuana-smoking accessories.

“The subscription can cost as little as $10 or top $100 a month for luxury items. The collective value of the products — if you buy them at full price — is often higher than the monthly cost. Subscribers, a vocal and social-media-savvy bunch, have set up blogs and online forums to review the best boxes or swap goodies to fit their tastes.

“For many, the real attraction is not the convenience of home delivery but the element of surprise.”

On the positive side, these boxes often contain products valued at more than the cost of the subscription (which varies from $10-$100 a month, generally). If you like trying new things and don’t have great brand loyalty to certain products, you may enjoy the sampling and experimenting. And there’s the fun of getting new surprises in the mail…almost feels like a gift, right?

The down side is that you can end up with products you don’t want or like, and the subscription can be a pain to cancel if you decide you don’t want the boxes any more. And the hidden cost is your privacy. Most of these subscription services require you to reveal a lot of personal information, which the retailers use to customize your box.

Be sure to read the fine print and make sure you know exactly what you are signing up for, how much it will cost, how and when you can cancel, whether or not the subscription is automatically renewed, and how the retailer will use your data. If you are satisfied with the answers, enjoy your subscription boxes!

NOTE: Target Corporation is a BBB Accredited Business and a National Partner.

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About Katherine Hutt

Katherine R. Hutt, Director of Communications and Media Relations with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, is an award-winning communicator who has been helping nonprofit organizations tell their stories for the past 25 years. She was a CBBB consultant on numerous projects for more than a decade before joining the staff in 2011.