Monday, September 1, 2014

Low Effort Retail Therapy - subscription boxes part 1

I haven't posted for a while ... nor have I been working much on Day Zero (though I would dearly love to have the time to work on my goals).  This is the reason why:
Photo: The new curbs surrounding the turn from Chapman St to the parking lot are in ... more concrete work will happen near the entrance and on the sidewalks.

Funds for the new building will be supplied in part with a Public Library Accessibility and Improvement grant from the Minnesota Department of Education using General Obligation Bonds under the authority of Minnesota Statutes, section 134.45.
I've mentioned that my city is building a new library building.  Two months from today is the contract completion date, and the photo above was taken 4 days ago.  My life is just a tad busy right now with planning how to move around 35,000 books (possibly after we have snow on the ground) plus other items to the new location and making certain that all the ordered new furnishings will arrive at the new building at the proper time and all of the daily tasks that go into running a small library.

I've been looking for ways to combat stress and discovered the world of subscription boxes.  For those of you who haven't heard this term, think "x of the month" club - only the contents are usually a surprise, sometimes run in a theme, and often you can just order a single box to see if you like the contents before committing to an ongoing subscription.  I like to get surprises in the mail, so this sounds like a great way for me to do a little retail therapy for stress without actually having to spend time ... well, shopping.

Horatio's box
I did a little research and came up with a list of about 25 boxes to try.  (Note, that I don't normally spend as much $ on myself as this little project is taking; however, working extra hours EVERY week for a couple of years has cut down on my frivolous expenses in the recent past by not giving me as much time to do recreational things, so I can afford to try a lot of different companies).  My plan is to use a random number generator to choose the next box to order from my (numbered) list of options every night that I come home from work and meet the following two conditions:  I'm stressed out or exhausted by the events of the day AND there isn't already a box waiting for me in the mail.  Then, I'll try to review boxes in batches on this blog - both to keep it active until I get a chance to start working on DayZero again AND because I found other blog reviews quite helpful when putting together my own list of things to order.
Horatio selects his first toy

So, the first box that came was Bunny's Furr and Feathers Funpack.  My cat, Horatio, was firmly in favor of receiving it and had no trouble helping me open it.  This company has products for various pets, and you fill out a little survey about your pet (age, activity level, etc.) to help customize it.  I was pleasantly surprised at the level of customer service.  I had written that Horatio is picky about treats, and they asked me if he had any special favorites via email and seemed genuinely motivated to get as good a selection of items for my cat as possible rather than just whatever they sent everyone else that month.

The toy he loves
The box came 4 days after I ordered it and contained a variety of 4 toys and 2 types of treats.  Horatio has play-tested 3 of the toys and sampled one type of treat.  He really likes two of the toys.  The first one he pulled out of the box was a very fat faux-fur mouse.  Sadly, the construction wasn't solid, and he managed to rip open a seam and extract a great deal of fiber fluff while I was at work.  He doesn't eat stuff like that, so this is not a huge deal to me but might be to other cat owners.
Other items in Horatio's box

The second toy (and his new favorite) is much more solidly constructed.  He "killed" it over and over the first night - purring loudly the whole time - and multiple times since.  The top is made of mop-like material, the bottom (blue) is faux fur, and it makes intriguing crinkly noises.  I think I laughed at his antics for almost an hour with it - well worth the cost of the entire box for me.  He's also played with the boa-like toy; he has others like this, so it wasn't as exciting.  We haven't tried the last toy yet or the package of dried whitefish treats.  He eats the chicken treats (I think more because of the novelty of getting them in the living room rather than the kitchen) but doesn't ask for them.  As I said, he's very picky about treats.  I will probably order him another box from this company at a later date.

The second box to arrive was, ironically, the other item on the list that was not intended for me!  I missed a gift for my friend Nina's birthday earlier this summer, and this company seemed like one made for her.  (Note that I did not take photos of the contents because it was her gift to open.)  The company, Taste Trunk, has 4 different types of boxes; I ordered her the gourmet variety.  It came in a week.  The contents were normal (though smaller) sized food items from small companies with a variety of tastes represented.  Everything was beautifully packaged and wrapped for safe shipment.  Included were cards with information on each item as well as a few recipes.
Nina's gourmet box

The item that I found the most interesting was chocolate pasta!  Something that I did not expect to see in this box since one of the other boxes you can order specializes in sweets.  The item that Nina exclaimed the most over was a grouping of 4 dip (or seasoning) packets with recipes in English and French.  Also included - an artichoke bruschetta spread, strawberry honey mustard, and ginger sesame dressing.

If you are a foodie, this is a good box.  The price seemed fair, and the choices were an interesting variety.  The company also allows you to make your own trunk by selecting individual items to combine from their website; however, I did not see the items from the box (went looking for that chocolate pasta) included so they must be exclusive to the subscribers.

The final box which I have received to date was Graze.  These little snack packs are less expensive than most of the other companies on my list, so I am going to keep my subscription going for a while here.  I've been looking for some portion-sized snacks for work, and this company may be my answer.  This is an actual on-going subscription service (though you can opt out at any time), so you can't order only one box to try.
My first Graze box

The interesting part of the Graze concept is how they determine which snacks to send you.  You have a profile and can choose to "trash" - i.e. ask them never to send you - any of their snacks that you don't like.  You can also "love" items - which I would guess means you will have a higher chance of receiving them.  Or, you can ask for only lower calorie snacks.  You can go in and rate snacks after you receive them or pre-rate based on the descriptions.  (For example, I went through and trashed everything that included pistachios since I don't like them.)  My first set of 4 snacks looks interesting.  I plan to bring the box to work (it's about the size of a book), so I haven't tried any of them yet.  I will be interested to see how the boxes change as I rate more items that I have had a chance to try.

More items discussed in future posts as I receive them ...

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