Cutting Edge Creativity Housekeeping Note: Before I get into the thick of this review, I want to say, I have (hopefully) put school behind me for good, so now I should have more energy to update (still sporadically, but not as sporadically). Lots of entries I’d like to get out, so hopefully soon! Now, for the review.
This is my first ever experience trying a subscription box (and I’ve actually done a ton of research on all the different subscription boxes out there, ever since I became aware of Loot Crate about a year or so ago), and like any other review I post to this website, it will contain my 100% honest opinion about it. Here is how the review will be set up:
- First impressions (cost tiers, shipping experience, customer service, etc.);
- Box contents (monthly theme, what items it contains, etc.);
- Estimated value of box contents;
- My overall opinion of the crate.
Get ready, guys—this is going to be a long entry. I honestly don’t think I’ve even ever written a movie review on here this long.
Okay. Now let’s start.
For those of you unfamiliar with subscription boxes, check out my Subscription Box 101 post, HERE.
1. First Impressions
These crates come in automatic renewals of 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month subscriptions. Like most subscription models, there’s a “discount” if you subscribe to a longer plan, but this arguably doesn’t really feel like much of a discount at all when you’re paying for said plan, because they make you prepay the cost of a longer plan up front.
So for example, a Doki Doki Crate 3-month plan reduces the $30/crate to $29/crate (you don’t have to pay extra for S&H on these, thank goodness), but this means you must pay $87 up front, which can be a really steep investment for some. For a 6-month plan, they calculate $28.33/crate—so $170 out the gate, and $27.50/crate for the 12-month plan (which is $330 a year, annual renewal date being whenever it was you signed up).
If you’re looking to buy this for someone as a gift, these only come in 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month prepay options, with no automatic renewal commitment. (Although, I’ve heard some horror stories about these, where people still get charged for gift subscriptions. How true those rumors are, or how frequent a problem this is, I can’t say. I haven’t personally experienced this for myself, but if I do, I will let you all know.)
For Doki Doki Crate, this was the most nerve wracking thing for me about the whole process. It requires a lot of taking things on faith. Doing my research, Doki Doki has mixed reviews in this area—some people have posted about missing/lost crates, or crates never having been shipped at all, despite being charged for them.
There are no tracking numbers provided. For something coming from overseas, this is usually a huge no-no for me. I don’t know if it’s because it costs them too much to pay for tracking, or if they just have such a huge customer base that it’s too difficult to upload a tracking number for each one, but honestly I think if Amazon can do it, and if those third-party sellers from overseas on eBay can do it, then I feel like Doki Doki and other subscription boxes should be able to do this too.
Generally, they say 2-6 weeks for one of their crates to arrive. If it doesn’t arrive by 6 weeks, then I would definitely start getting concerned. I ordered mine July 14th, received a notification that it got shipped out on July 20th, and received my crate today, August 8th. So two weeks and five days, if that gives anyone any perspective on possible shipping times. I also currently live in an apartment and not a house, so I don’t know if that’s also a factor to consider involving these.
Doki Doki Crate does their shipments in “waves,” which is explained on their website. The cut-off for “early” shipped crates are by the 14th of the previous month. The shipment breakdown is explained in this FAQ post on their website.
Questionable. They’re most certainly kind, but aside from being able to answer general questions, they’re not exactly informative.
I asked, for example, once we hit the 2-week mark, I asked if they had any tracking information on their end they could supply me with, wondering if maybe the company has them and just doesn’t post them for whatever reason. The answer, I’m afraid, is they’re just as clueless as you are. From what I’ve gathered, they take your payment, send your order to the supplier, and then they’re pretty much taking things on faith about as much as you in terms of whether your box will actually get to you or not. I personally find this rather disconcerting, but maybe that’s just me.
They also don’t respond right away. In a time where many companies are able to provide instant customer service (and not just the small ones, mind you, even larger companies like Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Sling, and T-Mobile—I can speak to all these from personal experience), it can definitely make a person nervous if you’re not hearing back within even 3 days of sending a message on any one of their channels.
2. Box Contents
Picture time! Yay! Haha. So Doki Doki Crate’s website basically states that you’ll get between 5-7 items of kawaii-goodness each month. (“Kawaii” means “cute” in Japanese.) This month, there’s 8, which is nice. So let’s see what’s inside.
Most subscription boxes go by a monthly theme, or something to that effect. Doki Doki’s August 2017 theme is “Back to School,” as you can see from at least one of the pictures below, where they label that on the side of the box.
Each box comes with a booklet that explains the things you’ve received, which can be particularly helpful if you don’t recognize something.
