Beauty boxes aren’t new, but with social media and the internet it has allowed the beauty box business to thrive with special offers, and the young generation to refer their friends with free marketing. Birchbox made it popular again, but who is silly enough pay for a box of free samples? Throw in a pretty box and the young and gullible will, and add a full sized product and it becomes a bargain. I love my beauty products, but I’m not so hot in surprises as I like to know what I am getting which is why I don’t like beauty boxes unless I have a good idea of what will be in it. Can’t people see why they never tell you what’s in it? It’s not so you can have a surprise, it’s so they can put whatever they want in it and it makes sure you buy it and can’t return it.
Basically, you are paying for the box or bag it comes and the shipping, as samples are by law not to be sold. The craze is dying out slowly, as more boxes are cropping up with the same samples, or the odd full sized item, which is often a discontinued item. To the savvy shopper they will know that, but as the target audience is the young 18-30 year old age group who probably don’t have a huge beauty arsenal, or can’t afford premium brands they won’t mind. They are being taken advantage of, and I highlighted this in a Reddit thread only to be attacked by people telling me I get $5 back in points for each box and to stop moaning. I bet they aren’t so cocky now as Birchbox (since July in the US) have stopped that and only offer points when you purchase, and when you do the first reviews. Not such a great deal after all now, and am sure they are eating their words. In the UK, they still offer £5 worth of points for the reviews, but I can see that disappearing in the near future.
What I am tired of is companies talking down to you as if you are an idiot, I mean do I want a spoiler or not? Why would any sane person not want a spoiler and to know if they are going to get value for money? I bought a 6 month subscription to Birchbox for half price, and most months my excitement lasted a total of a couple of minutes, and like many people most items got left in a box and never used. I know this as I joined a few swap clubs and everyone has the same things to swap, as no one wanted them. To add insult to injury, the Birchbox customer service is a joke, so much so that I will dedicate a whole article on them, and report them to trading standards later on.
Many of these makeshift companies work around small print and loopholes, designed to wear down a beauty enthusiast when things go wrong. The winner there is LookFantastic, where the beauty boxes are at least all the same, but their customer service is so poor that they force customers to prove that an item is faulty or that it hasn’t been received. They auto renew subscriptions with no notice (not technically illegal, but not ethical), and store your card details even if you delete them. When you are right, they don’t apologize and make you jump through hoops to get a refund. I had my card debited for an order I never placed, never got an apology, and only got a refund after quoting trading standards laws as there was no order number generated, thus unsolicited goods must be refunded at their own cost. No matter how amazing the contents of a beauty box is there is no way I would trust them with my money again.
Then there is the unprofessionalism—companies pretending they are beauty experts when they curate the boxes. Knock it off; we all know that they compile a box from what samples or products they can get hold of. One company pretends to have a beauty editor who was a professional make-up artist (Love me Beauty), whereas if you look up her credentials she is a shareholder of the company and left University not so long ago. All the blog posts are about what she does (gym visits, what she has baked, and the coffee she drinks), and barely has any credible information. The items they actually offer are limited, and the customer service so bad they don’t allow any visitor posts on their Facebook page. I hate companies pretending to be professional when they are not.
Another company has such a bad website (Cohorted) I just won’t buy from them, as well as pretending they are beauty experts. I can’t take them seriously when they spell the name of the company wrong (Molton Brown was spelt Molten Brown over a dozen times). They post the wrong photo with the description of the item, they ask you to pay a month in advance to pre-order a box, and the recommended value of the limited offer boxes they sell are grossly inflated; it just smacks of unprofessionalism. These companies won’t last long, and people are getting sucked in, but not I. I pity those who have been, and judging by the reviews, there have been a few.
There are some decent boxes that I buy, but I pick what I like and would rather buy a limited edition one where I can see what I am getting. I haven’t been tempted by the beauty advent calendar craze either—surely people can see that they are sample sizes just packaged nicely? Maybe some people aren’t that bright, but I haven’t found one that is genuinely great value yet, but they sell out and the business is all about money. Me, I’d rather spend my money on what I will use. Recently I bought a great value spa week box (£20) with an Elemis face cream (30 ml) that was worth more than the box alone (£50). It’s no surprise that one sold out within days. Now that’s called a bargain beauty box, with full or half sized products.
Buying a box of small samples in a pretty bag or box has appealed to a sector of the demographic, but it is a rip off unless the products are full sized (or special travel sizes), and you know what you are getting. I hate getting ripped off, but love it when I get a bargain. I’ve found a few, and have a good stock of some premium brands, but when a box tries to palm me off with a sachet, that’s the worst. One very sad Birchbox had three sachets in it (out of five products), and when I reviewed it I wished I could have given it a minus. I felt truly ripped off and pitied those who had paid full price. I took little comfort in having paid half price, and also got the £5 paid back in points, and convinced myself that I more or less got the box for free and just paid for the shipping.
Maybe I should I set up my own beauty box business instead as clearly there are many people who will pay for a pretty box of free samples? Customers are demanding better quality of brands, sizes, and importantly customer service, and most are not delivering. I’m ended all my subscriptions, and only have one that can be cancelled at anytime and who also give you a preview before they bill you. If only all companies were like this…