If you lived in the USA, you could subscribe to a huge and fascinating assortment of subscription boxes. Mail that comes to you as a surprise, perhaps once a month, or once every so often, or as a once off. There is even a great blog devoted to the topic of subscription boxes – Subscription Addiction – this is one of the blogs that often has between 5-10 posts a day in my feed reader..
But if you live in Australia? There are bugger all subscription boxes, the ones that do exist are generally expensive or beauty related. I’ve put some links right at the bottom of this post if you want to explore what is available to us.
So along comes a little company who named themselves RedPawPaw. They decide to launch a box for just $5 a month – no postage or delivery fees, you pay for 11 months and get one free, as long as you provide feedback on the products via a survey. Sounds great, says I. Do they deliver to my area – a lot of things do not being slightly rural – Yes, they do.
Fantastic says I. Let me sign up. And so I did sign up to receive the June box. They charged $60 to my credit card and I am still not certain why as it should have been $55. If it had been GST, then I should have been charged $60.50. But why quibble over $5, I thought at the time. Big mistake, Snoskred. Clue number one was right there.
A little while later I received the June box, and it was pretty awesome. My box contained –
Gravox Creamy English Wholegrain Mustard finishing sauce
Zumbo Choc Raspberry Macarons
Nivea Q10 – 2x tiny sachets
Henry Jones Chia Jam
Berry flavoured Mentos
Mentos Spearmint chewing gum
Taylors Pea and Zucchini Soup
Greens Pancake Mix
Uncle Tobys Oats
I enjoyed the products I tried and actually bought some more of some of them which I normally would not purchase – eg the Mentos gum was brilliant and I do not usually chew gum but I liked this enough to start. Plus there were a lot of new Mentos flavours I had not tried and I picked up a couple when paying for petrol because I tried the Berry ones.
So, one box down, 11 to go, right? Wrong. Wronggity Wrong. On the 30th of June, Redpawpaw subscribers received an email titled Important! – No Redpawpaw payment in July. It went exactly like this –
So we are asking you, our subscribers, to hassle companies on our behalf to get them to send us samples so we can send out samples to you.
Oh, ok, this sounds like a brilliant idea with a couple of logic exceptions – if we know of a company in order to hassle them, does it not follow we already use their products and then why would they need to send us a sample – and two, people are potentially going to hassle the same companies over and over which could get really annoying and then nobody is going to want anything to do with this company.
I personally was not a fan of this idea nor did I participate – why is it up to me to find companies – that should be the job of Redpawpaw? But a lot of people did help them out and ask companies to participate – not knowing that the companies would have to pay a fee per sample to send any samples to the subscribers. None of us knew that until later, though I guess it is a logical concept and potentially a good idea if your business model is for the companies to cover the postage fees.
Apparently some people did have some issues with delivery. Me personally I did not. But those who did apparently kicked up a huge stink on the Facebook page, which is what supposedly led to this change of delivery partner.
On the other hand, it could also be that the company did not have enough samples and enough companies paying money to cover delivery to send out a July box. Given what happened later I am going with the second option being the one that really happened.
Second clue there – we hope you will stay with us on this journey with us? What kind of English is that? Sounds a lot like statements my manager at work comes out with that mean absolutely nothing but involve a lot of words, so they seem complex and like the manager has done some work when really she did zero all day because she does not actually know how to do anything. Oops, tangent, lets leave that there. :)
So.. a couple of weeks go by. Then Sunday the 20th of July, the following email arrives. Titled – Relaunch – The Redpawpaw Tribe has Spoken!
Translation – prepare yourselves, because you are expendable. If you do not like what the tribe has said, there are plenty of people waiting to take your place.
I’m paying $5 a month to receive this box, and now you want to charge me a minimum 150% of that each month to get it delivered? And I never had a problem with delivery previously? But hang onto your hats people..
Err, excuse me?
Firstly, you owe me 11 boxes, not 10. I never got a July box, and you promised everyone they would receive an extra box to compensate.
Secondly, if people do not opt out, say for example they are on holidays or do not check their email in the short window of 8 days you have provided them, you are going to just whack a charge on their credit card as a surprise to them? Popular concept. I’m going with this is a fabulous idea! NOT!
Thirdly, this is an obscene amount of postage. I guess I should consider myself lucky as some people got the full $18 charge. But still, nearly 3x the cost of the box each month to get this delivered? I don’t think so.
As you can expect, there was an enormous uproar. On the Facebook page of Redpawpaw – you can’t see it now as they deleted a lot of posts and comments – the “tribe” spoke up and they were very unhappy, in particular re the having to opt out option – people felt it should be opt in – and rightly so.
There was a sneaky change to the terms and conditions and also a pesky little wording about receiving over $30 in value which went away, but thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine, the initial terms and conditions can be seen in their entirety. Changing the terms for a monthly subscriber is one thing, but changing it for annual subscribers is quite another. At least, as far as Consumer Affairs and the ACCC are concerned, who thanks to all the outcry are investigating this.
During the next couple of days the story changes on the Redpawpaw Facebook page and we find out that the changes have little to do with delivery issues and more to do with an unsustainable business model. EG they do not have enough money to carry on, and they do not have enough money to send out the next lot of boxes. Plus now people are unsubscribing in droves, and nobody is seeing any refunds, and concern begins to arise that not enough money exists for these refunds to be given.
I mean if there are 1000 people like me who paid $60 who want a refund, they have to pay out $60,000.
So after all the outcry, just 2 days later this email arrives – in the really big text so you know this is serious.
Yes, because every company needs to be to be financial viable. Missing a ly there, are we?
Bit more honest about the reasons for the delivery fee – they do not have enough money.
Suddenly they decide to *advise* people of the changes to the terms and conditions – though they say nothing about sneakily removing all reference to the value of each box people will receive. But fear not, our intelligent crew on the Facebook page spotted it, and they posted about it continually until Redpawpaw banned them from the page and deleted all their posts.
But wait, there’s more.
So now, people have to opt in, or else their subscription will be cancelled. Hmm.. Yeah that seems like a plan. I’m sure it will work out just fine.
And we wrote it in the REALLY BIG TEXT so you know we mean it!
Whatevs, RPP. Imma gonna let you finish, but this is me unsubscribing right here. So I sent an email. No reply. I posted on the Facebook page. No reply. Days went by. I started to get worried about my money returning to me. I sent another email. I clicked on the submit button you see above. I cancelled on the website.
It wasn’t until I sent them an email saying I would start a chargeback via my bank that they finally decided to get back to me and issue the refund. I checked my credit card and the refund was there. Whew. Case closed. Game over. Done.
Or so I – and many others – thought.
On the 1st of August, a lot of people who had unsubscribed found money taken out of their credit card as a surprise to them.
This is a level of epic fail that not many companies can compete with. You’ve upset all these people, you’ve had them unsubscribe and leave very unhappy with your company, and THEN YOU STEAL THEIR MONEY AS A SURPRISE!
People were unthrilled. Let us look at a small sample of their un-thrilled-ness. I’ve removed the personal info of the people involved – some of the posts seen on the Facebook page still remain, many have since been deleted.
There are not enough fail whales in the world.
That is only a small sample of the outcry – much of it has been deleted and is now gone forever.
I’m not the only one who thinks this is an epic fail, many people expressed it via the Redpawpaw facebook page and many of those posts were sadly deleted – I did find one blog post – FFS Friday Business Edition.
And now, for those of you who made it this far, here are the lists of Aussie subscription boxes I promised at the start of this post, many eons ago now. :)