Hair & Beauty Magazine

Rant: April Birchbox Debaucle

By Makeupchicliterarygeek @DoriaJM
Note: This post is a rant post that expresses my personal opinion based on my personal experience. I purchased this subscription on my own and have only expressed my own opinions below.  The purpose of this post is to relay my personal experience to my followers, however, I am in no way attempting to coerce you to act upon my experience--the choice is entirely yours.
I've been with Birchbox on and off for almost a year now. I signed up near the beginning of their launch last year, then cancelled my subscription (as I'm sure you know if you follow my blog) after December's uber disappointing box. I waited a few months and then saw/heard that some people were really feeling better about their subscriptions, so I decided to give Birchbox another chance and signed up for the April box. I received my box towards the beginning of last month, was very disappointed, and contacted Birchbox. I received a response and haven't had the energy since to post it ... probably largely due to the fact that Birchbox keeps disappointing me. You also know I hate to post negative things unless I really feel it will benefit my readers, but I really feel you guys need to know about my personal experience here. Also, I've been asked to post about my box, the message I sent to Birchbox, and the response I received by several followers, so here we go...

2012 April Birchbox

Rant: April Birchbox Debaucle

My April Birchbox - Yes to Blueberries mini-pack of cleansing towelettes, PUR 4-in-1 mineral tinted moisturizer, Benta Berry G-1 facial exfoliator, Kahina ArganOil, Kahina facial lotion, Taylor Swift Wonderstruck perfume.

My first issue with this box is that this box was supposed to have a natural theme. Can someone explain to me what's so natural about Taylor Swift's Wonderstruck perfume? Last I checked, it contains plenty of chemicals and synthetic fragrance like most non-natural perfumes. This wasn't even considered my bonus extra, this was a featured product. Is it because it is supposed to smell floral and flowers are natural? Still confused. If you know me you know I have a preference for natural beauty products so I get super frustrated with companies that claim "natural" then throw in things that are clearly not.
 My second issue is that the size of 4 of the products--Taylor Swift's not-so-natural perfume, Benta Berry exfoliating facial cleanser, Kahina argan oil, and Kahina facial lotion--are extremely small. I'm talking free-sample small. Actually, I often get larger samples than that for free when I purchase from beauty stores like Ulta, Sephora, etc. I can also get more product than one of these packets holds for free if I go to Origins and want to try out a few things--they're amazing when it comes to sampling their products, I can't say enough! In fact, the products in the picture above are almost true-to-size haha.
I looked at the contents of this box and my heart just sank. I gave Birchbox a second chance and unfortunately, I was let down for the same reasons I original cancelled. I decided to contact Birchbox over my box. After all, how can they improve if they never receive feedback? If you follow my blog you know I've contacted them before. I've been told different things about the reasons and justifications behind the products I've received. I was even told once that it was essentially my fault because my settings dictated what I got, so I was given suggestions on how to adjust my settings to get boxes better suited to my likes/desires. It didn't work before and it didn't work here.
Anyway, I sent in the following email to Birchbox on April 17th...
I was a subscriber to Birchbox for a while in 2011 and I frequently reviewed my boxes on my blog, however, after several different issues with my subscriptions and disappointing boxes (despite being given advice on how to "improve" the box that was sent to me by choosing different account settings) I ended my subscription.
I recently gave Birchbox a second try after a few beauty blogger friends of mine said their boxes had improved. I loved Birchbox in the beginning so I decided perhaps things are better and last year I had just experienced a "bump in the road". Unfortunately, I received my box several days ago and it is exactly like the ones I received last year that were so disappointing. Not only are the samples so small (most were the size of the samples you receive with purchase from Sephora), but there was nothing that matched my personal settings. I am so incredibly disappointed and I really don't feel that my box was worth $10 even with shipping. Please advise as to your thoughts on this. I've had several readers/followers that received the same box I did express the same shock and disappointment.
Thank you so much for your time!"
I received a response on the 20th asking what the email associated with my account was. I responded within 2 hours of the email from Birchbox with my account info. I then received this response on the 24th (in short, it took a week to get a substantial answer--seems kind of excessive)...
"Thanks so much for being in touch and I'm so sorry to hear you were disappointed with your box!
I understand your concerns and I'd love to discuss your feedback with you.

