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MSA Q&A – Part 1!

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Tower of Subscription Boxes

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions on this post! There were more questions than I was expecting (which is amazing!) so I decided it would be best to break the answers up into a few posts.

Here is the first round of answers to your questions:

What is your policy on posting news, shipping delays, cancellations etc? I notice very good info on certain boxes and nothing on others. I had just assumed that some companies may directly give you updates, while others do not. Do you also post info/notices that you receive from your members?

Our general policy is to post about anything we think MSA readers would be interested in. And often times, we rely on readers to email us about subscription box changes. Here’s a sampling of FYI posts we’ve done – usually it is a mix between emails we get from companies directly, and tips we get from readers.

In the case of the Julep security breach, we found out about that thanks to MSA readers commenting on the site, then I reached out to Julep to get more information so we could create a helpful post.

This isn’t a question so much as a desperate plea – could you compile a list of companies that ship to APO addresses? My sister is deploying soon and it’s hard to find which boxes would work.

Yes! We will work this – thank you so much for the suggestion!

Do you give yourself enough time off?! It seems like you’re always posting, and I just hope you get down time/time away from your computer!

I’m pretty much always on the computer, but I started this site (almost 5 years ago) as a hobby because I loved subscription boxes, so I’m very lucky that it doesn’t feel like work. And whenever I take a quick break from the screen, I usually have something cute to look at:

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What is your policy on comments? As long as something is respectful, why do some comments not appear on the site (opinions, remarks on products, boxes)?

Here is our guide to commenting on MSA. Some comments may not appear immediately but will show up as soon as they are approved. (Ideally, we try to monitor comments consistently throughout the day and approve them as quickly as they come in, but sometimes that isn’t always possible.)

Liz, how often do you end up painting your nails? I feel like 99% of the time, you actually polish your nails and take a picture for your box reviews. You must paint them every day! (Also, they look awesome, and since you’re painting them, I imagine you aren’t paying for manicures only to have to paint your nails on your own again – so you do a great job!)

I love this question! There is a lot of nail polish in subscription boxes, so I pretty much end up painting my nails every other day. And since I like to be able to weigh in on how long the nail polish formula holds up, my hands are usually two different color polishes to maximize how much nail polish I can evaluate at once.

Will you be reviving an Ipsy v. Birchbox or maybe throw Play! By Sephora (or anything comparable) into the mix?

Yes – great idea! I’ll add Play! by Sephora to the mix moving forward! 🙂

Would you ever consider featuring guest (msa community members) reviews for a box they already receive to be featured on MSA granted they abide by standard guidelines? I’m thinking this would be a cool feature a few times a year. Or have a guest review along with an MSA blog reviewer side by side to get different pov? It’s great we get to add our comments and feedback, but I would love to see additional detailed perspectives!

Love this idea! I think the community is the most valuable part of MSA, and I would love to bring that even more to the forefront of the site. I think it would also be great to have additional ways to let readers share photos throughout the site. If you have more suggestions about this, feel free to comment and/or email me at [email protected]

Another question popped in my mind: has there ever been a company that asked to be reviewed or that MSA paid for, that your spidey sense went off and you thought the company was a scam?

We’ve declined a few opportunities to review boxes in cases where it appeared the company was not fully prepared to launch. For example, their social network links aren’t set up, their FAQ page is blank, etc. In these cases, we’re just let them know that to follow up with us once everything is ready for customers and they are shipping boxes.

In a few rare instances, we’ve seen sites that had checkouts that weren’t secure, and we let them know to follow up with us once they’ve made changes to have proper payment security.

One tip if you are ever feeling cautious about signing up for a subscription box – only do it if they have PayPal as a payment method. This way they won’t have access to your credit card info, and you can cancel your subscription from your PayPal account instead of trying to get a hold of the company to cancel your subscription.

