Friday, March 27, 2015

When a Good Gift Goes Bad: Quarterly Book Riot BKR06 Subscription Review

As you may recall, last month was February.  For those of us on the east coast of the US, it seems like this month is February given our frigid temperatures but no, February is in the past.  I only mention that because February is home to two things:  cold, crappy weather and Valentine's Day.

This year, I decided to try something different for my wife for Valentine's Day.  I signed her up for a Book Riots subscription through  The essence of the subscription is that you get a box of goodies sent to your house four times a year (aka Quarterly).  The cost is $50 per box which seemed pretty steep but it was a gift for my wonderful wife so I went with it.

After looking around Quarterly's page, I settled on a curator called Book Riots which offered a mystery box full of books and bookish things each time.  I did some further research online and discovered that some of the past Book Riot boxes included plenty of interesting books plus some charming book extras (including the most recent box in the series which included a winter cap and Shakespeare candies plus a pair of interesting sounding books).  Basically, the boxes all appeared to be based on lighthearted fun.  It seemed like a good idea for a gift for my wife who loves books...


Here's what was in the box that my wife ended up with.  First, the box itself was a decently sized cardboard box - and Book Riot used the nice tape that made it clear this was supposed to be a special box.  So far so good - but that ended as soon as my wife opened the box up.

The box ended up holding two books (which was a good thing) but neither book was of interest to my wife.  I understand that is a risk with any subscription type box...but it wasn't the fact that my wife wasn't interested that bothered me as much as it was the incredibly niche books that were sent.  I would hazard a guess that most people wouldn't be interested in either of these books...

First, Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older.

Yeah, that is a book about an "inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death" according to the back of the book.  

The box also contained a book mark that was drawn by the author of the Half-Resurrection Blues book.  

While that was bad enough, the second book really put a giant damper on a Valentine's Day gift.  The book?  Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

This is a book about aging and dying.  It's serious stuff for sure, but it's definitely NOT a type of book that belongs in a subscription box...and it made for a terrible Valentine's Day gift.

The box was rounded out with a pair of bookish items.  The first was a very boring notebook.  

Technically, I can understand that this is indeed a bookish item but it's certainly not an interesting item.  It's also not something one would hope to get in a $50 subscription box.

The final item in the box was a flask that was branded with the book riots logo on the back and a BookAndBooze logo on the front.  

I suppose that this could have been a decent inclusion in the box but unfortunately neither my wife nor I have any use for a flask (a beer stein would have been a different story).  I actually won't fault Book Riots for the the flask though - it fits with the fun theme of the previous boxes...but the two books (you know, the main reason one would subscribe to a book box in the first place) have absolutely no place in a subscription like this.

Even worse?  Besides the fact that my wife didn't want a single item of course was that the entire box was $50...and I don't think there's $50 worth of stuff there to begin with.
By my count:

  • The Resurrection book is $7.99 on Amazon.
  • Being Mortal in hardcover is $15.60 on Amazon.
  • The notebook, flask, and bookmark are harder to price...but I think $25 is an absolute maximum for the three items.
Total:  $48.49 - and that's saying the three bookish items are worth half the cost of the box subscription.  This box ended up being a rip-off even if you liked the items...but to not like the items, ouch.  Terrible.

As you can imagine, neither my wife nor I was happy so I actually wrote to Book Riots to see if I had any options.  That was a mistake because Book Riots clearly proved to me that they do NOT care about their customers. In reply to my query, Book Riot sent me an email that basically said "too bad" and if I still wanted to complain to contact themselves.  Book Riot actually went so far to include an email address for me to contact...but that email address wasn't even active.  I actually got a "undeliverable" response via the mail client when I tried.  They might as well just have responded with a picture of a middle finger because that's how it came across to me.

Moral of the story?  

I immediately cancelled my Book Riots subscription and will not deal with them any further.  I did manage to find a different email address for and ended up with a fairly nice reply from someone at that company.  They actually gave my a $10 credit for a future box subscription purchase (that doesn't have to be Book Riot).  I was incredibly frustrated and angered by Book Riot but I think Quarterly did enough to soothe my anger a bit from their side of things.  

Now the problem is what to do with the "junk" that I ended up with...and how to make it up to my poor wife who got what had to be one of the worst gifts of all time.

EDIT:  I mistakingly said the company was, it is actually (no "m" in the name).  That has been fixed in the above text (thanks to cynicalbuddha for pointing out my error).


The Lost Collector said...

Oh Boy. That's an awful box, indeed. Your intentions were good though!

JediJeff said...

Could you select the genre of books? Because that would make more sense in a subscription like this - the genre and an age range that would be in the box.

I see someone owing someone else a LOT of foot rubs. :)

Commishbob said...

Your heart was in the right place and that counts for something. But there is no excuse for poor customer service.

I'm reminded of the time my wife told me "Don't get me anything" for her birthday and I was stupid enough to take her at her word on that. Ooops.

Matthew Scott said...

Yikes. That company really put no thought into the variety. Just seems like they bought a bunch of closeout stuff and distributed it. Maybe you should hold a contest and whomever finishes last receives Half Resurrection Blues!

cynicalbuddha said...

yeah I haven't had the best of luck with subscription box services. Collector's Crate was just an overpriced repack box, Brick Loot was ok, but was packed with mostly non-Lego stuff. But I think it was a great idea for a gift, just a terrible box. Next time take the $50 and find a good used book store to hunker down in.

cynicalbuddha said...

Should have gotten the Wil Wheaton box, and the website is not .com just saying.

Nachos Grande said...

cynicalbuddha: Yeah, the Wil Wheaton box is my style...but not my wife's! I also appreciate the correction - I made the fix in the original post.

Post a Comment