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How to Tell if a Subscription Box Company is Legit

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Is This Subscription Box Company Legit?

While most subscription box companies that launch are legitimate, I sometimes see some new subscription boxes that launch and look a little suspect. Even those usually turn out to be fine. (Remember when BoxyCharm first launched and used GlossyBox’s website template?) But occasionally there are some companies that are just not prepared for all that is involved with running a subscription. Once in a while a reader reaches out to ask if I think a new company looks legit, and I use the following set of questions to give the best answer I can. (This isn’t a 100% fool proof check list – WhimseyBox would have passed the test a few months ago – but hopefully it is helpful.)

 

Does the website look legit? 

Is it well-designed and look professional? I’ve seen some very legit subscription boxes that have spent no money on their website and it is unfortunate because their websites often make them look amateur. This isn’t a deal breaker rule for me, but in general I think if a company has enough money to invest in a proper website, then they also hopefully should have enough money to handle any issues that might come up.

Another thing to look for is if they are using their own images or stock images. I’ve actually seen a few new box companies launch their site with images taken from other subscription box companies. (And they photoshop out the name of the box). Whenever a company requests to be listed in our directory and they are using an image from another subscription, I let them know we won’t list them if they are using stolen images. (This is a major pet-peeve of mine – especially because every company that has done this has told me they didn’t know it was from another box company…)

Is the checkout secure?

Always look for a secure https URL.

Do they have a presence on Social Media?

This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but it does show how dedicated the company is to starting their subscription. If they don’t have the time to dedicate to social media, they may not have the time for customer care, etc.

Do they have a phone number listed? Are they easy to contact?

If you want to see how a company will respond if an issue comes up once you are a subscriber, try reaching out to them before you sign up to see what their response time is like. If you can’t find an easy way to contact them via their site, that’s a red flag.

Do they have all the FAQ and info you need on their site?

Again, not a deal breaker, but it shows how much time, thought and research they’ve put into their site and how helpful they want to be.

And if you’re still on the fence but really want to try the box – only sign up if they offer PayPal payments.

This is my general rule of thumb when I’m looking at trying a new subscription box but not sure how easy it would be to cancel a subscription if I’m disappointed with the service. They great thing about recurring payments in PayPal for subscription boxes is that you don’t have to contact the company to cancel. You just login to your PayPal account and cancel the recurring payment to that company. So worst case scenario you might be out one payment, but you don’t have to worry about calling your credit card company to refute the charges and possibly having to get a new credit card if your credit card company deems that the subscription company is fraudulent.

I hope that helps! If you have any other tips for scouting out new boxes let us know!

Written by Liz Cadman

Liz Cadman

Liz is the founder of My Subscription Addiction. She’s been hooked on subscription boxes since 2011 thanks to Birchbox, and she now subscribes to over 100 boxes. Her favorites include POPSUGAR Must Have, FabFitFun, and any box that features natural beauty products!
All views in this review are the opinion of the author. My Subscription Addiction will never accept payment in exchange for a review, but will accept a box at no cost to provide honest opinions on the box. This post may contain affiliate/referral links. Read the complete My Subscription Addiction disclosure.

47 Comments

  1. Liz and anyone – Is it possible to do a post about gifting subscriptions? I’m not sure how to gift them because many do not offer a “gift” subscription. Do people email the company or change the shipping address? Is it better to start a gift sub in November or December. Are boxes significantly delayed in December due to the holiday shipping delays? Which boxes offer one month only with no renewal? For example Dottie Boxes can be purchased as a one time purchase.

    • Great suggestion – I’l work on a post 🙂

  2. Great post, Liz! Thank you so much for sharing your criteria. I will keep this in mind as I explore the subscription box world!

  3. Good advise. I only think of PayPal for Ebay items. Does anyone know when the next French Box is shipping? I can hardly wait to see what the next box brings and could not find anything on the website saying when they ship.

    • I checked their Facebook page after I posted my comment here. It will be shipping soon and the spoiler is “a warm region of the France”.

