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Subscription Boxes: Pig in a Poke or Pleasant Surprise?

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www.lovewithfood.com
Delivered right to your door and who knows what is inside -- oh, the excitement of it all.

Subscription boxes are the modern take on whatever-of-the-month clubs. You order online, and every so often a "curated" assortment surprises you. Forrest Gump could say, "Life is like a subscription box. You never know what you're gonna get."

Foodies, Fashionistas and Fido

There are boxes for foodies, do-it-yourselfers, babies, beauty lovers, geeks and gamers, travelers, home and garden enthusiasts, pet owners and many, many for fashionistas. There are boxes curated by celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Nicky Hilton and Coco Rocha. Most services have a profile to fill out to serve your preferences. This is all part of the "discovery model," meaning how you, the consuming public, can find new stuff amid a bewildering array of choice.

This model has become much more than a cottage industry. NatureBox, a healthy snack box company has more than 100,000 subscribers. Another snack food subscription service, LoveWithFood, had no trouble raising $1.4 million in startup money.

So, are they a deal? Depends. It's a good opportunity to sample products. Yet, as reviewer Amanda Haley said June 14 of her Indie gift box, "As with any subscription box, there always seems to be one item that I don't 'get.'" However, many subscription companies offer first-timer deals, sometimes even free boxes, like Julep does for beauty products. Discounts are available for many services just by searching online for coupon code or deals. Sites like mysubscriptionaddiction.com also post frequent discount codes and deals.

Websites are popping up to cover it all. One of the more established, findsubscriptionboxes.com, lists 33 categories. Some sites offer reviews from customers and offer helpful stay away recommendations. Some YouTubers make un-boxing videos for your edification and entertainment. My favorite reviewer/un-boxer (OK, she's an acquired taste, turn your volume down) dramatically opens her Glossybox.

A Cooler Package of Stuff

Subscription boxes can solve the dilemma what to get for that person who has everything. They are also an easy way to remember kids away at college or camp. Or they can indulge a passion of yours. Speaking of passion, adult-themed boxes are available. Dejamor's offerings are curated by romance experts, and couples receive his and her boxes.

Some of the better-known subscriptions are Birchbox for beauty products, Loot Crate for geeks (very highly rated) and Wantable for fashion accessories. Birchbox, one of the first and largest subscription box companies, has a loyalty reward system for subscribers. Its videos of product editors and customers opening boxes are fun and educational.

The concept has become so popular that large companies like Procter & Gamble (PG) are getting in, offering Gillette razor and blade subscriptions. Other boxes for men include the Dollar Shave Club (famous for its outrageous and hilarious commercials), Manpacks (underwear, socks and hygiene essentials) and Trunk Club (high-end men's clothing picked by stylists).

Many subscription box companies are small, and while researching, I found a few companies reviewed just a year ago had gone out of business. Check recent reviews, get a first-timer single box, and maybe see how many total customers they have -- the bigger, the better. Then get ready for a pleasant surprise.

Top-Rated Subscription Box Services

Kiwi Crate -- educational toys for kids 3-8.
SpicySubscriptions -- adult theme.
Escape Monthly -- for Walter Mitty travelers.
POPSUGAR MustHave -- full-sized fashion, beauty, food and home products.
WhimseyBox -- craft and DIY projects.
Twentyfourward -- artist-designed T-shirts with part of proceeds to artist's chosen charity.
My Cotton Bunny -- feminine hygiene with a surprise gift.
BarkBox -- for Fido and Fluffy and their people.
Indie Gift Box -- indie artists with hand-crafted items.
Mystery Tackle Box -- for anglers.
The Handy Box -- for those who can't take another trip to Home Depot (HD).


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