Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Birchbox: First Impressions (not a specific box review)

I'm coming at Birchbox from a weird place.

I rarely use makeup. And I've finally figured out my skin 15 years after puberty, so I'm reluctant to change that regimen. And I'm picky about hair care products. And perfume gives me raging headaches. I care about my looks insofar as they don't make me get up any earlier than I absolutely have to. I'm slacker chic. Wash-n-go. Why do I need to complicate this?

Because I straddle this weird space in the world...

You know what, it's not me, it's a lot of us women.

We straddle this weird divide in the world. It's not terrible to put a better foot forward than the one that just stepped out of bed. But that also doesn't mean that we have to break our backs, bowing to the patriachy's demands that we put hours into our looks when they, well, don't. Fuck that noise.

I am Slacker. Chic.

I'll do some minimal work to look better, but if you think I'm going to take half an hour out of my sleep, or internet time, or dance & fitness classes, or craft time, or home maintenance time, you are sorely mistaken.

And my internet time is varied. I'm not going to spend it poring over beauty blogs & pinterest fashion boards. Not all of it, anyway.

And I'm straddling this weird divide where my undergraduate degree had an emphasis in marketing. And I saw those cynics, my brethren, and thought: Fuck, I don't want to be them (except that I kinda still am). So I stand astride this chasm where Facebook can't properly advertise to me because I don't give them enough information. All I do is "x" ads that pertain to weight loss and baby-making because Fuck. Facebook. if they think that because I am wimminz that I hate my body or I have a ticking biological clock. Because I don't and I don't.

But I don't want to waste my time seeking information that marketers could simply bring to me if I just let them.

Targeted marketing is a double-edged sword. I get it.

So I hear about Birchbox. And I go to Birchbox. And I tell them I have combo skin, and above all else I'd most likely splurge on hair product. That I'm 30, and my household income is $X. That I'm concerned about acne, and I like organic stuff....among a handful of other details. I like this marketing model. I don't care page ads in magazines. Those tell me nothing. And I despise - OK? DESPISE - the thought of paying full price (or even using a coupon and maybe paying slightly less than full price) for a full-size product that I. May. Just. Hate. (Really, that's the most likely outcome.) So - I tell someone what I'm looking for and they send me samples? Magical! Marvelous! YES!

I mean, these details + magical makeup algorithm I assume they have (but my first box indicates maybe they don't) / paying $10 a month and sitting on my butt until a box of wonder arrives each month = magical beauty routine makeover that makes me look better in even less time, right? RIGHT??

OK, maybe not so much. It's not like they have incentive to give me products I like, because I'd probably just take them & run. Unsubscribe. Be an unmarketed-to hermit again.

Step 1: Create problem
Step 2: Create solution
Step 3: Market the problem as the solution
Step 4: Market the solution as the solution
Step 5: Profit

So I fill out the profile, and I send in a suggestion. It seems a simple enough suggestion, really. And it's a suggestion that's REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME IF YOU WANT MY $10/MONTH.

So, here's my email:

PLEASE add a "no fragrances!" option. I'm highly sensitive to the chemicals used in almost all perfumes to prolong their staying power. I'm excited to be trying Birchbox, but I'm really hoping I'm not paying for a monthly subscription to headaches followed by re-gifting product to all my friends. If it is at all feasible to add this tweak to the profile as you grow/ expand, I really hope you'll consider it.

Thanks for taking a minute to read/consider,

Here's their reply:

Hi Mox,

Thank you for writing in and I apologize for the delay in response! At this time we are unfortunately unable to omit certain product skus. We hope to be able to do this in the near future, however, at this time it is not possible for us to do so. We understand if this makes it difficult for you to continue with us, however, we hope that you pass along the occasional trouble product along to some lucky friends!

Please let me know if I can help with anything else and have a great day!

-Her name here
Tone deafness where I say "I'm selfish and want this all to myself and therefore do not want to pass things on to friends" and she replies with "maybe you can pass things on to friends, lololol" aside...
Magical Algorithm Fail:
I mean, what good was it for me to fill out a profile if it isn't actually programmed to exclude SKUs based on preferences? I mean, I could totally just click a box that says "By clicking this box I understand that I'm going to get a completely random assortment each month that has nothing to do with any preferences I might have." I would maybe still pay $10/month after that.
But really? Chemical sensitivity?! More than having the option of telling you I get my beauty info from blogs or I'm interested in Birchbox b/c I'm too freakin' lazy to take my butt to a store. More than having the option to say: I like "trendy" things. More than having the option to say: My hair is "color-treated."  More than telling you my skin is "combination." Of all the preferences you need to know, I'd think chemical sensitivity should be pretty high on that list. You know why? 
Because This:

Because of all the May Birchboxes that went out, there could've been any combination of 52 items.

OK, that's a strech. 

Because This: 

Because there's 4 items, right there at the top, that are not perfume and met my other preferences. Because there's 31 more options below those four that meet the following criteria:
1: Not Perfume
2: Not duplicating another item I received this month (in general, i.e. no second nail polish of the 2 or 3 other nail polish offerings they had).

Admittedly, Birchbox has a LOT of perfume to shill, judging by the product pages. 

Oh, and Because This:

Digression: I worked in a theatre (like, live plays theatre). Sundays were Fantastic, let me tell you. When the old ladies put on their Sunday finest for God, not only in their polyester JCPenney 2 piece suits & pearls, but their Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds, as well. We musn't offend God's eyes OR olfactory senses. So, they go through their day, church, post-church lunch, then finally their matinee. And it still reeked by the time they got to the theatre. OK? STINK TO HIGH HEAVEN. And I had to accommodate them, holding my breath (futile). Then work the rest of my shift with a headache, then go home and have a headache until, oh, the next day or so. 

Don't get me wrong, a person needn't bathe in perfume to trigger a headache. No, no, no. Sundays were just the worst of it. Most perfumes, even in low doses, set it off. Go to the mall and walk by a Bath & Bodyworks? Nope. Department store makeup counters? Nope. Just don't go near them. Shoot, someone can just pass yards from me on the street and if their perfume is more emulsifier/binder/colorant than scent then HEADACHE. 

Maybe you'll understand why I'd prefer a perfume-free box of samples through the mail right about now...

So, I'm giving Birchbox at least 3 months. But I'm not happy with the first box. I'm giving it 2 of 5 stars. The rankings are thus:
1 star: absolutely nothing I enjoyed (and thus would not consider purchasing)
2 stars: Some products are OK, some not, and I'm unlikely to purchase any of them
3 stars: Like some products, the rest are OK (nothing, or at most 1 item, unenjoyable), might consider purchasing a product on impulse at a store (not through Birchbox)
4 stars: Strong like of some products, rest are OK, will strongly consider purchase through either store or Birchbox
5 stars: Love of a product, definite purchase straight through Birchbox.

OK...I kinda feel like I just went off the deep end. But that's it. It makes no sense for me to be a Birchbox subscriber. So I've subscribed. Because that's how I roll.

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