Subscription crate boxes currently exist in two distinct realms: there are food crates, and then there are random-shit crates. The food crates sort of make sense—get a bunch of snacks and/ or candy sent to your doorstep for a convenience charge. You get a bunch of stuff that you could have bought if you lived in a big city with an import store or with a bit of effort in seeking them out. For a lot of people, the crates on their doorstep is the only way they’re ever going to get around to trying these new snacks and/or candy. But I’ll bet my bottom dollar that 99 per cent of the food crates aren’t actually curated. It’s just whatever snack company decides to hand the crate box company some money for that month—likely either a desperate company (and therefore a maker of a dull food), or a super rich company whose marketing and distribution campaign can afford to put them in the crate because they are already distributed everywhere— I’m looking at you Japan Crate and Pocky.
Maybe it’s impossible from a business standpoint, but I’d be far more inclined to subscribe to a food crate if I knew that someone hand selected the snacks and/or candies because they are interesting and varied, and that every month was going to be a completely unique experience. Maybe crates like that already exist, but are impossible to find because the same eight boring crates keep popping up in every Google search because people keep giving the same eight boxes money. There are some crates that do themes, but, again, they aren’t distinct enough when they’re just delivering variants of similar products every time around—I’m looking at you Loot Crate and Funko.
Speaking of—Loot Crate is one of those random-shit crates. The themes are loose and the content is repetitive. I don’t know anyone that has stayed with a subscription crate for longer than six months, if that, because of how repetitive they become. And these types of crates suffer from the same problems of curation; it’s just a giant circlejerk of the same companies, and they never feature something genuinely interesting. Maybe there’s something fun, or funny, but absolutely nothing is worth keeping.
It boils down to the fact that subscription crates are marketed to the wrong people. Mainstream crates are aimed towards the everyman, but it’s not the everyman that crates benefit. There’s an untapped potential in hobbyist crates and collector crates—a subscription service that sends a random Magic expansion to your door or a crate filled with Lego bricks. There are attempts at these (Fantasy Crate, and Brick Loot respectively), but they fail because they aren’t officially licenced and have to be sold at an inflated price.
Crates have potential; I love it every time a package arrives from Amazon. That’s the feeling that subscription crates try to replicate, but, despite the veneer, there is no element of surprise in opening a crate every month just to find a new label on an old dog.