      • Thank you for the information and checking on this. I normally never go to Facebook so never think to check there.

        • I never looked at Facebook until sub boxes. It seems that the majority of them use their Facebook pages to communicate information to their customers. I find it to be annoying. I did check the Facebook page again and found that they responded to comments about shipping dates.

          They posted on Facebook they are aiming to ship on the 13th and tracking emails will be in our inbox on Monday! I wonder if my tracking will update on this box because it did not on the first box causing me to wonder if I will receive one until it showed up right on time.

    • The boxes normally ship on the 15th, but I read somewhere they were going to start shipping them this month on the 12th. Although, “normally” wouldnt be the right word since there’s only been one box so far 🙂

  4. I have never subscribed to whimseybox but happened to see your post about thinking it was on the way out. Fast forward to yesterday, I own a retail craft supply shop and we have a big show coming up in January, trade show, education etc. We get a magazine called craft industry today…On page 20 of this fall 2014 edition is a layout featuring Alicia DiRago, the creator of whimseybox. It talks about how she started it, that they recently started a new program called whimseybox influencer network….that they have an entire crew packing and shipping boxes….

  5. Great post Liz. – My favorite box company has been Blush Mystery Box and FabFitFun. Both have excellent customer service, and it is nice to be able to speak to someone. The companies that bother me most are the ones that don’t email back in a timely manner ( 2 business days ), and make canceling a irritating. Those same companies are the ones that even if the box got better and more to my liking I will not resubscribe. If a company is not on social media that does not bother me. I just want a phone # to contact them that is not disconected. I prefer that much more so over social media. I’ve taken a few chances on getting a few new boxes recently, and I’ve either gotten annoyed by the value or curation or both. Cancling was not easy or fun. I’m getting to the point if I can not not cancel directly though the account I set up on the site, I won’t purchase the box, unless it has been around for at least 6 month and has a good reputation.

  6. I am trying to cancel my Escape monthly box with no success. There is no phone number and my e-mails go unanswered. Does anyone have any advice?

    • They have a contact us button on their website that you can type questions into….I just typed cancel subscription and it brought me to a form. After that they emailed me and I canceled. Good luck

    • I too am having this issue but I tried cancelling my 1st order immediately after placing/payment. The site said I’d get a particular box but once I paid the confirmation named a different box. They had no phone# anywhere and after scouring every inch of the site found the only answer was a set of account cancellation instructions which did not work. Finally I jumped through a ton of hoops just to get access to sending a message (ONLY through a site link, no email address for them displayed) asking to cancel my order and subscription. I got 3 quick, odd automated replies offering no clear answer and they charged me anyway. I decided to just let the 1st box come and call my bank to stop further boxes. That was weeks ago and I still have not receieved my box or any further communication. After reading so many reviews on this and other sites I never imagined anything like this happening. If you find a number or other solution please post and I will do the same. Good luck!

      • I had this problem with Taste Trunk, not cancelling my subscription. I screencapped my online request and emailed it to my bank branch. This was the only thing that stopped TT from auto -renewing me even after I had received emails saying my subscription was cancelled. I hope that helps! Get documentation!

    • Ive cancelled by email several times (depending on whether I like the location that month). It does take several days to get a response and twice they’ve refunded a charge because it went through before they got to my email. I’ve never had to ask for the refund, it’s been automatic. But still… annoying that it takes so long for them to get to it. Good luck!

  7. I ordered from AJSMELLYGOOD. Boxes looked great. THE LADY was nice enough to to email me about my daughter’s likes ( smells) since I was sharing it with her.
    I ordered over 2 months ago. I have sent emails..no response. Went to the FB page..and I guess she is having personal problems.
    My money is gone…and no box.
    HAS ANYBODY ELSE OR DEAD THIS BOX? I guess no boxes have been sent.
    There is no reoccurring charge, but somebody has my personal info. I seen this box on Subscription Box Mom. I contacted her since she reviewed this box, she was speedy to return my e-mail. She stated that she had seen on their FB page that the owner was having some issues, but didn’t know much else. 15.00 ant much, but my personal info being in the hands of somebody that can’t return e- mails..and no box or refund….NOT GOOD.

