Your snack aisle straight to your door

Exclusive items in every crate!

This Christmas, give them what they really want – with a subscription to the world’s best teas.

Grand Rapids, boxed.

Behold, the taglines for various subscription boxes. Every month, a box/crate/trojan horse arrives at your home, purporting to contain the seven wonders of the world (or, you know, high quality shaving accessories). It’s basically like buying a present for yourself without sacrificing the element of surprise. (Many of these boxes can be given as actual gifts to others, but oh my goodness what a terrifying concept. I have a hard enough time gambling on a box for my own doorstep, let alone that of a loved one, with a box that says “I didn’t know what to get you for Christmas and I still don’t even know what I got you for Christmas.”)

On one hand, I am eternally intrigued by possibility. What if I subscribe to this box and they introduce me to my FAVORITE snack that gives back, one that I never would have tried otherwise? What if the joy I feel at just seeing that the next box has arrived makes overpaying for beauty supplies worth it? What if my dog’s self-esteem improves dramatically because of the frequent integration of new toys into his routine?*

On the other hand, how can I justify spending $20-$100 on something that I have no say over? Like, I give them my money, and they promise to send me a box of stuff. They don’t tell me what any of the stuff will be. I mean, sure, I have an idea, as all of these boxes have themes or boundaries. But the practical part of me wants to know exactly what I’m paying for before I actually pay for it. It’s part of the reason I read online reviews, whether I’m buying something online or standing in the store trying to get the wifi to work while also trying to decide between the copious varieties of immersion blenders. The number of little stars next an item has a huge influence over my opinion of a particular product. When there are so many options, how else can I narrow down the field?

In a world overwhelmed by possibility, sometimes it sounds really great to have someone else make your choices for you and put them in a neat little box. Most of these websites refer to them as “expert curators,” but in reality they are probably just people who are better at making decisions than you.

Full disclosure: I recently purchased two subscription boxes, both with the intention of cancelling as soon as the first box came, because committing and money-spending is hard. One box has arrived, but it is a Christmas present for a five-year-old, so it remains unopened. The other box is for me, and was purchased with the money my grandma gave me for my birthday. It’s not set to arrive until next week, but I felt it was a pretty safe bet judging by the past boxes—which I did, for a long time, before deciding to pay $50 for a box of mystery stuff, stuff I might not like, stuff that might have terrible online reviews.

But what if? What if I free myself from the tyranny of the little yellow stars? What if the “expert curators” are just that?

Guess I’ll just have to open the box to find out.

*Note: these links are not meant to encourage the purchasing of these products. They are simply a brief survey of what is available in the subscription box world. Please don’t get the BarkBox for your dog. Please.

Catherine Kramer

Catherine Kramer (’14) has a degree in English and works in publishing. Her continued existence is made possible by grace, warm hugs, and iced chai lattes.

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