Question for Haley, as a former Sephora employee do you have any advice, tips, tricks & other knowledge for us on how to get the most out of Sephora? For example I just learned that you can get packaged samples sometimes in the store just by asking for them. How do you know what they would have or how do you ask for this? Even what you think is basic knowledge would help because I have always lived about an hour away from a Sephora store until just recently so I am new to that magical world. Include this in your next Play review??

Look for a separate post from Haley with her Sephora tips and secrets, soon!

I have been thinking that maybe in addition to the swap site, maybe there could be a donation page where people can donate their unused products that will go to shelters or people in need. Maybe a charity of the month or something like that. Just a thought.

LOVE THIS! We will work on it. In the meantime, check out this post on the Give Back Box.

If you could offer advice to someone wanting to start their own subscription box, what advice would you give?

If it is a small company, I would advise them to do a quarterly or bimonthly box instead of monthly. I think there are a lot of unknown obstacles that will emerge as you grow, and it’s better to give yourself extra time padded in.

Another tip would be to be as transparent as possible with customers. For example, if there was a delay in inventory getting shipped to you, and thus you will be late in shipping boxes out to customers, I would recommend emailing all customers as soon as you can to give them a heads up. Seeing that happen over the years, I can say that readers are almost always super understanding when things come up and they’ve been properly communicated.

As other’s have asked, how do you handle negative comments on reviews? It seems like the negativity would get irritating lol.

I know that there is pretty much no such thing as a universally appealing box (the Fall FabFitFun box came pretty close, though!). So no matter what, all comments won’t be positive. As many readers have noted, my reviews tend to be positive, so I think it’s great that everyone can weigh in and give anyone reading the review a really balanced perspective.

Why isn’t there a part of the site that introduces all of your reviewers and gives a little profile on them? I know there’s something small at the end of each review, but would be nice to see all the reviewers on the “about us” page.

Great question! We will work on this!

A general subscription question. When I’ve tried a subscription for 3-6 months and like it- it will automatically roll over on my credit card to extend. However, I feel cheated in a way because I’m not receiving any discount or freebies for extending. Why don’t they offer a gift or discount incentive to renew? Is there a way around this, an honest way to get the most bang for my dollar?

I think a lot of MSA readers feel your pain! The good news is that I think some subscription box companies are now trying to create programs that reward loyalty from long term subscribers. I know Rachel Zoe’s Box of Style sends out a gift to subscribers who have been with them for a certain amount of boxes, and FabFitFun lets annual subscribers select their item variants, and also gives them early access to certain shop sales.

How did you think of the idea to start the swap site?

The idea came from MSA readers! We were seeing a lot of readers comment in the reviews about wanting to swap items, and we wanted to figure out a better system that would have more accountability. So, thank you to everyone who helped not only inspired the swap site, but also give us feedback along the way to improve and make it work better for you!

And we’re working on new features for the site that have also been inspired by MSA readers! If you’d like to be a part of our beta tester group when we’re ready to launch, sign up here!

Is there a way you can change the site so that any comments we make can be seen in our profile account? It would be really great if there was an easy way to keep track of what posts we commented on. Then we could easily go back to our comments and respond to anyone who has replied to us.

I love this idea, and we’ll see what we can do. Given how the systems are currently set up, it won’t be an easy fix – so just a heads up that this won’t be happening as soon as we’d like!

I saw a lady who looked SO MUCH like you Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, it was like thinking I may have had a celebrity sighting!  I don’t know if you guys live in the city or ever go to the part that we were in, but I knew it was possible and got excited for a minute. I was SO not going to be a creeper and try to find out for certain though, lol!

Ps, thanks for the works that you guys do!

Haha – that is too funny! One way to verify if it is me is to look for swatch stains all over my wrists 😉

If an MSA reviewer discovers a new box on their own, subscribes to it, and would like to review it, do they need to get your approval first before posting a review of the box?

Yes – because we have so many reviewers, we have to coordinate to make sure only one person is reviewing a certain box.

Also can I have Buckles? : )

How about a picture of Buckles instead? 🙂

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What can you do if a swapper doesn’t send anything?

