2016 is officially the Year of the Nerd, and we can look forward to being able to do everything (laundry, cooking, sex) at the push of a button while wearing virtual reality goggles to make it look more exciting. We’ve entered the generation where iPhones replace professional cameras, and every 10-year-old wants to grow up to be Mark Zuckerberg (or his A.I…).
With nerds ruling the world, one thing that is increasingly prevalent is subscription geek boxes. These are the geeky version of beauty boxes (think BirchBox and Ipsy). The beauty box model sends you high-value items for a low monthly cost, the downside being that you never know what’s in them ’til they arrive. The Geek box model has the same structure.
Lucky for you, The Hustle’s here with our trademarked Cool or Douche test. We’ll examine the boxes that are worth it, and those that can go straight to Goodwill.
The premise of all subscription boxes is inherently a little douchey; hey adult, you’re not considered smart enough to make your own purchasing decisions, so sit back and wait for someone else to select what’s cool for you. However, if the boxes deliver, we’re open to being persuaded.
We’ll be looking at value for money, quality of products, and presentation.
$13.92 + shipping and handling. This worked out as $21.71 if you live in California.
I like the bright blue color and it’s nice that the box is clearly labeled. From the outside, the Super Geek Box looks kind of small, and I’m not sure if it will hold very much. But when I open it, I realize the box is crammed full of goodies, straining the sides of the cardboard. A bright yellow flap on the lid suggests I snap and share my box. It says: Goal: make friends SUPER envious. That’s cheeky, I like it.
What’s in the box
They have a small pamphlet that details the items they’ve sent you. They don’t include prices, but using Google I’ve estimated a cost for each item.
- Deadpool Dorbz 006 Marvel Series one Vinyl Collectible. Estimated cost: $7.99
- Double Grip Force Choke T-shirt from Tultex. Estimated cost: $10
- Enemy Critters, Super Geek Box Socks “Exclusive”. Estimated cost: $8
- CoExist Nerd Bumper Sticker. Estimated value: $5
- DC Comics Wonder Woman String Doll. Estimated cost: $2.50
- Adventure Time Collectible Build-A-Figure. Estimated cost: $1.50
- Super Geek Box December Badge. Estimated cost: $0.10
Estimated Value of items: $35.09
There’s so much stuff here! I like the variety, and the nod to Star Wars with the t-shirt (appropriate) is very cute. The Mario socks are seasonal as well, and I do like the color and vibrancy. The t-shirt has already received compliments and the Wonder Woman doll is going straight on my keychain.
Being a geek often means you like specific fandoms, and while Star Wars is general enough, assuming that covers Adventure Time, Wonder Woman and Deadpool is a stretch. It’s such a random assortment that I’m not sure how this would fit into my life. It’s quite a disparate selection.
What you need to know
They say that each box has a $40+ value and will include a t-shirt a month. When you sign up you can select your size, and a male or female cut. Each box is themed, this was called Good Times! Looking through their past collections, it seems that a figurine and a t-shirt are pretty much the standard items included.
What’s frustrating is that though you can sign up for one, three, or six months, your box is on auto renewal, meaning you have to email them specifically to unsubscribe. (Note: Email [email protected]). It was annoying that the value of my box didn’t live up to the $40 promise, especially as the price I paid came out to over $20 including shipping.
$19.99 a month plus shipping. This worked out as $29.94 for California.
The box is big, about the size of a shoebox. But it’s also kind of grubby. The white and blue print got dirty in the mail. There’s a subtle robot design printed on it, and the sides of the box feature the Nerd Block logo. Inside, there’s actually a lot of empty space. After the crammed contents of Super Geek Box, I’d expected this to be filled corner to corner.
What’s in the box
- Four postcards, one of which is a contents card. The other three are promotional: one for Nerd Block, one for referring friends, and one for a T-shirt company, shirtpunch.com
- Star Wars Funko Pop! Vinyl. Estimated cost: $7.49
- Shirtpunch T-shirt. Estimated cost: $10
- Nerd Block Blaster Keychain. Estimated cost: $7
- Galactic Vacation destination mousepad. Estimated cost: $7
- Star Trek Rank Insignia Lapel pin. Estimated cost: $15
- Star Wars Ice Cube Tray. Estimated cost: $9.07
Estimated Value of items: $55.09
The Star Wars theme was strong with this one. The Hans Solo ice cube tray is going to get a lot of use, and I was pleased to get the Unmasked Darth Vader Vinyl Pop, a very cute collectible. The Kylo Ren t-shirt is also very topical.
