Why you should care

Because these new companies let you send so much more than Mom’s homemade brownies.

Did you hear that? Somewhere nearby, a wicker gift basket shrink-wrapped with gourmet cheese and artisanal chocolate is crying as its cultural relevance walks out the door. Taking its place is a new wave of niche care packages filled with items — handpicked for very specific recipients. The die-hard Timothy Ferris fanboy? There’s a box for that. A 5-year-old insect obsessive? Check. Your BFF with outsized 27th birthday expectations? Yes, obvi.

What people want is just a package. They don’t care what’s in it.

 

This is not the first we’ve seen of boxes stuffed with surprise goodies in recent years. But what’s different now is the intent. While Birchbox, Rocksbox and Beauty Army are pick-me-ups predominately purchased for oneself, the latest boxes are about treating someone else. Even better, they offer a break from reality, a momentary escape into a world where you’re in control, things are neatly arranged and color-coordinated, and easy-to-follow instructions tell you exactly what to do. Comforting stuff on an elemental human level.

Plus, you might learn how to make a better cocktail or a polar bear headband, or the best way to show your friend you care about her latest existential crisis without getting on the phone to discuss it (again).

Not sure what to choose? Don’t stress. A recent survey by Jordan Jones of San Francisco-based Packed Party reveals that it really is the thought that counts. “The number one thing people want is just a package. They don’t care what’s in it. They just want a package,” says Jones.

Four Boxes to Send for Any Occasion

The Box: Packed Party

Who’ll want it: 20-something women who wish it would all happen right now. Best for birthdays, breakups, quarter-life crises.

What’s inside: Novelty items around themes like the “Pity Party,” which includes “Erase Your Past” tea, therapy flashcards and a pocket-size book of pep-talk sayings.

What it’ll run you: $45 per box.

The Box: Kiwi Crate

Who’ll want it: Kids ages 3 to 8 and their DIY project managers, er, parents. A growing fan base landed this new subscription box for the young, craftsy set, a deal to distribute a special line of kits in 250 Target stores starting this spring.

What’s inside: Attractively packaged supplies and instructions for various art, music, science or craft projects with fun themes like “Secret Agent” and “Feathered Friends” and “Busy With Bugs” (actual bugs not included). One recent, winter-themed box includes black and white felt pieces, precut shapes, and yarn for fashioning a polar bear costume complete with pint-size paws that “catch” an included ball on sticky Velcro dots.

What it’ll run you: $19.95 for a single crate, or subscriptions start at $60 for three months.

The Box: Quarterly

Who’ll want it: The hip, upwardly mobile urbanite seeking a tangible connection with influencers that goes beyond their Twitter account.

What’s inside: A letter and assortment of items from both mainstream and niche tastemakers drawn from the pop-culture realm. Megan Collins offers style advice to guys on her blog Style Girlfriend; a recent cocktail-themed assortment included a Bittercube’s handcrafted Jamaican bitters and ginger syrup from Brooklyn’s Morris Kitchen alongside a standard cocktail shaker, chevron-striped napkins and The Little Black Book of Cocktails. Choose quarterly subscriptions or one-off boxes from a wide variety of notables, including fashion editor Nina Garcia, music producer Q-Tip, tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, author Timothy Ferris and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

What it’ll run you: $50 to $100 per box.

The Box: Unbox Love

Who’ll want it: Couples that need a kick in the sweatpants to put down the remote control, stop doing the freaking dishes and keep the goddamned love alive. Let’s put some effort into this thing, beloveds.

What’s inside: The service is so new that the exact contents are still a surprise, but includes items to, you know, help increase intimacy — and do date night without leaving the house.

What it’ll run you: $50 a box, for now.

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