Please let us know ASAP at [email protected] – we’ll do our best to get in contact with the other swapper, but if that isn’t possible, we’ll block them from the site and warn anyone else who may be potentially swapping with them.

How did you and Eric meet? How long have you been together? You seem like an adorable couple, I would love to hear more about your love story.

Aw, thank you! Eric and I met working at ModCloth eight years ago. He was an engineer at the time, and I was a product manager. When we first started dating, we hadn’t told anyone we worked with and thought it was a secret, but it turns out Buckles totally gave us away – he started wagging his tail anytime Eric walked by my desk, and everyone had figured it out pretty quickly!

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Do you and Eric plan to have kids? If that’s too personal, I understand!

Totally fine to ask! Kids are not in the current plans.

What has been your favorite food discovery of all time?

I start every day with Runa Tea, and a Nugo Slim Gluten Free Crunchy Peanut Butter Bar. (Both subscription box discoveries!)

Would you consider reviewing try the world? It is my favorite subscription.

Yes, we recently started reviewing it again – from what I can tell they’ve fixed the customer care issues they’ve had in the past. (Check out our Try the World reviews.)

This may sound silly, but I just want to say how adorable Buckles is! How old is he? What breed is he? What’s his favorite sub box? And please give him a pet from me!

LOVE this question!

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Buckles is going to be 10 in March. He’s a Cairn Terrier + Poodle mix, and he likes to inspect all boxes when they arrive just to make sure there aren’t any food items in them, but his favorite box is Barkbox! (Pets + scratches given!)

Darla beat me to it. But please answer her Buckles questions.  What does he like to do when he isn’t helping with reviews?

Buckles enjoys snoozing, alerting us to FedEx/UPS/USPS deliveries, and more snoozing.

When a box review says it is paid for by MSA, what exactly does that mean?

That means that we paid for it instead of getting it sent to us at no cost for review. Eric and I have personal email accounts we use for some subscriptions we sign up for, and for other reviewers, we either set up the subscription for them and pay for it, or reimburse them.

I’m curious if the critique level varies from boxes you guys get for free vs boxes you purchase out of your own pocket?

We really want the critique level to always been consistent across all boxes, but I totally understand your concern, and that’s why we always disclose if we paid for the box or received it at no cost at the top of the review. In general, we try to evaluate all boxes on their value, if they delivered what they promised, and then add in our personal take on the items.

Liz, do you still receive Golden Tote? If so, why did you stop posting your reviews? I would love to see more than just one person reviewing the totes each month so we could see some of the variation in the offerings!

I stopped reviewing Golden Tote (I think over a year ago), because at the time I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures of myself for the site (I’m still not crazy about it ;)), and Haley was doing such great reviews modeling the clothing, that I knew it would be better for MSA readers to see Haley’s Golden Tote reviews than mine, even though I still love Golden Tote a lot!

I like your idea of showing variations of what subscribers may receive from clothing boxes – especially since they are catered to your style preferences, so we’ll see if we can add more takes on these boxes in the future!

A lot of subscribers are women who have men in their who do not understand our love of subs (how sad). How was you able to convince Eric to join in the obsession, or did he just fell into it along with you. He does seem to enjoy the subs he reviews. Thanks.

I think when I first started getting hooked on subscription boxes, there weren’t too many options for men. And in the first year of the site, I reviewed the majority of the men’s boxes, too. Eric has definitely come around since then and is almost as addicted as I am. He loves the geek boxes, and even though he wasn’t super excited when the Men’s Health box came out, I subscribed for him, and once he had it in his hands, it is now one of his favorite boxes!

And geek subscription boxes got him addicted to POP figures, too!

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Do you all still get excited when you get certain boxes, or is it more business than pleasure at this point?

Believe it or not, I still truly get excited for the words, “Mail’s here!”

Have you ever had so much stuff from boxes that you didn’t want, you had to donate it or have a yard sale?

We make regular donations of products to our local Dress for Success and several other charities (it varies depending on the items).