Why is there a Star Trek pin in my Star Wars box? I mean, this is cute and all, but people often fall into one camp, and the inclusion feels jarring here. Also, who uses mouse pads anymore? We’re such a laptop generation that the mouse pad (admittedly cute) seems like a waste of space. I also hate that the box looked so dirty on arrival, it spoils the gift experience. And why have it so big if you’re not going to fill 100% of it?
What you need to know
Each Nerd Block is themed and, no surprise, this month was Star Wars.
The cool thing about Nerd Block is that they offer a number of different subscription options. They include Classic, Sci-Fi, Comic, Horror, and Arcade as well as options for junior girls and boys. They don’t assume a nerd fits into one box and offer appropriate categories.
Again, you need to manually unsubscribe, even if you only purchase one month, so make sure to set a calendar reminder to go into your settings and change this. The value of this box was high, but not more than double the price I paid, including shipping. And I do like the included items, but would I have spent $30 getting them individually? Probably not.
$100 per quarter, I paid $50 (in the sale) plus shipping. Total paid: $62
Quarterly boxes are a little different to the typical nerd box. They’re sent out four times a year, and generally have a high-ish price point. You subscribe to a box curated by a person you like – these include people like Wil Wheaton, Rosario Dawson, Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose. I picked entrepreneur Kevin Rose’s box, described as being “full of lifestyle & tech favorites to enhance your day to day.”
Wow, this is… heavy. I almost need two hands to lift the brown box. The box itself is unremarkable, a small bit of tape says “Quarterly”, otherwise you’d never know. It’s full of shredded brown scrunched paper which immediately snarls and tangles itself all over my floor. There’s not a lot in it, and I pull five items out. There’s more packaging than products here.
What’s in the box
- A blue envelope with two pages on stylish stationery, describing the contents. It’s pretty brief, but does say “Unboxing video coming soon.”
- SMFX Smart Lightbulb. Estimated cost: $59.99
- PowerCube Extended USB, Electric Outlet Adapter. Estimated cost: $24.95
- Machine Era Brass Pen. Estimated cost: $42
- Chomps Hoppin’ Jalapeno. Estimated cost: $2
- The Goodwell Company Floss. Estimated cost: $5
Estimated Value of items: $133.94
The smart light bulb looks very exciting, and I can’t wait to use it in my house. The PowerCube connector seems very useful, too. Not the most exciting thing to receive, but something that will help declutter my workspace.
Seriously, travel floss? And only 10 of them, as each card has one use available. Man. And what’s with the Chomps snack stick? This will be gone in two seconds. I really don’t like that the box has two consumables in it, feels like a cop out.
Quarterly also says that each box will have a note from the curators, but the two-page description of the items by Kevin Rose feels more like a shopping list than any personal insight. There is a note about how you can watch Kevin Rose unbox these in a video, but, according to Google, this does not exist. And this box was launched in August, so he’s had plenty of time to film it. #fail.
What you need to know
“In terms of raw emotional impact, the experience of getting good mail is unparalleled—emails, text messages, and tweets don’t even come close,” said Zach Frechette, Quarterly’s founder. His goal is to make Quarterly a destination, a place where packages create romance and excitement.
Many of the products in the curated boxes have a high value, and that’s cool to receive. But just because they’re expensive doesn’t make them worthwhile, and a $42 pen I’ll probably lose and an extension cord leaves me feeling a bit meh. I got double the amount I paid for, but if there hadn’t been a sale I’d only have gained $20 in stuff that’s pretty useless.
For such an expensive box you really do expect more, and though I like what I received, I don’t feel good about recommending this to people. I could buy a bunch of cool stuff for $100 and don’t need a disinterested entrepreneur to send it to me.
The Hustle Verdict
We’re told that money isn’t reflective of size or value but in the subscription box world – at least from the outside – the box sizes seem to reflect the cost accurately.
Look at this pile – most expensive on the bottom, cheapest on top. But the contents – in general – don’t deliver the promise, and that’s a big deal when you’re spending $100+. Overall, the winner here would be Nerd Block; the value of the items exceeded the spend, the products were cute and relevant, and they’ll mostly have a place in my life. Remember, just because they say “geek” doesn’t make them great, so choose your subscription wisely.
Other notable boxes
Sadly, we can’t spend all our time ordering and opening subscription boxes, so here are some other notables to pay attention too.
$13.95 + shipping.
Total: $19.95 a month
They say: A new theme a month. Items valued at $45+ a box.
Anything else? Each box contains a t-shirt.
$17.90 + shipping.
Total: $23.90 a month
They say: Celebrate every month like it’s your birthday! Get tons of intergalactic surprises delivered right to your door.
Anything else? Items worth more than $50. You’ll get 6-8 items.
$9.92 + shipping.
Total Estimate: $16
They say: A monthly box of epic gear for geeks and gamers.
Anything else? Value of $40+ and a t-shirt a month.