MSA Q&A – Part 1!
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:
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? 🙂
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!
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?
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!
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!
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!