This is just a note of caution regarding the purchase of monthly subscription boxes. This business model seems to have exploded in popularity in the last 18 months or so. No doubt, the cheap publicity available through social media has spawned tremendous interest from individuals, partnerships and some established companies. Hundreds have jumped in the deep end of the subscription box market, some perhaps with inflated expectations. The predictable result is that many of them fail quickly. Whether it's due to under capitalization, management inexperience, vendor or fulfillment problems or just plain old fashioned competition, the fact is that these companies can disappear in an instant.
I received the following e-mail this afternoon from Munchit, a company I just signed up with last week after reading many positive reviews:
"Dear Munchit Subscriber,
Many thanks for trying out Munchit! We so appreciate your business and support!
Unfortunately, we are no longer able to offer our online subscription service. If we owe you a refund because you paid for a box you didn't recieve then this refund will show up in your account in the next 5-7 business days.
We apologize for the abrupt notice. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.
The Munchit team"
Of course, the first thing my Type A brain noticed was the misspelling of "receive". Could attention to detail have been part of the problem? That may sound ridiculous but it reminds me of something I heard regarding airline service years ago when I worked for a major airport: "If the tray tables in the cabin have coffee stains on them, what does that tell you about how they maintain the airplane?" Good question!
My point in bringing this up is to encourage you to do your due diligence before signing up with any of these companies. Read the blog posts, watch the YouTube reviews, consult websites devoted to subscription box reviews, check out the vendor's website and judge for yourself whether you feel comfortable doing business with that company.
I like to believe the best of people, particularly those entrepreneurs who are growing our economy through small business start-ups, but we all need assurance that our credit card information is safe and that the company will behave with integrity if things go south.
There is no science to this but these are some of the things I check before signing up for a subscription service:
- There should be plenty of recent blog posts and YouTube reviews about the company; if there aren't, something could be wrong. You may want to take a chance on a brand new subscription service. If so, that's fine....just do it with your eyes wide open!
- Look around the company's website. Does it seem to be fully operational? Are all the obvious first time buyer questions answered? New websites tend to have "dead spots", but 75% of the site should be complete and easy to navigate.
- Read the "About Us" section carefully. Look for a physical address and a phone number. Not all on-line retailers will show a physical address but it's a big plus to me if they do.
- On the product pages on their website, do you see uncensored buyer reviews? Not all sites have these, but it's a sign of confidence in their product if they do.
- Test their ability and willingness to communicate by sending a short e-mail asking a question. If you don't get an answer within 24 hours, I'd move on.
- Check their Facebook page. Is the box for reader comments enabled? If not, that's a BIG red flag to me. If they do have subscriber comments, how responsive are they to complaints?
Lastly, it makes sense to use only one credit card for Internet purchases. That way, if you do have a problem, you don't end up in a mad scramble to figure out what card you registered with what company. It's just easier to manage on-line purchases if you are not juggling multiple cards.
Most of the above applies to on-line shopping in general but since the growth of subscription service companies is particularly volatile right now, it makes sense to use extra care when checking them out.
As always, thanks for reading!