Thank you again for all your questions – look for Part 2 of the answers coming soon!

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.

56 Comments

  1. Part II! Part II!!

    • Haha! Thank you for the reminder! 🙂 I’ll get on it!

  2. Love this post, especially love this picture.

    I kept forgetting on the survey post to recommend Food Cardigan, who I’d love to see reviewed. I get the kids socks, and they are both funny and well made.

  3. What do you do with the makeup you swatched once for the review?

    How does someone become a MSA reviewer?

  4. I loved this! Thank you for being so open and sharing with your readers❤ I felt like I was in the room when you were answering ! Much love, Liz!

  5. This post was so interesting! Thanks, Liz! Looking forward to part 2 🙂

  6. Liz, thank you so much for all of the hard work, I love the site, it has been so much fun participating in the discussions and of course receiving sub boxes!!!!! Also, buckles is just about the cutest thing ever, my dog is also super interested in my boxes, until he realizes that their is no food, then he goes back to snoozing.

  7. I also just want to thank you for this site. I have learned a lot and it is a bright spot in my day!!!

  8. Do you make a living off of this or is it just a hobby? I keep wondering how that works.

  9. I love the story of how you and Eric met and Buckles outing you two. LOL

  10. Thanks for posting this. It’s interesting/adorable (Buckles 🙂 and fun to read about you guys!

  11. I didn’t think I would really read through this, but before I knew it, I was at the end and had read every question/answer! Super interesting! Thanks for posting this.

    • Haha, me too <3!

  12. Great Q &A! Enjoyed reading and loved the donation to charity idea! Looking forward to part 2…

  13. Great article!
    I have a few questions about swapping.
    If you start a swap but no longer see it on your list, does that mean it was declined or is there other notification if a swap is declined?
    Also, how do you add a profile picture? I can’t find that option on the edit profile page.
    If you start a swap but cancel it before the other swapper replies, does if reflect negatively on you?
    Thank you!

  14. What a fun post! Thanks for sharing so much about MSA and your life. Can’t wait for the next one!

  15. Just an FYI for the question about APO addresses: I discovered subscription boxes and MSA while deployed, I’ve even done a good bit of swapping during the 3 years I’ve spent on various deployments overseas. So I’ve got a good handle on what works and what doesn’t. A page identifying military-friendly subs would be incredible, but be careful when a company says “yes.” The way mail works when someone is deployed, is that it is ultimately delivered via the MPS, the Military Postal Service. The MPS operates through the USPS or vice versa. I can’t tell you the operational details, but I can tell you that the only things you want shipped to APO/FPO/DPO mail boxes is USPS Priority or USPS First Class. Anything else, no matter how “express” it may be, will stop at some exit port and fall off the map for months. In some cases, forever. UPS, DHL, FedEx, even FedEx Smart Post (which PopSugar swears will work because it’s handled by USPS) will take MONTHS. USPS Parcel post falls under this no-go scenario. The best question to ask a company is if they guarantee USPS Priority shipping, not if they deliver internationally or to military addresses. Anyone can ship UPS to a servicemember but the servicemember may never see it. Speaking from experience, myself and my husband have both been deployed many times! Plus, there are a lot of U.S. military installations all over the world where dependent (spouses and children) live with their servicemembers so I’m sure there is a pretty nice demographic for all kinds of subscription boxes. I’m on my final few months of deployment now, and I’ll be returning to the U.S. in spring. Good luck to anyone out there or anyone sending to them! 🙂

    • Thank you for your service!!!

  16. Liz thank you so much for everything you do. I accidentely stumbled on your site three month ago and now I am a subscriber of 12 boxes thanks to you and your site. I never even knew that this kind of business exist.

  17. Classic story of Buckles outing y’all!!! That has to be the most romantic story ever!! Great Q&A. Thanks for a great website.

