Connecting with people requires opening more than boxes
Originally written July 20, 2016...updated and published September 26 2017.
Connection. That’s actually what’s being offered here, despite it coming in the form of a box. And yes, the joy of surprise too, but that’s incidental. For both Svbscrption and Quarterly.Co, the appeal is working. I discovered these firms by accident, after following some links from something else.
To explain a little further, both firms offer something above and beyond the standard online shopping experience. In order to receive Svbscription’s Limited Edition Parcels, you answer some demographic and lifestyle questions, a personal shopper picks out products for you based upon your tastes…and said parcel (following a given theme) is delivered to your front door every 3 months. All of the goods are created by designers, and are (allegedly) rare and unique items…at an annual membership cost of $US 1150 (update September 2017 – this firm appears to have gone bankrupt). So the overt appeal here is to snob value, or (put more gently) to the desire to be seen to be unique and beyond the mainstream.
By contrast, Quarterly.Co (https://quarterly.co/) offers quarterly “care packages” offered by specialist curators. These curators are famous in their fields, and they will write a personal letter to you describing why each product has been chosen. Package deals on this site cost from $US100-$400 a year.
Here the focus is on “people you care about”. Not people who care about you, but the other way around. These are not people you even know, but complete strangers. While the curators are no doubt lovely people in their own right, how much of a genuine connection can I have with them? First of all, given that they are at the top of their fields, I’d imagine all of them to be pretty busy people – and as such, it’s entirely possible they don’t get to spend as much time with their own friends and family as they’d like to. So the appeal here is to a different kind of snob value; not so much about owning designer goods, but being able to boast about being “well-connected” and “in the know”.
The thing that fascinates me about both of these businesses is profound, though. Why are some people are spending up to $US1150 a year or more in order to feel wanted, or to feel that someone thought about them? Is it to impress each other as acquaintances, rather than really connecting with each other? I think it must be, because for that amount of money, you could:
- host a group of friends at a local restaurant or bar and catch up that way
- buy a bus or plane ticket and visit family members
- send some money to the above-mentioned family and friends, and ask them to send you something in a box in the mail as a surprise
- surprise them by giving such a box with what you think they’d like to receive! (I’ve done this before on a small scale, and without exception, people have responded with joy and excitement.)
I appreciate that last one might be hard in terms of the presents themselves. Many of us are hard to buy for (I know I am!), but even so, I’d really appreciate the thought that went into it.
Is our lack of deep knowledge of one another part of what makes buying gifts hard? How much of our time – either with friends or family – is spent “going through the motions”? You know what I mean; you catch up on each other’s current news, you talk about people you mutually know, and you might talk about current affairs, or sports, etc. Do we often talk in more depth than this? Do you know what your friends would dream of doing, if given the chance? Do you know their favourite author, actor, or singer?
As much as I’d enjoy receiving surprise gifts from friends and family, maybe the cure to disconnection lies in actually making an effort to talk about - and to do - things which are out of our comfort zones with each other.
What do you think?