Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

22 April 2013 BugsysBox3

Product: Bugsy’s Box pet box subscription service
Quantity: One big box of treats, toys, and accessories
Price: $29/box for a single month, as low as $19/box for a six month plan, shipping to US or Canada included*
Ingredients and materials: All kinds
Company information: 1320 State Route 9 72228; Champlain, NY 12919
Web Presence: Online at Bugsysbox.com, Facebook, Twitter

Everybody’s doin’ the box… the subscription box, that is. We’ve gotten a chance to try out several pet-specific boxes now (see the list under “Mail Order and Other Services” on our reviews tab). The latest to pass through our mail slot is Bugsy’s Box, named after the company owner’s 3-year-old pug who, in their words, “simply takes our breath away while hanging around the office daily.”

How did Bugsy’s Box stack up?

Not very well, I’m afraid.

Pugface
Disapproving pug is sad that his fellow pug brethren could not do better!

A typical assortment from Bugsy’s Box contains “5 to 7 items which are a variety of high quality, hand picked, well reviewed dog treats, toys, care items, healthy supplements, accessories and more surprises such as coupons which are often included as a bonus” (Bugsbysbox.com front page). Included in this month’s offering was the following:

  • Barking Bus animal cookies by Exclusively Dog, 1.5 oz box
  • YumZies mini training treats by Nootie, Barbecue Chicken flavor, 6 oz. pouch
  • Animal Safari soft toy by PetLou, 9″ size
  • Lightweight Loofa stuffingless plush by MultiPet, 12″ size
  • Fetch and Glow Ball by American Dog Toys, Size Medium
  • Incredibubbles by PetQwerks, Peach flavored 3 oz. vial
  • EcoDogPlanet Doggie Bags, 20 count box
  • Carob flavored wafer cookies by Exclusively Dog, 3 count sample pouch

BugsysBox4

The box seemed very full, with a descriptive preview card printed on nice paper, making a great first impression. I zipped off a quick note to the company representative acknowledging receipt, and let him know it could take us a few weeks to adequately try out everything before formulating our honest opinion.

Well as it turns out, our turnaround is much faster because there are several items in the box that do not make it past this human’s quality control checkpoint.

Bugsy's Box: array of treats

I’ll start with the edibles, always the most coveted prizes here at the House of Two Bows, and three of the eight items in the box. I was initially intrigued by the Barking Bus animal crackers in cute retro packaging. However, on closer examination, I was rather dismayed by the ingredients:

    wheat flour, sugar, vegetable fat, corn syrup, salt, natural vanilla flavor, cornstarch, sodium bicarbonate, lecithin, garlic powder

The sample pouch of carob flavored wafer cookies, also made by Exclusively Dog, did not fare any better with maltodextrins, sugar, dextrose, and caramel color on the list, ingredients that I find to be completely unnecessary in dog treats. Despite the assertion that Exclusively Dog treats use “wholesome, natural ingredients” that are even kosher, I take issue with how they are NOT truly “specially formulated for dogs,” as claimed.

We’ve seen a similar trend of dog cookies that look (and smell) cloyingly like junk food for people at PetCo. Exclusively Pets doesn’t appear to use the same formula, but the physical products look awfully similar and follow the same concept.

Exclusively Dog vs. PetCo
Top: Exclusively Dog Barking Bus animal crackers; Bottom: PetCo Animal Friends bulk cookies

So this may not be the same thing, but it’s not exactly “hard to find at your local per [sic] store,” as the insert card claims. Since at least one of my dogs already has a hard time battling plaque and tartar, which is fueled by sugar, I would rather not feed these cookies at all.

It turns out that the highest quality edible in this box is the pack of YumZies training treats, of which there was a generous pouch. However, we’ve had these before, and unfortunately, we didn’t think much of them

Okay, so maybe Bugsy’s Box finds its strengths in other categories. Even though the Bows don’t usually take much interest in toys, perhaps there’s something there to redeem the box. Four out of eight items, after all, are of this category. Let’s see which ones my dogs would choose first!

BugsysBoxBowpi2

Since Peepsy likes to shred towel-like items, she must want the Loofa SMILE! plushy! Yes?? *dangle dangle*

BugsysBoxBowpi1

Erm, no. Apparently I was misprioritizing her sleepytime by asking her to help review these items. It’s just as well that she didn’t care to put anything in her mouth, as both plushes, with their brightly colored dyes and embedded squeakers, are made in China. Like many conscientious pet owners, we have concerns about purchasing any Chinese-made goods that could possibly be ingested. Perhaps I’d be less adamant about this if the Bows were still teething pups ripping through a dozen toys a month or if we didn’t have other options for mental stimulation, like hiking and other outdoors activities.

The IncrediBubbles and Fetch and Glow ball fare marginally better, being made in Taiwan (a separate country from China with better manufacturing oversight). However, the irony is that the glow ball comes from a company that calls itself American Dog Toys (headquartered in Minnetonka, MN). This reflects badly on Bugsy’s Box when they claim on their insert that “our treats, care items and essentials are all made in the USA or Canada!”

Someone either forgot to edit the placard or didn’t screen the products carefully… At least all the food items, questionable ingredients aside, are made in the USA.

Bugsy's Box insert

On a more positive note, the specially formulated, pop-resistant IncrediBubbles were so superfluous as to be endearing. I had never considered bubbles as an interactive toy before, let alone a light calorie treat! I mean, they’re peach-flavored, after all! Anyway, Bowdu was surprisingly interested.

Bubble4

… for a while.

Bubble5

I’ll definitely pull these out again for another photo day. It’s rather hard to blow bubbles and take pictures while trying to keep the soapy residue off my equipment. The PetQwerks site assures consumers that the formula is “non toxic,” but it does leave a sticky film that should be considered inedible, given how long it persists. Even an hour afterward, I found intact bubbles sitting on the lawn, and I was plucking plasticine bits off Bowdu’s fur the next day…

Speaking of persistent plastics, we’re down to one last item — poop bags from tapioca-based plastics, made in Indonesia, from Eco Dog Planet.

Bugsy's Box: EcoDogPlanet poop bags

Dog owners always have a need for poop bags, so this is not a gift to be taken lightly. We like these because they are truly practical and ecological… but not particularly economical, at least not as the most worthwhile item in the entire assortment. For a $29 box (which is the month-to-month price), I expect to be wowed by more than a roll of poop bags that will be used up within a week in our two-dog household.

The overall value of this box, based on generous retail calculations, would be approximately $50, though it could be as low as $27 based on lowest Amazon prices and my estimates. Let’s compare to their going subscription rates (shipping included with all prices):

  • Month-to-month, single box rate: $29
  • 3-month subscription: $23/box = $69
  • 6-month subscription: $19/box = $114

So one would have to commit to at least a three-month gamble for this to make economical sense, if you like everything in the box. Alas, our experience based on one box does not make us very optimistic. Was this a fluke? I really don’t know. I do know, however, that there are several competing subscription pet boxes offering better deals at each price tier.

Bugsy’s Box has its work cut out if it wants to catch up with the competition.

FINAL GRADE: C+

* Note: The House of Two Bows received one box in exchange for our honest review. The opinions contained are entirely my own.

On Sunday evening, I e-mailed the company contact, who is apparently the founder, a summary of my criticisms, and offered to publish his response to accompany this review. I have received no acknowledgment as of the Friday morning that this review was posted. Lack of communication factored into my final assessment. Though this review may very well be buried by the search engines, we do not take the task lightly. We always prefer to see companies with demonstrable evidence of their good intentions or desire to improve, and I’m sorry we had very little to go by here.