Culture Carton is a monthly lifestyle box for men. Each month you’ll receive 3-5 curated lifestyle items and a book they think "every man should read," selected to enhance your gentlemanly status. They have three subscription options:
- Standard - Lifestyle items and a book for $45/month + shipping
- Essential - Just the lifestyle items for $35/month + shipping
- Book Club - One book sent monthly for $16/month + shipping
This is a review of the Standard Culture Carton for $45/month + shipping.
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
About This Men's Lifestyle Subscription
The Subscription Box: Culture Carton
The Cost: $45 a month + shipping. Other options available.
ACTIVE DEAL: Free shipping on all orders over $100
The Products: A curated selection of 3-5 men’s lifestyle items and a book “that belongs on every man’s bookshelf.”
Ships to: The U.S. for varied rates.
Culture Carton Review October 2020
Culture Carton arrives with an info card that lists the items in the box for the month. It gives you a little information on each item and its value.
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan - Listed Value $17.00 (on sale here for $16.46)
I would be lying if I told you I was well-read, but this subscription seems like the perfect opportunity to change that. Is there anything that makes a person more cultured than reading? Maybe traveling, but who's doing much of that these days? My mother, who is very well-read, has already stolen this book from me. So it will be some time before I actually read it, but I don't think you are here to read my personal review. The book is rated 3.68 stars (out of 5) on Goodreads. It is 309 pages and has won something called the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Here is the description:
The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymus Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, is arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He is twenty years old. A German citizen. And he is black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero's bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there's more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero's fate was settled. In Half Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don't tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong.
BennKai Foldable Duffel Bag - Listed Value $40.00
Ok. Follow me on this. You'll love it.
The first thing I always do for a review is try to find the item online so I'm able to provide a link to viewers like you. I went to the BennKai website but couldn't find this particular bag, which is a moot point because you couldn't buy it from the site anyway. BennKai is a wholesaler. Items like this are a minimum purchase of 100 units. So there's that. Furthermore, the main website links to this page which specializes in wholesale purchases specifically for subscription boxes. I guess that's just the way these things work, but it made this box feel cheap for me. Culture Carton (and others I'm sure) just tells them how much they can spend, they get a list of items in that range, and they shop for you.
But wait, there's more.
I don't know if it was an oversight or what, but the bag I received had a Travelwell tag left on it. I decided to search that and found it is apparently a Walmart brand. I searched for this item specifically and ... you can buy from Walmart.com for $10. And it won't have that unsightly BennKai logo on it, either. If Walmart is selling it for $10, it's not even worth that.
As for the bag itself, it's OK, but absolutely not worth $40. It is closer to something your work would put their name on and give away to employees for appreciation week. It is a decent size and it is nice that it folds down compactly. I believe the fabric is nylon and feels like one of those reusable grocery bags. It's very light. The thicker, black fabric that folds the bag shut becomes a pocket when using it as a duffle bag, which is smart. I don't dislike this bag. I dislike that they listed value of $40 so it would read like you got your money's worth.
BennKai High Speed Jump Rope - Listed Value $25
I'm going to be straight. I haven't jumped rope since I was in high school. Back then it was the literal rope with big wooden handles. This item seems high tech compared to that. When I first opened the box, I thought this might be some kind of bike lock, because the "rope" is coated wire. The handles are aluminum and have a small diamond-patterned grip. At the end of the handles, there are ball joints where they hold the wire for maximum rotation. There is a small locking mechanism that shortens the rope to your preferred length. I did try a few jumps on my paver patio for the sake of this review. This was obviously not a good idea, because it marked up the bottom of the rope. That's on me. This jump rope is OK, but then again maybe someone who actually exercises would feel differently. Personally, I'm going to see if one of my more active friends would like to have this.
Like I said above, I don't think you're going to be able to find this specific item anywhere for purchase. But I searched "high speed jump rope" on Amazon and there are many similar, cheaper options. You would think box makers and suppliers would work together to make these things easily available for purchase, but it is not so. Even Culture Carton's website doesn't offer a link. They do sell past boxes and items. So maybe it will show up there. After the duffle bag incident, I do not have high hopes. If the mark-up from the bag is the same, this jump rope would cost $6.88. That is an assumption.
Shoe Rescue Shoe Cleaner - Listed Value $9.00
The only way I keep a pair of shoes clean is by not wearing them often. Maybe I should start wiping them down as well. It says these wipes are specially formulated to remove dirt and surface stains from leather, fabric, and suede. It doesn't say what exactly makes them different than any other wipe, but I'll believe them. There are 15 wipes in the bag. The same company makes other "rescue" wipes for other types of footwear. I tried a few on our shoes and they do indeed clean well. But again, I'm not sure what sets them apart from cheaper wipes.
Update: A viewer commented below and suggested these wipes may be stronger than your average Lysol wipes. I went back and compared the two and that person was right. The Shoe Rescue wipes were tougher and didn't shed in anyway. Thank you for commenting.
95/5 Face Mask - Listed Value $9.00
I couldn't find this mask for purchase anywhere. I searched for this kind of mask by name and I'm not sure what "95/5" is supposed to mean in this context. A lot of results were for N95 masks with 5 layers, which I don't think applies here. However, some results were a 95/5 blend of polyester and spandex, which seems more applicable. Again, this is a moot point, because you likely already have one you like or settled for. This one is OK. Personally, I didn't like the fit.
The Verdict: This is my first Culture Carton review and it was not a very good first impression. Maybe because the BennKai website literally links to a wholesale site about ordering hundreds of items to curate subscription boxes, but the items in this month's box seemed cheap and a poor fit for Culture Carton's mission. Without even having read it yet, I'm going to pick the book as my favorite item. At least I have a little faith reading it will make me feel something, which I cannot say for any of the other items. The wipes are nice but just wipes to me. The mask is a little small and embarrassing to wear. And man, those BennKai items. They are OK for what they are, but the prices are so inflated. I went through old Culture Carton reviews and I see that they do really have nice items sometimes, but this box was miss after miss for me. I am hopeful they can bounce back a bit and I look forward to expanding my library.
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? No, you'll receive the December box as your first box.
Orders placed before the 15th of the month will be shipped on 15th-17th of the month. All orders placed after the 15th will ship the following month.
ACTIVE DEAL: Free shipping on all orders over $100
Value Breakdown: This subscription is among the most expensive monthly boxes for men. It costs $53.27 ($45 + $8.27 shipping to Pittsburgh), which means that each of the five items in this box has an average cost of $10.65. They say the value of this month's box is $99, but there is no chance. The duffle bag and jump ropes are $40 and $25 respectively, but honestly, those are inflated amounts, kind of like the "before price" at Kohls. The wipes are the only non-book item I can find available online, but it's less than the box average. And the mask, while useful, is late to the party. This is all to say I think Culture Carton missed wildly with this one in terms of value, thoughtfulness, and culture. Let's hope this was a one-time thing.
If you are a subscriber to this box, please comment below and tell me how you feel. Honestly. Did I miss the mark?
Check out all of our Culture Carton reviews and see what the best men's subscription boxes of 2020 are, as voted on by our readers.
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