Oh, Birchbox. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was bad. I can see the appeal of the box and it is really fun to get a box full of surprises in the mail (I never took the bait of looking at spoilers, even when given 900 opportunities to do so), but my October box was so underwhelming that I decided to pull the plug after being a member since May.
Now it’s time for a little postmortem.
- It’s nice how reviews are incentivized. I was able to trade 300 points for $30 off some CC cream that I liked, therefore taking the price I needed to pay down to a mere $2.
- I tried a lot of new things! Sometimes just that act of trying out is fun, right?
- The size of most samples is less than 3 ounces, making them ideal for use while traveling–for those of us trying to circumvent baggage fees by going carry-on only.
- Some of their customer service reps are amazing. When I complained about something (see full story below), a CSR sent me a small apology gift of a full-size nail polish and a cute small lip crayon. But the first one I dealt with in that situation seemed to not understand what I was talking about and felt very impersonal. So, your mileage may vary.
- The monthly price isn’t awful, especially compared to some of the other boxes out there, and there’s no waiting list to join.
- I made a nice container for corralling my makeup brushes by wrapping a Birchbox in pretty patterned paper from World Market (and still have enough to wrap at least one or two more of the empty boxes).
- Their system of allowing you to pick your own sample. What a mess. I was apparently in for the very first time they tried this and it was awful–I got the email one day, forgot to look at it that night, went to look the next day and had already missed the window of opportunity to choose. Seriously? A day is not nearly enough. Not everyone checks email obsessively and even people who do sometimes forget to act. This is what led me to complain and get good treatment from a CSR. Thing is, it’s never gotten better since then. I’d usually have to rely on a subreddit for subscription boxes to tell me when choose your own sample was available because the Aces (their VIP club, which you enter upon getting 500 points) would get first dibs. But what if I forgot to look at that subreddit? I tend to run very hot or cold on the very idea of checking Reddit and will leave it alone for a few days at times. By the time my email prompting me to select my sample arrived, they’d usually be down to 1 or 2 choices, often one I didn’t want.
- Foil packets! I find this a wildly impractical way to use liquid products like shampoo. I have extremely short hair, so I don’t use much shampoo per wash. Open the packet, dole out a quarter-sized portion or so…then what? Stick it in a ziploc baggie near the shower? Foils are a big pet peeve among many beauty box subscribers.
- I often tend to seek out beauty products myself. For example, the mascara topcoat or foundation primer I bought recently were researched on and selected by myself for qualities I needed. Even with trying to tailor your profile–the CSR mentioned above helped me with that because in my desire to get certain items, I apparently made my profile contradict itself–you can’t always guarantee that.
- Getting items you don’t like or wear! I don’t wear eyeliner because I’m not good at applying it. I’ve received 2 different eyeliners, including a laughably tiny sample in October’s box.
- Some of the items were massively underwhelming upon being used just one time. What do I do with them now? Perhaps I could donate them to a women’s shelter.
- Box envy. It is too real.
The only good thing about breaking up is that they don’t immediately erase you from the system–you’re even able to use any Birchbox Points you’ve accumulated–and they do leave the option open to rejoin if you want to do that.
Besides, I just learned that Target has a beauty box for $7. It lets you see what’s inside first so you can decide whether or not to purchase it. The Fall 2014 one holds little interest to me, mainly because I don’t use hairspray and I have more than enough dry shampoo, but I’ll watch what happens in Winter.
I’ve been considering other beauty boxes, but because I tend to seek things out myself, beauty might not be a good fit for me in terms of boxes anyway. I have also looked into Rocksbox, which I like because it lets me choose what sorts of jewelry I want. Since my ears aren’t pierced and I don’t know my ring size (due to gaining weight in the fingers, weight I’d like to lose there and generally elsewhere, the one ring I’ve owned for nearly 10 years fits too tightly sometimes so we’re on hiatus right now), I can say not to send any earrings or rings.
Rocksbox is $19 a month, but you can keep the pieces as long as you want and even buy ones you really like at a 20% discount. I like to experiment with jewelry, so this may be a great fit for me. Looks like I might be reviewing something new in the future!