The DIY movement notwithstanding, many people are so desperate to shed chores they’ve started outsourcing even frivolous shopping. It’s a situation caused by and, in turn, fueling a big retail trend: subscription boxes.
Even if you think you’ve never heard of subscription boxes, you probably have. Years ago, we knew them as the fruit- or cheese-of-the month club. Now they’ve gone upscale, niche – and run amok.
There are subscription boxes for vegans and carnivores, for the gluten-free and gluten loaders, for people who can’t get enough ostrich jerky or infinity scarves, for preschoolers who insist on sustainably sourced toys – maybe as many as 500.
At this point in the game – about four years since the launch of Birchbox, the beauty-sample site credited with starting the recent surge – almost any American, and her finicky pet, could survive on boxes alone.
Somehow, a nation that endlessly whines about household clutter, and is so prickly about presents that there’s a registry for every gift-giving event, has started paying strangers to pick out — excuse me, curate — random items and ship said items to their homes.
And on those glum days when the mailbox is empty, junkies can fill the void with box-centric YouTube videos, blogs, reviews and discussion boards.
One theory to explain the phenomenon is that we have too much choice – it’s a relief to let someone else paw through all of the junk for you. Another is that exhausted working women want a gift every month – even if it’s one they’ve sent, and paid for, themselves. Even if they don’t actually like it.
Oh, really, I shouldn’t have . . .
Subscribers take their deliveries so seriously that blogs warn of “spoilers” before discussing the contents of a particular box. It’s like learning the gender of your unborn baby, only the reveal involves small-batch pistachios.
Recently, I flirted with a fashion box but luckily the realization that I’d end up schlepping to return clothes I didn’t choose in the first place kicked in before I’d entered my credit card.
But there is one box I’d love: a subscription that takes a box of stuff from your house every month. Call it the disappearing box.
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