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Do you find yourself trying to answer the seemingly innocent question, "what subscription box should I get?" at all hours of the day? If so, you're not the only one.

Subscription boxes have been around for quite a while, yet unlike other hot trends on the retail and online market, they're not going anywhere anytime soon.

What Subscription Box Should I Get?

A decade ago, subscription boxes were a new trend. There weren't many subscription services that you could choose from. That's no longer the case.

Today customers can choose from a wide range of subscription box companies all with different themes, price points, and frequencies.

While variety is, for the most part, awesome, it can also be the cause of tremendous headaches. With so many options out there, it can seem like answering the question "what subscription box should I get?" is near impossible.

What Is a Subscription Box?

The precise answer to "what subscription box should I get?" varies from person to person. But before we go ahead and take a look at the factors that might influence your choice of box, let's determine what defines a subscription box in the first place.

A subscription box is a physical delivery of niche products packaged like an experience. Hence, there's usually an additional value on top of the retail products in the box.

More often than not, subscription boxes are delivered to customers repeatedly. For example, monthly subscription boxes are especially popular.

A subscription box service has to offer its customers at least one of the below features:

  • Surprise
  • Curation
  • Discovery
  • Presentation
  • Savings
  • Convenience

Some subscription boxes are relatively cheap while others are much, much more expensive. Most people subscribe to several boxes as opposed to just one.

Not Every Subscription Box Is the Same

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The subscription box that your friend or partner has delivered to their door every month might not excite you in the slightest. That's okay. What works for them, might not automatically work for you.

There are several factors you should take into consideration when trying to answer the question "what subscription box should I get?"

Do you like surprises?

To begin with, the answer to "what subscription box should I get?" depends on how much you like surprises.

Generally, customers choose between two different types of subscriptions.

The first type is known as "discovery commerce." Subscription boxes that fall under this category contain personally curated goodies. In other words, all or most of the products inside the box are a mystery.

The second type of subscription is known as "convenience commerce." This category of subscription allows customers to get deliveries of items that they already use. An excellent example of this type of subscription service is the Dollar Shave Club, which sends out new razors to its customers every few weeks.

What's in a box?

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Nowadays there's a subscription box for pretty much any product that you can think of. This variety means that we can spend hours upon hours browsing the different options, not getting anywhere at all. It's easy to get overwhelmed.

Perhaps that's the reason why so many of us are tempted by articles that claim they've rounded up the best subscription boxes of the year.

In general, though, it's best to avoid these listicles. Many make use of dated information, whereas others contain sponsored content that is difficult to spot at first glance.

Instead, before you go ahead and start looking at the many subscription boxes out there, narrow down your interests. That way, you'll immediately eliminate certain options that wouldn't suit your tastes or your lifestyle, thus getting closer to answering "what subscription box should I get?"

Popular subscription box categories include:

  • Beauty
  • Food and drinks
  • Fitness
  • Moms
  • Pets
  • Arts and crafts
  • Eco-friendly
  • Geek
  • Book
  • Adult
  • Home
  • Electronics
  • Outdoors

Alright, so you've settled on a category and found an appealing box or two.

Now what? Is it time to place your order?

Not quite yet.

Before you go ahead and subscribe to a box service, try to determine whether the products offered (or alluded to if it's a surprise) are somewhat niche.

Generally, you don't want to order a box containing items that are readily available at your local store. Why order a snack box full of treats when you can pick up the same sugary goodies on a whim while doing your weekly shopping?

There are exceptions to this, of course. For example, some beauty boxes contain samples. If you try them and like them, you'll likely want to be able to purchase them at your local drugstore.

Keep both your mailbox and your wallet happy

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Most subscription boxes are sent out monthly. However, others go out weekly or even quarterly. Every subscription box service should detail the frequency with which it sends out its boxes on its website.

As a consumer, it is crucial that you take note of this frequency. The reason for that is simple.

You see, unless you opt for a subscription box service that gives you the option to purchase boxes one-by-one without membership or subscription, your credit or debit card will be charged regularly.

Of course, since the whole point of subscribing to a box service is to receive repeat deliveries, the recurring charges shouldn't surprise you.

However, make sure that you have enough cash to spare in your monthly budget before you sign up to a subscription box service.

Keep in mind that if you want to cancel your subscription, you'll more than likely have to contact customer service. Sometimes canceling your subscription is a walk in the park. Other times, it's a little more frustrating and requires plenty of patience.

As such, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the cancellation process before you even sign up for a subscription.

Possible questions you might want to ask include:

  • What's the cut-off date within a billing cycle?
  • Is there automatic renewal?
  • How likely is it that the price of the box will increase?
  • How to go about canceling your account?
  • Are there penalties for canceling your subscription?

The tedious bits are just as important


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We can't highlight the importance of reading the small print enough when attempting to answer the question "what subscription box should I get?"

There have been plenty of cases where subscription box companies found themselves entangled in messy scandals.

For example, a couple of years ago, one particular subscription box service failed to provide its customers with clear disclosures about its billing practices.

Customers that signed up for the service had apparently no idea that they were committing themselves to a long-term relationship with the company. Moreover, they later discovered unwanted charges on their credit card bills.

Another subscription box company allows consumers to skip as many billing cycles as they want. However, to do that they must go online and select the option "skip" or "shop."

If they forget to do so, the company deducts a refundable sum of money (also known as store credit) from the customer's credit card. However, some customers complain that this store credit (which according to the site never expires) disappears if you decide to cancel your membership.

Some companies also fail to deliver on their promises in terms of the products that they send out. A while ago, a workout oriented subscription box service acquired customers by offering them several pieces of designer fitness apparel.

However, when it was time to send these designer pieces, the company notified its customers that it was going to mail them its own brand apparel instead.

That's not to say that reading the small print will necessarily safeguard you against disappointing experiences. However, getting acquainted with a company's terms and conditions is likely to reduce the number of unpleasant surprises that you encounter.

Other people's opinions matter

Imagine this scenario: You subscribe to a subscription box and receive it months later when you've completely forgotten all about it (and its poor customer service).

Sounds disappointing?

You can avoid this by reading through reviews left by other customers before you go ahead and commit to a subscription box service.

When reading reviews, look out for mentions of:

  • Untimely shipping
  • Unexpected charges
  • Difficulty canceling the subscription service
  • Damaged products or products that don't fit the description on the company's website

If finding customer reviews is for some reason impossible (a red flag right there), take a look at the company's social media.

Often, disgruntled consumers vent their anger on Facebook or Twitter. If you come across negative comments, check to see if the company replied, and if they did, how quickly, to get a better feel for their customer service.

If the reviews are glowing, but you're still not quite sure if a particular subscription box suits your needs and desires, check YouTube for unboxing videos.

Even if the video contains sponsored content (most of them do), you can nevertheless get a taste for things such as packaging, products, and the overall experience.

There's a Box for Everyone

The exact answer to "what subscription box should I get?" varies from one individual to the next.

Generally, you should never pick a subscription box company expecting to receive a specific brand or product. Instead, you should choose a company because you like its value proposition.

Indeed, subscribing to a subscription box service is a bit of a gamble. You can't be sure that you'll like everything inside the box. But that's the whole point of subscription boxes, or at least boxes that fall under the "discovery commerce" category. It's about trying out new products, and it's about letting yourself be surprised.

Not knowing what'll come in the mail next is why this strange obsession with subscription box services is here to stay.

Have you ever tried a subscription box? Which one? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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