Thursday, April 19, 2018
Deals & Shopping

Think inside the box — for samples

Once, businesses would hand out free samples in malls or throw them in with other purchases.

Now, several businesses have sprouted up devoted to sending out a box of samples to customers once a month — and actually getting them to pay for it.

While wine- or steak-of-the-month clubs have been around forever, the box of mystery treats is a relatively new form of subscription sales. It has caught on fast.

Birchbox, one of the first such services and one of the biggest, offers five beauty product and makeup samples for women and men per month. It started in 2010 and now boasts 300,000 subscribers who pay $10 a month for the women's box or $20 a month for the men's box.

The model has caught on quickly, helped by social media sites where subscribers can show pictures of their boxes and rate the contents. Now you can get boxes full of every product you can imagine, from healthy snacks, dog treats and kids' toys all the way to tampons. The boxes come stuffed with samples or full-size products that marketers want you to try.

Even Walmart, the world's largest retailer, started offering its own box of food samples, Goodies, in November.

But are these boxes worth the money? Here are some things to consider if you're deciding to get yourself — or someone else — one of these monthly subscription boxes.

First of all, be skeptical, says Sheryl Garrett, founder of the Garrett Planning Network of financial planners.

"From a marketer's standpoint, it's a great way for them to separate us from our money," she said.

While it may be a good way to explore products you may not have heard of before, she said, you're probably going to spend more than you would have otherwise. "If you pay $20 to get five snacks in a box," she said, "they may be tasty and edible, but would you have gone to a specialty food shop and bought these four or five bags? Probably not."

Another caution: there are usually only three- or six-month or yearly subscriptions available, so you can't cancel if you're disappointed after a month.

Still, if you want to try a sample service, one way to get more bang for your buck is to find services that are well-reviewed and closely match your tastes (or those of a friend or relative if you're giving them as a gift).

Gautam Gupta, CEO of Naturebox.com, which offers five snacks per box, said to take advantage of a company's presence on Facebook or Pinterest to evaluate the company.

"One of the things that give you a great sense of whether customers like the product or not is what they're saying," he said. Naturebox.com, which offers monthly healthy snacks the company creates itself, has 300,000 Facebook fans, many commenting on what they received in their boxes each month. Other sites like Instagram and Twitter are a wealth of information, too.

Next, check out the company's website to find out how the products are chosen, he said. Naturebox makes its own snacks and gets them approved by nutritionists. But most sampling boxes work with other companies to procure samples.

"See if there is some criteria the company is putting forward that governs the way the products come in the box," he said.

Comments
Go retro this week at Artpool’s Gatsby Gala and the Antiquarian Book Fair

Go retro this week at Artpool’s Gatsby Gala and the Antiquarian Book Fair

RIP-ROARING: ARTPOOL'S GATSBY GALAArtpool gallery has been showcasing local art and funky fashion in St. Pete for 10 years now, and to celebrate, they're having a 1920s-themed Gatsby Gala on Saturday. So break out the fringe and feathers and practice...
Updated: 12 hours ago
5 things to do under $5: Taste of Science talks, free ‘Field of Dreams’ screening

5 things to do under $5: Taste of Science talks, free ‘Field of Dreams’ screening

1 Field of Dreams: Kick off baseball season with Tampa Bay Rays mascots and a movie that makes every baseball fan cry. Raymond and DJ Kitty will be at Tampa Theatre for photos and you can join in a Take Me Out to the Ballpark sing-along on the Mighty...
Published: 04/18/18
We critique the best and worst brands of sparkling water

We critique the best and worst brands of sparkling water

Sparkling water, much like when you shake it before opening, has exploded in the United States the past few years. The fervor for fizzy water has soft echoes of the meteoric rise of bottled water during the early 2000s, just with more pastels perfect...
Published: 04/18/18
How much water do I need? Plus, other H20 facts

How much water do I need? Plus, other H20 facts

Okay, really, how much water do we need? The Mayo Clinic says there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for this because of differences in exercise, environment, overall health and factors like pregnancy or breast-feeding. The National Academies of Science...
Published: 04/18/18
Meet an artist while you shop Dunedin, a new makers market and USF’s plant festival

Meet an artist while you shop Dunedin, a new makers market and USF’s plant festival

Shop and Stroll: Dunedin's Second FridayTo call downtown Dunedin charming is an understatement. The shops and galleries offer such a wide range of unique items, it's great that they have a monthly event where they stay open later and have special hap...
Published: 04/12/18
5 things to do under $5: Showcase of community bands, Beer and Burger Throwdown, Eco Fest, Friday Concerts in the Park

5 things to do under $5: Showcase of community bands, Beer and Burger Throwdown, Eco Fest, Friday Concerts in the Park

1 Beer and Burger Throwdown: This dog-friendly festival in Safety Harbor on Saturday with free local craft brew samplings will have 40 burger options from local restaurants and food trucks. Includes live entertainment and music, a dog park, pet suppl...
Published: 04/12/18
Disco Dolls Studio debuts a fresh collection, Belle of the Ball gives prom dresses

Disco Dolls Studio debuts a fresh collection, Belle of the Ball gives prom dresses

FRESH COLLECTION: GARDEN OF HESPERIDESThe creative women of Tampa's Disco Dolls Studio have been busy designing a new clothing collection, which they'll launch Friday with their Garden of Hesperides interactive fashion installation. Brief Greek mytho...
Published: 04/05/18
5 things to do under $5: Unhappy Hour, Springfest, Sunlit Festival

5 things to do under $5: Unhappy Hour, Springfest, Sunlit Festival

1 Springfest Garden Art and Faerie Festival: Gulfport’s Clymer Park transforms adorably this weekend into a mystical "enchanted village," inhabited by roaming costumed faeries, sprites, gnomes, ogres and trolls, gypsies, wizards, minstrels and other ...
Updated one month ago
Universal offers buy one, get one free deal on Halloween Horror Nights

Universal offers buy one, get one free deal on Halloween Horror Nights

Universal has gotten an extra early jump on Halloween season, announcing the dates for 2018’s Halloween Horror Nights as well as a limited-time ticket deal of $77.99 that gets you into the scare zones on a second night for free. The theme park will o...
Updated one month ago
Spring brings make-and-take easter eggs, a plant sale, a spring mixer and membership deals

Spring brings make-and-take easter eggs, a plant sale, a spring mixer and membership deals

CANDY ALTERNATIVE:  MAKE-AND-TAKE EASTER EGGSEaster is Sunday, bringing eggs into the forefront for the past few weeks. But it's usually all about candy, so it's nice to know there a couple of ways to celebrate eggs creatively. They are a symbol...
Updated one month ago