Ah yes, it is I, Adrianna, The First of her Name, Unsubscriber of Subscription Boxes.
Okay, maybe a bit aggressive but I’m back with ANOTHER of these posts and… I feel kind of Debbie Downer-y about it, but hear me out…
If you are someone who enjoys checking out beauty/ lifestyle/ fitness posts on various social media platforms, you’ve probably been exposed to ads from FabFitFun. Clickbait-y phrases like “All of this for just $39.99?”, “The #1 Full-Size Box”, and “The Box That Broke The Internet” accompany flatlay style photos of beauty products, blanket scarves, brightly coloured packaging and endorsements from reality TV stars of yesteryear. And the bombardment of those ads (and that blanket scarf) convinced me to subscribe to FabFitFun, starting with the Fall 2016 box.
Fast forward a year and, yup, I am now unsubscribed to this service. I decided to do this post for a couple reasons, but mostly to help inform people that may be on the fence about subscribing.
Another reason I wanted to do this post is that, well, they work. While I really don’t want to seem like an angry, finger-wagging former customer, “Why I Cancelled My Scrapbooking Subscription Boxes” is one of my top five most popular posts. Sometimes when there’s an incentive to get people to sign up, the information available is a bit rosy tinted, as people only want to paint a good picture of a service in hopes they can still get a couple referrals out of the blog post/ video/ etc. I won’t do that to you, I promise. My glasses are 100% black tinted (and polarized because the eye doctor said my $7 H&M sunglasses weren’t cutting it).
I’m not going to go to into how I found and why I initially subscribed to FabFitFun, as I did for my other subscription post, but since I did unboxings for each of the FFF boxes, it’s all kind of old news on here. Long story short, I was sucked in by all those ads and that darn ModCloth blanket scarf.
If you are interested in seeing my thoughts prior to my final box, here are the links:
With all that in mind, I want to give the pros and cons of FabFitFun as a service, from my perspective.
- It’s a “lifestyle” box. For me, this was probably the biggest draw of the FFF service. Instead of x number of beauty product/ sample sizes that come in a lot of the popular beauty subscription boxes (Ipsy, Birchbox, etc.) or niche services such as the scrapbooking ones I was part of previously, FFF offers a bit of everything.
- Going off of that last point, everything is a full size product. No foil packets. No “not intended for individual sale” fine print. Just the same product, same size as what it would be if you specifically sought that item out in stores.
- There are different subscription models. I’ve seen a lot of subscription boxes having options to pay for a certain number of boxes at a time or committing to so many months, but with FFF there is an incentive for paying for the entire year in advance. In addition to receiving $20 off the overall cost, members who pay the entire sum at once (approximately $180 USD depending on whatever coupon code you can track down) become “annual”/ “select” members. Select members are able to customize their box a bit, generally meaning they can choose the colour/ scent/ some other variation of a product (usually three) whereas those who pay for each box individually will be surprised. Some examples of this were picking the pattern on a scarf, scent of a candle, or “nature” versus “objects” themed colouring book.
- Portions of each box go to a different charity. You can learn more about each one in the magazine and there is usually something in the box linking back to the cause.
- The box only comes four times a year (this can also be a con, depending how you look at it haha). On the “pro” side of things, it’s an easier pill to swallow… you don’t have to pay or worry about the mailman dropping it off every month. And with many boxes I feel that there can be a lot of filler product that ends up just sitting around unused. I like that I had a significant amount of time to test things out before the next box came along.
- The magazine that come with the box and general aesthetic of everything is amazing.
- There is a significant online community. It’s crazy the difference it makes with being a subscriber to a “mainstream” box. When I was subscribed to the scrapbooking ones, the only other people I had access to who also subscribed were through using the designated Instagram hashtags. With FFF you have not only that but the FFF community on their website as well. There is the forum on the website which I didn’t really use but I did find a Facebook group advertised on it for Canadian members, primarily for people wanting to trade/ sell items from their boxes. There are also SO many YouTube videos and other social media outlets for people who receive the FFF box, and I really enjoyed seeing what other people liked/ disliked/ did with the items in their box.
- In addition to the online community, you are rewarded for being a member with incentives like your affiliate code (which gets you $15 credit with each person who signs up with it), multiple contests (generally involving posting box contents on Instagram), and special deals exclusive to members. These were usually coupon codes for various sites.
- The boxes usually had sponsored items, which meant something extra that wasn’t included in the total box value. One had wipes, another was gummy vitamins… well, for the American customers anyway. We’ll get to that.