Doki Doki Crate’s marketing can be effective, but misleading. For example, take this canary yellow Totoro-themed cup. Now at first, the way they seemed to market things made it seem to me as if they were going to include more Totoro, which would have been completely awesome and would have made the value of the box seem more worth it to me. Totoro is an anime classic, after all.
There were two kinds that you could get, either this yellow one or a green one. What you receive in your box is selected at random. The green one actually seems a bit better because it looks to be a taller cup.
In terms of the material it’s made of, I can’t speak for the green one, since I didn’t receive it, but the yellow one both looks and feels like a baby’s sippy cup, up close. Not sure how I feel about that. Also, the yellow one is incredibly short; according to the bottom of the cup, it will only hold 200ml. I’ll probably use this as something for the bathroom rather than as a drinking cup.
Next item is a cute pen in the shape of a pill. At first I thought that the pen would open up to be really short, but it turns out it pulls out to be longer, as you can see from the pictures below. Unfortunately, I can actually see this breaking easily, as once you pull out the rest of the pen, the top parts become pretty flimsy.
Next up, is the Cinnamoroll letter set and Cinnamoroll note pad. I count these as two separate items.
The notepad is one of two different kinds, so like the cup, it’s at random which one you’ll receive. I personally would have preferred the pink one to the brown one I got, but it’s still cute, nonetheless.
The letter set only comes with 8 thing sheets (but they are very cute!), 4 thin envelopes, and one sticker sheet. Cute, yes. Would I trust the envelopes to make it through an adventure in a mailbox? Not so much. This is probably better to send in a thicker envelope with other things, like a care package to someone or something, if you’re planning to use it that way. Otherwise, I’d be concerned that the letter would get all tattered and torn before it reached the recipient.
Next, we have a Yume No Hoshi Ribbon. I can see this being a favorite among otakus/cosplayers, and this can apparently be used in your hair, as a necklace of sorts, or an accessory for your bag. I’ll probably try this on my hair and see how it looks. This actually reminds me of Sailor Venus, haha.
This month’s Doki Doki Crate also comes with a snack, which, I’m not sure if this is typical for this subscription box? I’m wondering if this might be meant as a teaser or as a nod for Japan Crate’s main crate, which is the Japan Crate, where you get a monthly box of snacks from Japan. I personally tend to shy away from boxes that ship snacks or any food items from overseas because I’m always concerned about spoiling, expiration dates, snacks that might not match my taste buds (I’m admittedly a pretty picky eater), etc. So I was a little wary of this item.
The item is called Tohato Caramel Corn – Fruity Milk. Now, I wish I read the “fruity milk” part before I popped a few of these into my mouth and tasted them, because while I know for a fact that I do like caramel corn flavoring in my Asian snacks, I do not like the sour milkish aftertaste these guys seemed to give me when I tried them. Blech.
Eating these made me think that the two things you probably shouldn’t buy as gifts for people are clothes and food items, unless you know exactly what that person’s size is, or the type of things that they like to snack on. Everyone’s taste buds are different though, so it’s possible that there are a fair number of subscribers out there who actually really liked this item, and didn’t have the same experience I did with the aftertaste. Anyway, moving on.
And now, for my favorite two items in this box. The first was actually the main reason why I purchased this box. The other is a recurring theme for all Doki Doki Crates, but this one in particular I found extra cute.
The Chun Chun Friends plush was the primary reason why I purchased this box, and it was a bit of a gamble because I wanted the pink bird specifically. As you can see, I got incredibly lucky, because this was another one of those “selected at random” items and the odds were 1 of 8. So I definitely was was happy that I got exactly what I wanted in this crate.
Really pleased with this one, for sure, but there’s also a mild problem with this. I know for a fact that had I gotten any of the other birds, this would have ruined the crate for me, since I’m not necessarily impressed with the crate’s offerings in general. (More on that in a minute though, of course.)
The birdie is pretty soft. I can see the feet easily coming off if you’re not careful with it, but that’s all right. Nothing a little Krazy Glue wouldn’t be able to fix, hahaha.
I can also see this guy getting pretty dirty easily, but that’s honestly no different than what happens with most plushes. The bandana is attached to it, but that’s all right, because I prefer it that way. Its face is also a little lopsided, which I think doesn’t really take away from this bird, but I’ve seen a video where someone else got a different bird where the eyes are definitely not on an even horizontal line, and I can see that either creeping someone out or really bugging a person.
And last up, the monthly Hoppe-chan. It isn’t clear to me whether this Hoppe-chan is the Doki Doki Crate’s mascot, or if it’s the current trending cute thing in Japan, but this little guy is actually pretty cute too, like the bird. They change the style of it every month, and I think they’re usually come in the form of this old-school, cell-phone tie-on charm thing. Maybe several phones out there still have it, but I haven’t seen a hole for a cell phone charm on a phone since the early 2000s, personally.
