Boxes of stuff!

Image by cupcakecozy via flickr

Image by cupcakecozy via flickr

Why are monthly deliveries of surprise assortments of stuff in boxes all the rage suddenly?  Is there any OTHER way you could deliver a bunch of stuff to my door?  A padded envelope, I suppose.  But seriously, my Facebook wall has been barraged lately with monthly box-oriented subscription offers.

My first foray into the subscription to unspecified stuff delivery services was by claiming a Facebook offer for NatureBox.  For $20, they will deliver a box of assorted healthy snacks to your door, once a month.  There were 5 items in each box so far, making for $4 bags of snacks of the type one would find in the organics section of the local grocery store… for about $4 each.  So it’s not a horrible value, per se.  I only cancelled this one because by the time I got the second box, we hadn’t finished the contents of the first box, and probably weren’t going to.  We have a tendency to do that at my house, buy a resealable bag of trail mix, turkey jerky, or perhaps granola, eat the majority of it, but then sort of forget about it after that.  It’ll sit on the shelf till I declare defeat, and throw it away to make room for the next resealable bag of seasoned almonds or whatever.  That’s not really NatureBox’s fault, but from a product marketing standpoint, it is their problem.

Anyway, NatureBox wasn’t bad at all, I give them a thumbs-up, but they had the unfortunate luck of billing me when I was in one of my “cancel all the things!” money-saving phases.  You know, it’d make a really great gift for someone.  That might be a much better target for the subscription things in a box companies; say, a 6-month subscription one could give as a gift.  Mind you, that’s $120, a pretty hefty gift level for a bunch of snacks.

Blue Apron suffers from the same sticker shock value perception problem.  For $60/week, they will send you all the ingredients and recipes to make three meals per week for 2 people.  It breaks down to $10 per person per meal.  For a healthy meal that has been pre-planned and pre-shopped for, that’s actually pretty good.  I almost signed up for this one.  But then the $240/month price tag calculation hits you (and I was in “save all the monies!” mode at the time).  When you say it like that, it sounds like a TON of money!


A sample box from Blue Apron

But do the entire equation. I spend $60 almost every time I walk into the grocery store on random stuff and impulse purchases.  And I struggle to find time to plan a menu and grocery list for any given week.  If I saved the time of doing all that, avoided the impulse purchases, and got three healthy dinners where all I had to do was throw the ingredients together and cook them?  It’s probably well-worth $60/week.  I’m still on the fence about this one, I’m very tempted to try it out. I did observe that  the sticker shock has made for some very heated discussion on their Facebook page (which, by the way, they are responding to very graciously and professionally to – kudos to their social media team).

Once I became aware of this model, though, I started to notice more and more of it.  Not things you specify to receive on a regular basis, but “grab bag” style things, where you don’t actually know exactly what you’ll be receiving.  There are also ads running in my Facebook stream for monthly boxes of dog treats (not sure how they are targeting, but unbeknownst to Facebook, I don’t actually own a dog).  That makes three different sets of Facebook offers for this concept, and I call that a trend.  At least the Facebook advertising part of it is a trend; evidently this model was already prolific before I stumbled onto it.

Side note: A friend of mine is doing Bark Box, and he said it is a phenomenal value.  So if you have dogs, check that one out.

The scientist in me wants to know why.  Does it run in parallel with the fact that we’re all short on time, due to everyone “leaning in”? (Seriously folks, have a V-8…)  Do we just like little surprises in the mail (yes)?  Or is it just that this type of product does really well on Facebook?  I vote for the latter. I made the NatureBox purchase without hesitation, and even at the higher price I’m tempted by the Blue Apron concept (the other thing stopping me there is the fear that I won’t follow through and actually cook this stuff, but also, meals for 2 will still leave me having to take care of the kids’ dinner).  Whatever the root cause, it’s intriguing, because I was completely unaware of this scene until just a few months ago and now it feels like it’s everywhere.

The world may finally be ready for Man in the Box… a whole new concept in blind dating!

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