Friday, June 24, 2016

Battle of the Boxes Review: BookedBox

A few weeks ago, I published a review on OwlCrate, one of the many book subscription boxes that have popped up in the past couple of years.  Today I am going to bring you a review of the second box I subscribed to, BookedBox.  BookedBox is a curated subscription box that offers its subscribers the opportunity to receive personally selected books, culled from an interest survey and their GoodReads accounts.   

There are three subscription levels for BookedBox: the "Beefy BookedBox" ($39.99 per month or $228.99) the "Standard BookedBox" ($34.99 per month or $379.99 annually) and the "Bare Bones BookedBox" ($15.99 per month or $89.99 annually).  Subscribers of the Beefy BookedBox receive two personally selected books and about five bookish goodies; subscribers to the "Standard BookedBox" receive one book, an art or literary magazine, and some bookish goodies; lastly, subscribers to the "Bare Bones BookedBox" will get one personally selected book.   

For review purposes, I subscribed for a monthly "Beefy" subscription; May was going to be my first BooedBox.  As a consumer, the concept behind BookedBox intrigues me: having sometime review your interests, your reading history, and the books that you have flagged as being interesting to you and select something specifically for you.  However,  my experience as a BookedBox subscriber didn't live up to my excitement or my expectations for quality consumer service.    

To begin with, the boxes were meant to ship by the 20th of the month . . . but they did not.  Subscribers were sent an email making vague excuses about illness and shipping delays but were assured that boxes would ship by the 23rd.  As promised,  I received a USPS Priority tracking number . . . however, for six days, the shipping information only said that a pre-shipment information had been received.  Ostensibly,  a shipping label had been created for my box but my box had not been shipped.   

To make matters worse, my subscription to BookedBox was renewed even before I had received my first box.  So, by May 29th, I had paid for two boxes but I had yet to receive a single parcel.  

Annoyed, I emailed the company and made three demands:  
  1. By the end of the next business day, I wanted a refund for the auto-matic renewal.  I hadn't had a chance to sample the May box, so it was a questionable business move to charge me for a second box before the first had arrived.  I let it be known that if I didn't have a refund by the end of the next business day, I would be contacting my credit card company and filing a fraud report against BookedBox.   
  1. I wanted to have my BookedBox subscription cancelled. Even if I ended up liking my May box, I did not want to support a company whose business ethics were questionable at best. 
  1. I wanted to either have my original May box mailed [finally] or I wanted to have a replacement box expedited to me.  By all accounts, I should have had my box five days before I sent the email, so make me have to wait any longer for the product I ordered was a clear violation of the merchant-customer agreement we entered upon at the time of my subscription.   

Two of my demands were met: I was give a refund for the auto-renewal and my box was finally dispatched.  According to the tracking information attached to my box, the parcel hadn't even made it to the post office until the day after I contacted BookedBox . . . despite their claims that all of the boxes had left them at the same time.  Riiiiight 
BookedBox made numerous excuses for why the box was delayed—the distributor was behind in processing, illness that impacted distribution—however, when you are running a small business in a saturated market, the quality of your customer service will be the determining factor in your business's success or failure.  A litany of excuses does not pass for quality customer service.  

The demand that was not met was having my BookedBox subscription cancelled.  After I was issued a refund I went into my account to insure that I was in fact no longer subscribed to BookedBox.  I was not so I had to manually unsubscribe myself.  Even though the process of unsubscribing myself was an easy one, it should have been taken care of by the company.  As a consumer who had already been needlessly inconvenienced, the company should, by rights, taken care of this step for me.   

After all of the trouble I went through to get my box, when it finally arrived, I was less than impressed by its contents:   

  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (paperback) 
  • Brilliance by Marcus Sakey (paperback) 
  • Chocopods mini candy bar by Chuao Chocolatiers 
  • Mini Apple Pie Larabar 
  • English Breakfast Tea by Novel Teas (2 bags, not packaged in a sachet)  
  • Ultra-Mini Paint Chip Notebooks 
  • Book Covered Matchboxes by Portmanteua Paper Co. (not shrink wrapped) 
  • Unbranded postcards  

For starters, both of the books were paperbacks.  Most book box subscription services send their users hardbacks—this is one of the virtues of subscription boxes, that you are discovering new literature at a lower than retail price.  The cost of the two paperbacks together doesn't even cover the cost of the box. Additionally, of the two books that were selected for me, only one of them—The Housekeeper and the Professor—is one that interests me.Brilliance, on the other hand, is a fantasy novel that doesn't spark my interest; in fact, I will probably put this one in my classroom library and see if my eighth graders next school year will be interested in it.   