I don’t think I plan to hang this guy up anywhere, or even take it out of the wrapping. I think it looks pretty cute how it is, and I’ll probably just leave it up on the shelf I have where I like to display what I think are the cutest among the things that I own.
And that’s it for this crate! All right, now let’s see how all these items add up. Remember, a 1-month subscription costs $30, so based on how I feel a subscription box should be, I’m going to want at least $30 worth of items contained in the box. Preferably more, of course, but at the very least I expect it to add up to $30, at bare minimum.
3. Estimated Value of August 2017’s Doki Doki Crate
For this, I’m using the guidebook they’ve provided to help me in performing my searches online and seeing what kind of price points they come up with.
This entry is monstrously long already, so I’m not even going to bother with guessing at prices, although it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if August’s total equals to $20 or less.
Anyway, here’s what I’ve found for actual or approximated retail values:
- Yellow Totoro Cup: Retails for $11.99 on Amazon.
- Vitamin Pill Pen: Retails for $7.55 on Amazon (though some third-party sellers on there appear to be selling it for less).
- Cinnamoroll Note Pad: Couldn’t find the exact one I have, but found a similar one (in execution, at any rate) retailing for approximately $7.99 on Amazon, but through third-party sellers.
- Cinnamoroll Letter Set: Again, can’t find this same set, but similar kinds are retailing between approximately $7 – $15 on Amazon.
- Yume No Hoshi Ribbon: Can’t find any listings for this, so I’m just going to be fair based on what I’m finding from the other items and approximate this at say, $8?
- Tohato Caramel Corn Snack: Can’t really find listings for this specific flavor, but retailers of the Tohato Caramel Corn brand seem to place this generally close to $3.
- Chun Chun Friends Plush: Couldn’t find this exact bird, but other birds from the Chun Chun Friends brand were retailing at approximately $11.99 each. Nice. I probably wouldn’t have paid more than that either, if I had found this little birdie on my own.
- Kakigori Hoppe-Chan: The prices honestly vary for these, depending on how popular the design is among people, so it’s really hard to put a price tag on them. I’ll just say $1, because there are a lot of Hoppe-chan listings (of different designs) going for that rate on eBay.
ESTIMATED GRAND TOTAL: Approx. $58 (even when using the lowest approximated price points for any of the items)
Not bad. Better than what I approximated as the box total. Still, there was something about just how they appeared in quality didn’t really resonate with me. Except the bird. I really didn’t care how much the bird cost, I just really wanted to own the adorable pink penguin-looking bird. Haha.
4. My Overall Opinion
Can’t say for sure if the two Cinnamoroll items are Sanrio exclusives or not. I’m leaning towards maybe, because I can’t find it on their website or anywhere else online, in general. I’m also wondering if the other ones where I couldn’t find exact matches for were also exclusives of a kind. Then again, they’re probably everywhere if you’re over in an Asian country. I think that’s a little promising though, since I think a good subscription box should have licensed items and not bootleg, given the price you’re paying for them, and it’s nice to be able to receive items that you normally wouldn’t be able to obtain any other way. Makes the whole subscription box experience seem more worthwhile.
Anyway, let’s talk about the general pros and cons I see from my experience with Doki Doki Crate. Bear in mind that this is my first and only interaction with them, or with any subscription box for that matter, so feel free to take my overall assessment with a grain of salt. Your experiences might be different.
- Cute items, potentially some exclusives, or at the very least hard to find if you’re not in Japan or some other Asian country;
- Items seem to total up to be worth more than what you paid for a single box at full retail value;
- This box specifically—THE BIRD (hahaha);
- Packaging was in tact when it arrived, and all items do seem to fit this “back to school” theme in some way, even if some of the stuff you wouldn’t actually take to school (in hindsight though, the cup could be useful packed in a lunch box or something—it’s the perfect size for it).
- Customer service is slow to respond, and when they do, they can’t really seem to answer any questions other than expanding a little upon what’s already on their website’s FAQ page;
- No tracking number, and no way to confirm shipment’s status with the company;
- Items appear of questionable quality at a glance, although after a price check, it does seem to exceed what you pay for the box;
- Some items are randomly selected, and you might not necessarily like what you get (which can be even more of a problem, given that you might not particularly like any of the random items to begin with in the first place);
- Not all items have utility, and the snack in this box specifically could be a general miss for some.
FINAL VERDICT: Meh.
I might subscribe individually for another crate in the future, if the spoilers on their Facebook page draw me in again like they did this time, although for now, I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s one and done for me with this crate.