- The lead-up to each box being released was an event. From spoilers (which you could try your darnedest to avoid, actively seek them out, or just live your life and accept them as they come) to the box items, select members being able to choose their specific items, and the add-on period. Add-ons were extremely discounted items that you could purchase to receive in addition to your seasonal box. They generally followed the theme of whatever season it was, but there were several that reoccured. For the summer box, I used $14 of my referral credit on a Kopari Sheer Oil which retails for $60 on Sephora Canada.
- It only comes four times a year (can also be a pro, again, depending how you look at it) but sometimes I wanted MORE. It would be an interesting idea for them to offer a smaller box on a monthly basis.
- While the last point in the pro section is awesome, ultimately these additions lead to spending more money. It would be easy to pick $100+ worth of add-ons every season, and while they are great deals… you’re still spending more money than you would without a subscription to FFF.
- The whole fitness aspect of FabFitFun (literally 1/3 of the name) is really wishy washy. While it wasn’t one of the main reasons I subscribed, it was a significant player and definitely part of my rationalization. I understand it can be tricky providing a fitness service to such a wide variety of people, but as it is such a significant part of the branding, you’d think it would be more of a priority. Sure, some months will be better than others. The ToeSox in the Fall 2016 box were cute! Definitely something great for yoga and pilates but with the option for those who don’t do either workout, to use them for pedicures. The Winter 2016 box, however, didn’t have any fitness things? They later sent out a free trial to Barre3 which seemed like a strange afterthought and as someone who doesn’t like workout videos, never got touched. They then started FabFitFun TV as the overarching fitness component, where subscribers have access to a library of fitness videos. It’s… ugh. I don’t know. I just don’t like it. In addition, once you unsubscribe to FFF you lose access to it. But I’ll always have my ToeSox…
- The “retail price” and “value” of the boxes. Each FFF box is guaranteed a value of at least $200 and when you’re paying around $50, that sounds SO great! But… when you look closer, is it? I 100% agree that each box is a great value. Especially when you count the prepaying and whatever discount code you use, you’ll never hear me arguing that you don’t get what you pay for. But for the magazine insert and online promotions to claim the “value” of each box being $373 (the actual given value of the Winter 2017 box that has been recently sent out)… it’s just not. Value is a tricky word because it connotes feelings more than actual monetary figures, but “retail price” doesn’t give the same warm and fuzzies, does it? I just have a really hard time believing that certain items are worth what they claim. Sure, they may sell that round blanket from the spring box for $50 on the company’s website, but when you open it… you could easily find the same quality of item for $10 on Amazon. I understand that indie brands and small designer companies may charge more for… well, less… but would I pay $50 for it? Definitely not. Would I even pay the $10 for it? I don’t know. The whole thing feels yucky and I would be okay with it if the whole “value” wasn’t such a huge part of their marketing. If it was more along the lines of simply “look at all the great stuff you get for ~$50” I would have a much easier time with it, and if they include the prices in the magazine just for reference… cool! But I really doubt that anyone is seeking out these items to repurchase on the company’s website at the overly embellished prices. I already feel like I’m getting some great stuff, but that markup makes me feel like somehow I’m getting scammed.
- There’s significant inequality between Canadian and American subscribers. This was also an issue with my scrapbooking subscription boxes, but that was purely a financial situation. To remedy that (you can read more about it on that blog post if you like!), when I subscribed to FFF I did so using my USD credit card. I am Canadian but live so close to the boarder and cross “the line” quite regularly. By paying in US funds, I removed the issue with the exchange (plus the BAD exchange through the credit card company) and by paying for the year all at once I removed any chance that I would be charged “more” based on how the CAD was doing that season. Problem solved, right? Nope! There is a small disclaimer on the website that customers in Canada and certain states (I believe it was Alaska and Hawaii) may receive different items than shown in each box. While this was a bit irksome, I assumed that this meant certain things couldn’t cross boarders/ water and to avoid any issues, items like aerosols or whatever would be swapped with their shipping safe alternative. Or something. What I actually experienced were that instead of physical items (one was that thing of gummy vitamins) are simply not included in Canadian boxes and as a consolation prize, Canadians are provided with online discount codes for completely irrelevant retailers (a discount code for the vitamins was added MUCH later but… so not the same). One of these coupons was a deal exclusive to people who live in the GTA which is one city in one province, in the second biggest country in the world. No, it is not a huge deal that I didn’t receive gummy vitamins (that I actually have owned and tried before) but it’s the principle, man! Who wouldn’t rather receive a free physical item than a coupon code where you have to spend MORE money?! This kind of goes to my point about the add-ons. I paid all at once so I wouldn’t have to keep shelling out more money each time around! My main problem with this is that Canadians are paying MORE for this service, both with the exchange and the additional shipping fees. The least that FFF could do is provide the same service to us, regardless of the passport we hold and the boarders we’re surrounded by.