  18. This is such a wonderful post Liz, thank you for putting this together! It was nice hearing more of your story, personally and with the site. I love reading all the reviews and really enjoy the swap feature. I’m excited about all the new things in the works too! Thanks again for everything! 🙂

  19. My question is (may be a repeat) – what do you do with all the products? I have stuff piling up everywhere, and I mostly get beauty. I see you have a minimalist style at home so where do you keep all your goodies? Do you keep some or most? Donate or give to friends? I just can’t imagine how much you would receive in just one month, let alone in years.

  20. *squee* You used mine! 😀

    Thanks for the answers! It is cool to know how y’all met. Buckles giving you away is adorable, too!

  21. Love this peek behind the scenes. Busted by Buckles! That’s just too adorable. Just wanted to say I love the site, and offer my thanks for everything you do for the community. I won a $200 Honest Co. gift card just before Christmas and I was (am) beyond thrilled! You guys are the real deal.

  22. I loved this! You have such a wonderful way of wording things that it always comes off so personal. Thank you for being my escape from reality for almost a year now 🙂

  23. Thanks so much Liz for looking out for MSA readers when it comes to determining what boxes you will review when a new company reaches out to you. I truly appreciate your due diligence when it comes to researching the company, and whether they appear truly ready to take on new subscribers. Your answer has not only provided me a bit more sense of security when deciding to subscribe to a newly launched box that MSA introduces to its readers, but it speaks to the level of integrity MSA possesses. 🙂

  24. So glad you guys donate unwanted goodies 😊

  25. Great q &a!!! I love this site! 😊

    • The main question is, how do you afford all these subscription boxes? The total annual cost alone is more than some people earn in a year after taxes! 😧

      • Advertising revenue!!!! See all of the ads on the sidebar? I’m sure one click on those gives MSA some $$$, and that could add up fast. 🙂

  26. Love this!
    (Especially the part about Buckles wagging his tail when he’d see Eric and knowing it’s you bc you’ll have swatches on your arm)

  27. Liz and Eric-

    First of all thank you for all of this and including us all in your lives! I love the Q&A 🙂

    Since I know you guys are probably swamped with everything being suggested, my top picks for the site changes are below-

    1. As suggested earlier, a section detailing the donation of the month for our excess samples. Details including the shipping address of the charity, condition of the items they will accept (foil seal only etc), and relevant tax information if applicable.

    2. Pretty please can Ragan to write a posting/page about item expiration dates and cosmetic hygenine ? Earlier she mentioned a background in biochem, so I would love to see a section on this. I remember way back when I was in highschool, my poor sister made the mistake of using old mascara, 2 weeks of pink eye later we both would never forget that lesson. Would be even cooler if down the road, the site could include a listing of when products will expire from different boxes, so we’ll have a reminder of what to use up first!

    3. Can you and Eric go on vacation please and take pictures/write a simple post for each day? I love how clean, short and simple your reviews are, introducing me to new and exciting things!

    My questing for you is, since Eric collects funky Pop figures, do you get to collect anything?

    Thank you again!

  28. I really enjoy posts like this (especially Buckles! Bring on the dog!!). It’s nice to get some insight on a website I check pretty much daily. You guys do an awesome job here, and it’s much appreciated!

  29. Thanks for taking time to do this Q&A! I loved the glimpses into your life, it always makes this site more addicting. And since I started reading these reviews over a year ago, I have gotten addicted myself – so much that my best friend makes fun of how much of my stuff comes from a box (but not enough that she won’t accept any of the items I don’t want or think she may enjoy 😉)

  30. Yay! Thank you for answering my question, Liz, and for the Bucklesography! He is too sweet. This was a great read. Thank you for answering our questions and I look forward to Part 2!

  31. Liz, I never would have guessed you were uncomfortable with taking photos for the site! Your photo shoots are always so inviting & professional-looking, and I really appreciate the fact that you take the time to post multiple shots to see the items at different angles to get a better sense of what they are really like in person (like with the Jack & Lucy Bicoastal hat, for example).

    • I had the same thought! All Liz’s pictures (including the ones of herself) always look so polished and professional. Well done.