    • My sister received her August box in the beginning of September. She said it smell amazing and looked wonderful. It was a one time payment. She was interested in continuing, but held off because of the delay in the August box. Personally, my opinion is that the owner is in over her head due to personal circumstances. Also I found it disappointing that she wasn’t able to use the Facebook app on her phone while ill to update her customers. My sister is concern too about her personal credit card information.

    • I ordered a 6 month subscription as well as 2 additional boxes on August 5. I have received 1 August box. She has not responded to my many messages. If you look at her Facebook posts you will see she has excuses right from the start. She can’t figure out how to get shipping addresses from her site, she can’t figure out how to retrieve payment, her friend died, her family is sick. Bottom line = she advertised a business, took people’s money and did not come forth with a product. She is a thief!

  8. Another option is to use your credit card’s ‘one time use’ number option. That is what I do. You can fund just enough for one box/one payment and then go from there. You can even go back and add funds if you care to try another month. Also, if you buy a short term (like three months) subscription and worry about automatic renewal, just fund it for that first three months. You can always re-sub if you want to do it or re-fund the number (if the expiration date you chose is still valid). With my cc, I can just get a number from my account online whenever I choose. As far as I know, there is no limit to the number of ‘numbers’ you can make. I also use this option if I am buying something from a website that is based out of the country (think cosmetics or perfumes shipped from HK, etc.).

    • I am an avid user of these one time use numbers. I’ve heard too many horror stories about PayPal. (Thanks to reading the Consumerist.)

  9. Thanks so much for this article! I use paypal so infrequently that it never occurs to me to use it for something other than ebay purchases.

  10. Also you can check Makeup Talk. They don’t cover every new sub but there are threads on a lot of them. Or if you are a member (join for free) you can start a thread asking about a new sub. People there are brutally honest and share a lot of personal experiences with CS, cancellations, missing shipments, etc.

    • Thank you so much for this info!

  11. I think paypal doesn’t offer many features that subscription box companies need. I think its great for the consumer, not so great for the business. I just really appreciate being able to log into my account and cancel w/o having to contact anyone. I also don’t understand why you can’t do that with some companies, especially if they allow you to create customer accounts.

    Or maybe its the companies who don’t offer that option, I’m not sure. But I’ve seen too many women complain about how hard it is to cancel. It should be just as easy as signing up. Also, I do get put off by unprofessional looking websites. Its no different than not wanting to shop at an unsavory looking shop.

    But mostly I come here and Ramblings of a Suburban Mom to check out reviews and then make my decision on a box lol…

    • If you can sign up online but not cancel online that is because the company is purposely making it more difficult to cancel. (I can kind of understand this if they want to ask why you want to cancel and offer alternatives; they might be more likely to convince you to stay on the phone, etc.) However, it does irritate me as well.

      If you want to be successful long-term, make your product worth the money and you will be. Having a bunch of customers who don’t leave but aren’t happy is not good long term.

      • We are looking directly at you, Julep and Fab-anything.

  12. Thanks for posting this! I got completely screwed over by the company Taste for Sweets and wish I had read a post like this before subscribing to them! They don’t have a phone number so you have to e-mail them or fill out a form on their website to cancel, and I tried about 5 different times (and even physically mailed them a letter) and never got a response! So frustrating! They just kept charging my card each month and after filing multiple charge disputes with my bank I finally had to cancel my credit card. Such a pain so I hope people take the time to read your post!

  13. If I’m not sure about any company that I’m purchasing from online, I make the payment with a prepaid American Express or Visa card from the store.

    • GREAT idea! Thank you!!!

  14. I think it is timely that you are addressing this with the holiday specials approaching. There are many subscription boxes out there and it is hard to tell if they are leigt. I came across a Kindle book about how to set up a subscription box business which I did not read. It seems a lot of them are set up with the same website templates and a few use ZenDesk as their customer service software. I was a little concern trying out Bare Bliss box and The French Box for the first time, but it all worked out. I hope to see more of these type of posts as the holidays near.