- So, this is kind of related to the previous point, but almost bothers me more. Influencers are highly prioritized when it comes to these boxes. Now, from a marketing point I completely understand. I mean, if it wasn’t for the number of people I was following on various social networking sites, I may not have subscribed so I’m sure having people with large social media followings promote these boxes brings them a lot of business. I get it, I really do. These boxes are sent to YouTube creators for free and I have absolutely no problem with that or sponsored content, but when a content creator who I know lives in a more remote area of Canada than I do receives their box and has time to film, edit, and post their unboxing video before my box has even shipped… it’s kind of a slap in the face. If you search up FabFitFun unboxings on YouTube, it’s tricky to find ones where the person has actually purchased it themselves and is an actual subscriber. To me, yes it’s awesome seeing all the things in a box.. I love watching unboxing videos, but I find the true VALUE (there’s that word again) comes when someone is shelling out their hard-earned money, and can provide me information on the actual subscription service. The influencers do great jobs with the videos and this is absolutely not against them, but they have no idea that there’s an option to choose different items or get add-ons… while the people who pay and subscribe can provide that information to the viewer. What makes it difficult is when smaller content creators (hi!) want to make that kind of content with the information that they wish they had gotten before actually subscribing, but why would anyone watch their video when they can watch someone with 500,000 subscribers who posted their video two weeks ago?
- I could have boxed this in with the last point (or even the one before) but it kind of deserves it’s own little bullet. Shipping times suck. It takes about ten days for the box to arrive at my doorstep from the time I receive a “your box is on its way” email. Even though FFF claims that Canadians, Select members, and people who purchase add-ons are first priority and will have their boxes shipped out before anyone else, I get my shipping notification often a week or two after I’ve seen other people get theirs, and I fit in two (sometimes all three) of the categories to receive priority/ first round shipping.
- Again, this kind of fits with a couple other points but (also, again) it deserves to be a point in and of itself. The whole money thing is really unclear. From ads saying that you get *all this stuff in the picture* for $39.99 (only your first box, then the rest are $49.99… in USD) to the COUNTLESS different discount codes you can get. Do I use an influencer’s code? The one on the FabFitFun website that just popped up? The special offer I just got sent in my email? Or they’re offering one on Instagram? Oh… are any of these even going to work if I want to get the select membership? It’s completely overwhelming. As well, as I mentioned, there are so many (optional) hidden costs that come with the membership. The add-ons are a great deal (cha-ching), there’s a special offer this week (cha-ching), I can buy the editors box separate since I got the winter box when I signed up (cha-ching). It’s like a mine field, I tell ya!
With all those in mind, why did I unsubscribe?
Well, I mean at least it’s not entirely the same reason as the scrapbooking service. While the financial situation is a big part of it (just couldn’t justify putting almost $200 USD on my American credit card after spending over a month in the states this summer (a lot more than $200 was put on there, let me tell ya).
I think, overall… the cons just started to outweigh the pros. Perhaps not in number, but in weight. I had pretty much decided to unsubscribe, but was going back and forth until the issue I had with my summer box solidified my decision. I talk about it in the video (found below), but essentially I never got a summer box. I never got the fall box they said they would replace it with. And the box I did get (The Editor’s Box) had items I already had from previous boxes. The whole experience just soured my impression of FabFitFun. I already felt like less of a priority as a Canadian subscriber who wasn’t a big Influencer, but this whole experience just left me feeling like I didn’t matter and even if I wanted to feel like an under-appreciated girlfriend, I don’t want to be paying ~$200 a year USD for it haha.
So, there you have it. Overall, I did enjoy my time as a subscriber to this service. If you are not someone who wants to make videos or blog posts unboxing these (or if you do but don’t care about people seeing them early on) I would definitely continue your research, especially if you live in the continental US. I don’t see myself resubscribing any time in the near future (no matter how many e-mails they send me kind of passive aggressively telling me to!) and am still on the lookout for that perfect subscription box.
If you want more information on FabFitFun or would like to subscribe… you’ve probably already seen an ad for it today but THIS is a 100% non affiliate link that goes directly to the main website. Or you can just Google it. Or scroll through Pinterest for awhile. Or search the Instagram hashtag. You’ll find it.
I hope that this post has been helpful and I apologize that it isn’t the most upbeat/ positive post ever, but I feel like I needed to be 100% honest to give this post some real VaLuE (that word, man). If you have any questions that you feel I can answer about FFF or my experience with them, please leave them below or contact me on social media and I’d be more than happy to help!
Thanks so much for reading this post and have a… fun and fab (and fit, if you want) day!!