Hey there everyone! I hope the holidays are treating you well. Down here in Texas the temperature has finally dropped below 20, so I’m starting to see what winter is like for the rest of the country. Have to say: not a fan. I had to wear real shoes instead of flip-flops the other day, can you believe that?
Anyway, today I wanted to do a special festive version of Drew Tries Stuff. With Christmas on Sunday, I know some of you are scrambling to think of last minute gifts for people you have no clue what to buy for. And in those moments, the option to get them some sort of monthly gift service can be truly tempting. No judgement here, I’ve used the tactic myself. So, for those of you stuck wanting to get a person something without having any idea what they might actually want, I went and tested several different services to see what the best bang for your buck is.
The One Everyone Knows: Lootcrate
Part of me wishes I’d asked them to sponsor this blog, since it seems like they’ll pay for advertisements everywhere else. Podcasts, Youtube, even regular old cable: sometimes it seems hard to even open the fridge without hearing about Lootcrate. I guess that’s the point of aggressive marketing though: to make sure people know your name. Anyway, this was the first thing to check off on the list since it’s so well known.
Full disclosure: I actually bought this last year since it seemed fun. And for the most part, it has been. Figurines, shirts, neat little accessories, and digital coupon codes make up the usual offerings from month to month. It’s a fun moment, getting the box and popping it open to see what’s inside. Occasionally you’ll get something really unique and interesting too. But since I’ve got a long-term perspective on this, I know that the other side of the equation is clutter. After looking at the non-functional stuff like figurines or décor, you then have to make a choice: use it to decorate your home, give it away, or trash it. While in the beginning you’ll pick the first option a lot, eventually it starts making a home look kind of cluttered, like you left things lying about. Soon you’ve got to make room for the new stuff, which means giving away or tossing the old.
For the price and the fun, Lootcrate isn’t a bad deal by any means. But if eventually the shine wears off the apple and you opt to quit then you won’t have a hard time. Full credit to Lootcrate: it was super easy to cancel. All available right there online, no need to make any calls. Plus, there’s a lot of customization on this one. You can do Lootcrate Anime, Lootcrate Gaming, Lootcrate Pets, and several more. It’s a good value for a fair cost (About $15-$20/month depending on the plan), so if you need a gift in a pinch this one can work well.
The High-Priced One: The Chive Box
I thought about doing one of those fashion boxes next, but I decided not to for a lot of reasons, mostly that loads of people have different ideas of what makes good fashion so it would be hard to make a general review on the topic. Maybe somewhere down the line.
This is a little more comparing apples-to-apples. The Chive is a site either known for its philanthropy or douchery depending on which part of the Internet you hail from, but it was the best example of a high-end lootcrate style box I could find. And that’s what this is, make no mistake. It’s a version of Lootcrate that costs ~$60 a month and advertises a box with a value of over $100 in contents. I got one of these in November, and to their credit they did send a fair bit of stuff. Some of it was referral to the brand, but most of it was generically usable. The theme was Movember, and it contained things like a simple (comfy) t-shirt, a mustache beer mug topper, and several different products for beards/mustaches.
While I wasn’t going to get much mileage out of the beard stuff (I keep a short trim even at my facial-wildest) I do have to give them credit for sticking to the theme. And with the exception of some stickers, everything they sent was either wearable or usable, which means it’s less likely to be a clutter issue. However, on the test of cancelation The Chive fell flat: forcing me to contact a representative to end the expensive subscription.
Between the price and the issues of cancellation, it’s hard for me to call this one a great deal. That said, if you know someone who enjoys the brand and would get a lot out of it, this would make an excellent gift that includes things of actual usefulness, so it absolutely has some value. While Lootcrate was a good catch-all gift, the Chive Box is a solid option for someone you might want to get something more targeted for.
The Specialized One: Shades Club
Despite originally planning to do three grab-bag style boxes like the two above, searching the internet kept leading me to options that were A) Far more specialized or B) Clearly trying to ape the exact model of Lootcrate, and I just didn’t see any value in reviewing what would fundamentally be the same product twice. Instead, I decided to take on one of the more specialized options in the form of Shades Club, a company that sends you sunglasses for $30 a month.
I picked this one for a reason, by the way. I am constantly wearing sunglasses, both because the sun is always bright down here in Dallas and because I like to be left alone when walking my dog. But I’m highly prone to losing the damn things, so I always buy extremely cheap pairs from gas stations or Amazon. This seemed like a good way to get slightly nicer sunglasses for my constantly shrinking collection that might be better than price indicates.
And you know what, that’s exactly what I got. I’ve only recieved one pair so far but I have to say it was a pretty nice set of sunglasses. Comfortable, functional, and without the thing where it’s darker at the top than the bottom. I hate that crap, it always leaves me discombobulated. These were awesome, a very nice pair I’m happy I have and get a lot of use out of. Granted, one set is a narrow sample size, but it indicated at least a quality product. And like Lootcrate before it: full marks for ease of cancelation. You just log-in, click your account, and turn off the subscription when you don’t want to keep paying. No calls, no e-mails, no nothing.
At the end of the day, this one is a little more specialized than the grab-bag boxes, but the flip-side is that you’re getting a product you know the recipient wants (or else I’d hope you’d get them something different) with almost no chance of it becoming clutter. $30 for sunglasses is a steep mark-up from my usual gas station accessories, however it’s a small sum compared to what shades usually cost. Overall I’m pretty happy with this one, enough that I actually decided to keep the subscription up for a few more months. Summer is just around the corner after all, and I’m bound to lose a few pairs of sunglasses on my first trip to the beach.
Whatever you choose, good luck with your gift-giving and Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Holidays/Merry Festivus to you and yours!