Boxscriptions

It’s a great time to be alive. Everything you could ever want is now available. In box form.

It all started with Graze. Healthy snacks sent straight to your door. Compellingly convenient.

Of course, Graze didn’t invent postal subscription servies. LoveFilm are due a debt of thanks too. But they don’t deliver things in boxes so let’s forget about them for a minute.

These days, it seems like you can get a box full of anything. Think of something, and there’s a box for it. Here are some of those things:

The list goes on and on. And it gets really weird.

It’s interesting to look as this as the same shift we’ve seen in physical retail, viz. from an “ownership” to an “access” model. Case in point, nobody buys DVDs anymore (I hope); you just go and see what’s on Netflix and watch that. You pay Netflix every month for access to movies, relieving yourself of the burden of having to store a Netflix-sized library of physical disks in your home. Same for music with Spotify. (Woo, Spotify).

It’s almost just like adding another outgoing to your monthly budget (well, it literally is I suppose). We’re already familiar with rent, which is just access to housing as opposed to ownership. Likewise with internet, phone bills and water – we pay for access to these utilities. Annoyingly, gas/electricity is still provided by usage but I suppose that makes sense since are you physically consuming something and usage can vary drastically by season.

There’s no reason that “subscription” couldn’t eventually become your primary method of consumption. I’d pay my rent and so on, then my monthly “Food & Drink” bill, provided to me by a single company according to my need. Hopefully it wouldn’t necessarily be served in a cardboard box, but you can see what I mean.

This would help enormously with people on a budget, I think. Knowing up front how much you’re spending on food is an essential part of budgeting, and having it as a simple flat rate every month would be really helpful.

But is there something intrinsically worthwhile in the old model? Are some things irreducible to a boxscription? The way things are going would suggest not, though it seems likely that there’ll be some consumer resistance and the revolution will be a slow one.

When ‘out’ shopping you are an active agent, making decisions for yourself about yourself, picking smart offers and acting on whims. Giving this up to an external agent feels a bit like surrendering control of your life. But does it really matter, if we still have the choice about who we’re surrendering control too? (There’s enough competition in the boxscription industry to allow this). Losing that choice can sometimes be liberating.

So my overall point is that this future isn’t necessarily a bleak one. Having our daily essentials packaged and shipped to us in a small box every week might appear to be the apex of the consumerist nightmare dreamt up by Huxley and others, but it’s not so scary.

And that pants subscription looks REALLY useful to be honest.

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