Monday, March 31, 2014

Wherein I discover that geeky subscription boxes may be a waste of money...

Feeling down about my job recently, I started looking into subscription boxes while at work. I miss getting non-bill, non-junk mail. After a few days of reading reviews and finding a coupon code, I decided to try Loot Crate, which is geared towards geeks. I am into the idea of receiving vinyl toys/figures and non-black t-shirts (I bought a few Fright Rags t-shirts last year, and now 75% of my t-shirt collection is black)  Finding another coupon code a week later, I also signed up for Phone Case of the Month. Both have turned out to be rather disappointing.

February 2014 Loot Crate. The brightness on the right side is the rare moment of sun this winter, flooding through the window.
My first Loot Crate at the end of February (theme: "Warriors") was not a total bust. I collect vinyl art toys, and there was a Sideshow Dunny blind box in February's Loot Crate. I actually received the mystery Dunny, the first one I have received in the 5 years I have been collecting. That made me happy. Almost everything else was geared to a cute cartoon I have never seen and the t-shirt concerned video games. Granted, it mostly seemed to be the 8-bit games I played as a child, but I did not understand enough of the references to feel excited about it. No items or references to the actual novel-turned-movie-turned-video game The Warriors were included.

Early March's Phone Case of the Month turned out to be the Tolkien quote "Not all who wander are lost" over a picture of a beach scene. It immediately went back in the bubble envelope and was traded on My Subscription Addiction's swap page within a week for a bottle of gun metal grey nail polish. I also paused my subscription. I am not really into Tolkien and I am not into Tolkien quotes that have reached platitude status. Platitudes generally earn a "NOPE" from me. It is too bad really, I need a new phone case.

March 2014's Loot Crate. At least the cover of the Attack on Titan manga looks cool.
I received my March Loot Crate a couple of days after the official shipping date of the 20th (Loot Crate does have ridiculously fast shipping, considering it came from LA to the East-ish Coast in 1.5-2 days). The theme was "Titans", and many people on Loot Crate's Facebook page guessed it would feature items from the anime/manga Attack on Titan and the new video game Titanfall. I have never seen the former and I am not about to spend $500 on a video game system - that is 83% of my rent every month. Nor do I care about buying it for PC. I had the vague hope that there would be something Godzilla or Pacific Rim-related. The box did feature the first volume of the Attack on Titan manga, which I might keep because I like books and graphic novels. And I do need a lanyard for my jump drive(s) at work. But everything else is either going on My Subscription Addiction's swap page again or on Ebay. Since I would rather not pay another $50 or so for a 3-month subscription renewal, I will be canceling my subscription in the next week or so. Unlike some subscription box services, Loot Crate does not offer the option of skipping months if one does not like the theme or whatever may be in the box. I will still receive April's box.

Loot Crate has themes, which is fine. But the past two months of crates have not been random, loosely-associated items like what appears in the boxes of previous months. Those appeared as if there would be at least one or two things in each box someone would like and that is what drew me in. This is just plain marketing and I feel resentful.  I do not know anyone who fans over Bravest Warriors, Attack on Titan, or Titanfall. These do not even blip on my Twitter or Facebook feeds, and my friends are at various levels of geekiness (even if their ages range from late 20s-early 40s). This may or may not be part of the issue - things tend to be quickly adopted into geekdom, or at least marketed as such, and there may be an overload at this point. There are so many fandoms that not every person cares or keeps track of every single show, series or game. It would be impossible to. It's cute when some fans combine Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Supernatural into Superwholock, but that is not always applicable. There are things I love, things I like, things I do not mind, and a large amount of things I do not pay attention to at all really.

Superwholock, because why not?

This experience has left me with a weird sense that I cannot completely articulate. I can never tell if I have normal geeky interests or slightly left of field ones. One of the impressions that I have gotten from these Loot Crate boxes is that you have to have a lot of expendable income to be a geek, and that is not exactly how I live my life. I do not have that much of an interest in video games, and I really have no interest in spending hundreds of dollars on a system and $50-70 on a video game. I have not had cable in almost a decade. I am only now catching up on television shows because I am done with grad school. I am cutting down on not only this brief foray with subscription boxes but streaming services because I am expecting a costly surgical co-pay in the next two months. Overall, I mostly wish that there was a subscription box for vinyl toys, both art/Kidrobot-type ones and pop culture/Funko-type ones (although Kidrobot makes pop culture-related figures too). So I guess I will just continue to buy during Kidrobot website sales or whenever I visit a city with an art toy store.


  1. You are completely right about the breadth of fandom these days. I guess it is a blessing that there are so many different genre 'things' out there, but it is somehow less than back in the day when we were all fans of the same things because there were fewer of them. Genre stuff being hot, and many grown up geeks having tons of disposable $ does mean there is HUGE bidness is geek-ploitation. The worst part, after decades of slim options, is that just seeing zombies or something Lovecraftian on a product triggers near irresistible urges to purchase. Content and quality on many such products are an afterthought at best.

    Glad you fired up your blog again.

    1. Thanks! I agree that the amount of fandoms or geeky merchandise has its good points and bad points. Geekiness has become mainstream, or at least some fandoms have. My mom is really into Game of Thrones (the books and the show) and has asked for Yoda items the past 2-3 Christmases.

      I think for me, seeing zombie things or too many zombie things has made me more cynical, at least with movie viewing choices. I bizarrely do not own many zombie items past some dvd's, books, and comic books, although I have been on the hunt for a good Dawn of the Dead t-shirt in women's size for the past year and a half. There is a lot of Walking Dead merchandise, but not too much from the older films, even from 10-12 years ago. It is hard to tell how many people start with The Walking Dead and check out the older stuff. A good chunk of my students a couple of years ago took my class based on their interest in The Walking Dead and wanting to see the older films. Then again, I have friends who hate horror, but will watch and only watch The Walking Dead.

  2. I try to not be snobbish about it, but sometimes it is a struggle. I don't mind the casual fans being into whatever small piece they choose, but writers bug the heck out of me. I feel like they have an obligation to at least know the foundations of the genre. Two of my favorite zombie items in recent years are Dead Set and High School of the Dead.

    1. I like the Dead Set. I tried watching High School of the Dead because some of my students liked that show, and I couldn't get past the second or third episode - I think it was the combination of the annoying girl who called everyone "stupid" in a Valley Girl accent and feeling weirded out by the upskirt shots.

  3. Yeah. I could definitely do without the nurse character and all the jiggle shots in HSOTD. I loved that they actually dealt with some things you don't see in movies - probably for time reasons. Like trying to determine how the zombies' senses work.