    • I’m going to have to cancel Bare Bliss Box after my 3 months are up because of my car issues. I think you can cancel online.

      • That’s sad. I’m glad that your family was able to help you find a new car. Have a safe travel this weekend picking it up.

  15. Very happy to see this. I’m a Hedgehog-holic. We have 2 hedgehogs and anything one puts a hedgehog on I must own even if it isn’t age appropriate! Well, someone in one of our FB groups found a subscription site that caters to small animals and has you fill out information – she seemed to get a lot in her box that any hedgehog owner would be thrilled to get – but they are new and their website is a bit geo-cite looking so I’ve been on the fence. They do accept paypal and they don’t auto renew the subscriptions. It is $25 month, less if you do multiple months. I may give it a try just because Barkbox doesn’t seem for us (We have 2 senior pomeranians – one is 18 years old and 7 pounds, 3 cats and the 2 hedgehogs) but I like the idea of spoiling them with a subscription. I do use their names on my extra Birchboxes but that doesn’t really count!

    • What is the name of the small critter sub? We have two rats and that might be fun for my son. . . Please let me now. Thanks!!

      • It is called BFFPetPack and the one that would be for my hedgehogs or for other small critters is called Pocket Pet FunPacks once you are on their site BFFPetPack.com Looks like you can do a single month for $25.

        • Thanks so much for the reply! I mentioned it to my son and that you had hedgehogs and now he wants hedgehogs too : ) I am going to look into the sub box now–thanks again!!

          • There is a great facebook group Hedgehogs Anonymous they are great for information and finding a reputable breeder. We have 2 girls – one is 1 1/2 years old and the other will be 4 in February. I personally think they make great pets.

  16. I try to stay away from new boxes that make you e-mail them to cancel, as it’s easy to get backlogged and/or not answer the e-mail before the next payment date. Even the most popular boxes don’t have the option to cancel from your account but honestly, it should be a staple of the sub box world.

    • Agreed – it baffles me how many require an e-mail or phone call. It just doesn’t seem very user friendly to me.

      This is a great post Liz! The PayPal tip is a great tip and not something I knew about until after I got involved with sub boxes (thankfully I’ve never had an issue), but it really is an extra level of protection for the consumer.
      I also heard that PP is now lengthening their dispute time from 45 days to 180 I believe? I’m not sure how true that is but it’s definitely worth it for people who like to try out boxes right when they come out as potentially you could pay for the box when the box is announced and wait a month or so before the first box is even released then give the company another week or two to get back to you and before you know it the 45 days is up and your out of your money. Definitely something to think about when looking at a new box!

    • Agreed, but obviously it’s for the hard sell so you don’t cancel. I think a lot of the services that allow you to skip months (like Fabletics) justify requiring a phone call by saying “Oh, you can skip unlimited months online so why would you even need to cancel!” (Of course they’re waiting for that one month you’re sick or completely space the subscription so they can charge you.) I have to give kudos to Wantable for offering the slickest way to cancel/skip/renew. You don’t even have to look for it.

      • Actually, I think this is brilliant on their part (e.g. Fabletics, FabKids, etc.). Keeps you in the “family” even if you never skip, you might purchase something on sale, refer a friend, eventually see something you like, etc.

  17. Sorry, but how can you tell if there is a secure https URL?

  18. Ooh, great advice about Paypal. That makes perfect sense! I hate when the company makes it nearly impossible to cancel or even skip a month.

    • Me too – I always pick the PayPal option if it is available!

      • Great Advice, Liz.

        I also wish more subs offered paypal. Some of them say you can buy one box with paypal but can’t sign up for a sub with paypal because a sub is recurring payments that they can’t set up with paypal. Blush Mystery Beauty box you can buy one box not the sub with paypal and Mirenesse you can buy items with paypal but can’t join with paypal. It makes no sense to me because other companies let you join with paypal, Lip factory for example offers paypal. I wish the rest of them would, I would join so many more subs if they did.

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