Similarly, the snacks that were in my box were also nothing to write home about.  Both the Chocopods and Larabar were miniature . . . and snacks that I can pick up at the Target three blocks from my home. The tea bags from Novel Teas were also disappointing because they didn't come wrapped in sachets, rather, they were loose inside of the box.  Does that strike anyone else as being slightly unsanitary and, in a box of items that could puncture the bag, potentially messy?   

The paint chip notebooks disappointed me as well.  Quite literally these look like a Pinterest art project: they are paint chips from a hardware store folded over tiny pieces of paper to create a minuscule notebook.  Honestly, I am not even sure I could write half of my phone number on these notebooks.  What practical use could they sever?  To make matters worse my box contained two literary-themed match books that were not shrink wrapped.  For starters, isn't that a dangerous inclusion in a highly flammable book box? Secondly, not every item with a literary theme warrants inclusion in a book box. To round out my box, I received a few postcards which I will use as bookmarks but that weren't anything special—a phrase that sums up BookedBox perfectly.   

BookedBox isn't anything special.  The box is overpriced for the quality of the items that you are sent.  Taken as a whole, BookedBox charges a hefty price for a box of cheap, hastily put together goods.  There isn't a theme that ties the box's contents together other than haste.  Compared to other book boxes out there like OwlCrate and Book of the Month, BookedBox is sorely lacking: even it's novel concept—concierge book discovery—can't make up for the fact that the execution is a profound disappointment. 

Moving forward I will continue to subscribe to BookedBox nor would I recommend the service to my friends, family members, or readers.  You're better off spending your hard earned $40 on GoodReads recommendations you pick up from Amazon.    

***Please note I purchased this BookedBox on my own and the thoughts contained in this review are mine exclusively, based on my personal experience with the service.***
Saturday, June 11, 2016

Reading Goals Update #2

Now that June is here, I thought this now would be a great time to take stock of my progress towards my 2016 Reading Goals.  As a reminder, here are the goals I set for myself earlier this year.  

1.     [GoodReads Goal] Read 100 books
2.     Read at least 10 audio books
3.     Read at least 10 eBooks 
4.     Complete a manga series
5.     Complete at least one YA series
6.     Read more with my pug
7.     Read a series of novels 
8.     Read more diversely 

Because my pug recently passed away, I am going to have to change goal number six a bit to include the fur babies we recently rescued.  So, from here on in, number six will now read “Read more with my dogs.” 

Now that we are in comfortably in June, here is how I have progressed to date:
1.     I have read 35 books towards my 100 book goal.  I am about 5 books off-pace at the moment. 
2.     I have read 4 of my 10 audiobooks; however, I have not listened to an audiobook in several months.
3.     I have read 4 of my 10 ebooks; I currently have several ebooks that I need to read for review in the very near future. 
4.     I am about halfway through the Death Note series.  There are thirteen books in the series and I have currently read volumes 1-6. 
5.     I have yet to complete a YA series.  However, I have started Cinder, the first book in The Lunar Chronicles and I own Scarlet, the second book in the series.  I also own The Red Queen, the first book in the series of the same name.  The other day, I also bought a copy of Clockwork Angel, the first book in The Infernal Devices series.  So, while I have lots to choose from, I have yet to follow through on reading a YA series yet.  Perhaps the summer doldrums will be the right time to get stuck in. 
6.     I haven’t read with my new rescue pups yet; however, I just picked up a stack of picture books from the library to share with the little fur babies. 
7.     I haven’t read a series of novels yet, but I am thinking I might either read Margaret Atwood’s Madadam trilogy or complete the Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb since I own the first book in the series, Ship of Magic.
8.     I would say that I am doing relatively well in my quest to read more diversely.  To date, I have read nine books that are either by an LGBTQIA or non-white author.  One of my reads, Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, was by a gay white American man; another was by an African-American women, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson; one book was by a Korean woman, The Vegetarian by Han Kang; one book by a Canadian-American woman of Japanese descent, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki; and five books by Japanese Men, Volumes 3-6 of Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and then Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.

While I am happy with my progress overall, I want to continue to read more diverse literature and get back into the habit of listening to audiobooks again.  With five months under my belt for 2016, and a whole summer ahead of me, I am pretty pleased with how I have done so far.  Here’s to the next seven months!