The ultimate idea behind our business is that you get to try an amazing array of products before you consider buying them. We always strive to send our members products that they'll love, but we are also happy to know we are fulfilling our goal of helping you navigate through the cluttered beauty world to suss out products. This is part of the inherent value of your $10 subscription.
Yes, you can choose samples of products at department stores, but with Birchbox you are also paying for a service. The value of your membership is that you don't have to find a sales associate to help you navigate through the aisles, find the products you want to sample, and do all this while feeling pressured to purchase a full-size product (which most of us cannot always afford).
Each month our brand team works really hard to acquire all the samples for the boxes. They are then allocated according to what everyone has in their profile. For instance, as someone who listed their skin concerns as "sensitive" and "sun-protection" the Pur Minerals tinted moisturizer seemed like a good fit as mineral products tend to be better for sensitive skin and it is SPF 20 as well. We sent you the Benta Berry exfoliating cleanser because you've let us know that you have combination skin. This exfoliator is gentle enough for your dryer areas, but also regulates oil production for the areas that are a bit more oily.
Additionally, please don't forget about our
Birchbox Points program! Every month by leaving feedback on your samples, you earn back 50-60 Birchbox points--which is half the cost of your monthly Birchbox. 100 Birchbox points is equal to $10 in our shop and with all the other ways to earn points, they rack up fast! Please don't forget to check this out as it's an amazing bonus to your subscription which counts for incredible full-size discounts that can't be beat anywhere else!
I hope my email assured you of the value of your purchase, the care that goes into selecting samples,
and our appreciation of all of your feedback. Please don't hesitate to be in touch with any more suggestions, comments, or if you would like to discuss anything further."
Does anyone see any issues with this response? In one swoop customer service managed to disregard the majority of my actual issue (the size of the products) and further push Birchbox on me (earning Birchbox points and using the shop).
Aside from not once addressing my issues with the sheer size of the samples I received (a major issue I mentioned in my initial email), I was told that the majority of the $10 value for which we pay Birchbox has to do with them choosing products for us as you can see here...
"Yes, you can choose samples of products at department stores, but with Birchbox you are also paying for a service. The value of your membership is that you don't have to find a sales associate to help you navigate through the aisles, find the products you want to sample, and do all this while feeling pressured to purchase a full-size product (which most of us cannot always afford)."
Ummmmm I was under the impression that the point was to try out new beauty products through deluxe-size samples we received from beloved and emerging brands. Ironically, this text on the site has been changed to "trial-size". That seems a bit vague to me. Trial size could be a month or one-time use. Had I know the subscription had changed from deluxe-size to trial-size I would have never signed back up. The ironic part is, the meta tagline at the top of the web page says, "Deluxe beauty samples delivered to your door" still! Most of what I received was definitely not deluxe.
And regarding the service being worth $10 so I don't have to "find sales associate" and navigate through aisles ... I wasn't aware that receive 2 or 3 lotions or oils every month was helping me to navigate through the "cluttered beauty world and suss out products".
When I review subscription services, and I've done a decent amount, I look for a few different things:
  • Sample size
  • Sample brand variety (we don't need 4 out of 5 products to be from the same company)
  • Sample type variety (we don't need 3 out of 5 samples to be lotion or oil every time)
  • Presence of obvious "filler" products (putting a non-natural perfume in a natural-themed box is obviously not well thought out and putting a fragrance sample in every box, which is what I believe many of us have experienced, really does feel like a filler)
  • Non-beauty items in beauty boxes (one follower told me she received detergent one month???) - why call it a beauty box if you don't stick to beauty? Nothing glamorous about laundry last I checked...
  • General repeats (nobody wants to receive the same box every month with slight variation)
To me, these are many of the areas Birchbox now fails in.  When they first launched I was so excited over everything I saw and received. Each Birchbox was like a little present filled with goodies. Now, I see the same things over and over and the sizes are getting smaller and smaller. And the cherry on the cake for me is the customer service. While I've never had anyone be overtly rude, I have yet to have someone be extremely helpful. I very clearly laid out my issues with my box and I received a very generic response that didn't hit my main issues. Ironically, again I was told my box was a result of my choices on my profile.
Needless to say, I will not be continuing with Birchbox anytime soon unless some amazingly miraculous event occurs. I tried to cancel my subscription the other day and somehow it didn't take, so I will be getting May's box. While it's supposed to be amazing with its special Gossip Girls theme, I've seen too many misses with their boxes lately to get excited. Perhaps they'll prove me wrong with this one, but even then, it will take more than 1 box to make me a believer again.
So there you have it. I know some people still love their Birchbox subscription and I'm extremely happy and excited for them that they've found a service that suits them. I wish Birchbox could have been this for me.

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