  32. Thanks for this! This isn’t a question, but more of a request: I saw that you used to do a quarterly box. I would love if this came back, OR if you occasionally did giveaways on this site for items you decided to not keep (like home, fashion, jewelry items, etc. Not used beauty products or half-eaten snacks, lol). I think it’s great that you regularly donate items, but I would think that you end up with tons of great products you don’t keep, and this would be a nice way to occasionally reward MSA readers outside of the box giveaways. Whether it was a box of 5 awesome items from various subs you didn’t want to keep, or just 1 item, I would still be excited to sign up for those giveaways! Lots of beauty items are dupes too, so you could reuse the photos from past reviews of other boxes so that you don’t have to open new products that are the exact same brand, item, and shade (like tons of Manna Kadar!). I’ll keep coming back to this site no matter what you do, but I think this would be cool.

  33. Wow, Great post Liz Thank You for sharing and cool story of how you and Eric meet!

    • *met oops

  34. I loved the story about how you and your husband met and Buckles giving your relationship away haha! Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your life, and thank you for making such an amazing site! I’m kind of a homebody with quite a bit of social anxiety so I don’t have many “real-life” friends but I’ve met so many amazing people through the swaps and forum that it’s therapeutic to my everyday life. Who would’ve thought my sub box addiction would help me make friends, and it’s all cause of you Liz! 🙂

  35. Can we ask things here? My question is when we subscribe to boxes that haven’t been reviewed on this site and want to swap items from them. I know we’re supposed to e-mail you, Liz, to add boxes to the swap site. But for one box, I e-mailed you multiple times (including links to the box to show it was legit), and I never got a response, and the box was never included in the options for the swaps. So I admit, I listed the items under another box, and in the comments said where they came from. (It was a box for kids with special needs, and I had no affiliation with it, incidentally.)

    Is there some better way to notify you about boxes? Is there a reason you’ll add some to the swap site, but not others?

    Also thinking it would be great if you could add a category for clothing mystery boxes from various sites, whether Pick Your Plum, Groopdealz, TAG online boutique (on Facebook and website), etc. You have Modcloth Stylish Surprise, Golden Tote, and Moxie Style (plus a few now-defunct boxes), but there are lots of other mystery boxes online, and it would be great to list items for swap from them, too!

  36. Love this! This site is as addicting as the boxes themselves!

    • So true!!
      The big part of the success of this site is Liz (and Buckles and Eric). I feel like you’re a girlfriend I trust. Thanks for doing the Q&A and letting us in, like a girlfriend would!

      Keep up the good work, team 🙂

  37. I love this! I have a question- how do people become reviewers for the site? I think a lot of us consider it to be a dream side job!!!

    • Ditto! I totally want to review boxes 🙂

      • I would too!

    • This question was asked a lot in her original post seeking questions, so I’m sure it will be answered in Part 2 (or 3, 4, 5…. there were a LOT of questions!). 🙂

  38. I enhoyed reading this. Thank you for opening up your world to us!

  39. Thank you 🙂

  40. I enjoyed reading this, thanks!

    • Oh, I also wanted to say, you guys do a wonderful job!

      • Thank you so much, Lunalee!! 🙂

  41. I really enjoyed reading this…I have tried different subscriptions since I have been reading MSA and really appreciate the reviews and information you share!
    Have a wonderful week…and it was nice to read about how you and your sweetie met!

    • Thanks so much, Sherry! 🙂

      • You are most welcome…I have to tell you…I went from Ipsy and Scentbird to Ipsy,Scentbird, Target, Walmart, FabFitFun, Beautycon, Sephora Play! Boxy Charm and Degustabox because of reviews here…ooops…forgot I just ordered the BeautyTube 2.0…and I enjoyed it…A lot of stuff has gone to friends and family…

        I have driven my sweetie nuts with all of this…I have dropped Beautycon,the Walmart Box and I am most likely dropping Glossybox and Sephora Play…

        At least I am keeping the economy running 🙂

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