The medium-sized priority mail box arrived by mail the day after Thanksgiving, on Black Friday. A label stating "D-Box" was stuck on the top, hinting at the mystery lineup of "diabetes goodies" inside.
And that moment, right before I ripped the box open, was probably the highlight of my experience with HealthEngage's new D-Box offering, that's pitched as a "Diabetes Products of the Month Club." Inside each box is a hodgepodge of D-item samples that can range from food, drinks, topical creams, books, electronics, jewelry, to "anything cool and useful for someone with diabetes."
I was pretty intrigued after talking to the head of the Arlington, VA, company behind this D-Box. It's a new service started this year that you can get for yourself or someone else as a gift - $35 for a single month, $75 for three months, $190 for six months, or $340 for a full year (!).
"We kept hearing from our users that it was difficult to find new and interesting diabetes-related products," HealthEngage president Michael Slage said about how the D-Box came to be. "It was troubling, getting emails from people saying they can't afford supplies and test strips... so we wanted to help them save some money. We decided to try to take the hassle out of finding and trying new products for people who can't spend all day on Google trying to find something."
So my imagination got away with me as I anticipated what might be inside my box: maybe it would be the run-of-the-mill sample packs you get at conference booths, but just maybe it would be something totally new and interesting and useful in ways I'd never thought of before.
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Unwrapping the Box
- Roasted Seasoned Seaweed from Korea
- A 6-oz tin of Bear & Wolf Pink Salmon
- Nature's Hollow sugar-free maple syrup
- A five-day sample pack of six Nature Made vitamins without any gluten or artificial flavors/preservatives
- An 18-oz jar of gluten-free and blueberry-flavored bai antioxidant infusions Superfruit juice
- a 1/4-oz sample of Formula II Skin Care Cream
- Stick of ultra-hydrating Desert Essence lip rescue with shea butter
As soon as I opened the box and surveyed the contents, I started laughing and OMG-head-shaking, because I was thinking:
"Seaweed... are you freakin' kidding me?! And vitamins? And lip balm?"
My conclusion: What an utter disappointment. I was really hoping for so much more.
Honestly, it wasn't the kind of stuff that's "fun, interesting, exciting, or useful" to me. And it certainly didn't seem worth the price tag of $35 a box.
To me, what was inside was reminiscent of stuff I've seen at every diabetes or health conference I've ever been to (and I've been to a lot in my 28 years with type 1). Sort of neat, but just not stuff I would spend my hard-earned money on.
Opinions can vary, though. And maybe I should step back and give this particular D-Box a fair shake.
I may personally not take "healthy eating" to the level many fellow PWDs do, but there are a growing number of PWDs who make these D-Box items a fixture in their lives. People outside the U.S. eat seaweed and it apparently has some health benefits (so Google searches tell me). Vitamins are good for you and the mix included appears very health-focused for PWDs. And the rest of the package contents surely have their own health benefits and people certainly buy these.
Yet, it just seems to be missing something for me.
Was it the surprise element that let me down? The notion that I'm getting some mystery box of D-Goodies that could potentially surprise me or change my D-Life? Maybe that's it. The box didn't even contain a single one of its pitched "helpful diabetes tools" like medicine organizers, electronics, emergency or heat packs, self-exam mirrors for foot inspections, or USB identification bracelets, books or D-publications. There also weren't any coupons or vouchers as I was expecting.
I had higher hopes, to be sure, but that doesn't mean some folks won't enjoy this monthly grab-bag service.
The Man Behind D-Box
A telemedicine guru, Slage formerly worked with NASA on developing advanced technology for astronauts to manage their health while in space, and on sharing that data with docs and ground control. His focus was on telemedicine, space stations and astronaut health. He left NASA to start a company assisting Pharma companies worldwide with patient applications, doing glucose calculations on handheld and web applications. Slage - who doesn't have diabetes himself - later started his own company, HealthEngage, in 2010 to forge his own path to using technology to help people better manage their health.
Now two years old, HealthEnage offers free online tools for people with diabetes (PWDs) to log blood sugars and other health stats and share info with docs. They offer a free diabetes widget that can be added on Google, Facebook, or mobile phones to log and track BG data.
The D-Box mailing offer has been around for about six months now and is the latest venture of the company that now reaches people in 176 countries speaking 58 languages. Diabetes is just one of the company's main focuses at this time, Slage says. The company works with about 300 diabetes vendors across the globe and proudly notes its support from Pharma's JnJ, NASA, and the Department of Homeland Security.
"We want to focus everything on the patient, to help them feel better and do better in their health. So much of this can get lost on insurance claims and product pitches from Pharma, so we want to make this all a little easier for people," Slage said.
Each D-Box includes five to ten "conference sample" style items (really whatever fits in the box), and Slage says his staff tries to mix it up between small and large vendors and include newer and lesser-known items that might not be available to everyone everywhere.
Curious about the dollar-value of this offering, I turned to Google and did a quick search, that showed the seven-item list might cost somewhere around $25. After paying somewhere around $10 for shipping, we're not too far off from the price actually paid... but it's certainly no discount deal.
And then there's the wait time. I placed my order a few days before the end of October. My D-Box arrived the day after Thanksgiving — just about a full month later. Wow!
According to Slage: Items are pre-selected and then boxed once an order's placed, though sometimes they add a last-minute surprise. Four staff members are specifically assigned to "scouring diabetes vendors around the world to find the coolest items from a wide variety of categories related to diabetes to send to our subscribers." At least one of those individuals has type 2 diabetes and another has a mom with type 1, he said.
So far, Slage says HealthEngage has sent out several hundred boxes already, and interest has gone up with the holidays approaching. They recently did some Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions and discounts. If you're thinking of gifting, Slage says the deadline is Dec. 14 for orders to be sent and received by Christmas.
The company's planning some holiday-specific items, and in the future also plans to toss in some kid-friendly stuff. Preferences can also be included, Slage said. They also plan to add a review feature to the company website allowing people to add feedback about the included D-Box items they receive.
"We understand people aren't going to like everything in there, but this is an ecosystem we're building that's all centered around a person with a chronic disorder."
OK, I get that. YPMV (your preferences may vary).
Still, I don't find the D-Box is worth the cost or the near-month it takes for delivery. Not by a long shot. However, if a D-Box was offered as a giveaway that I wouldn't have to spend my own money on, that could be different...
A DMProducts Giveaway
And here is your chance to try D-Box! We're giving away one D-Box full of mystery goodies to a lucky winner! Who knows what YOU will get inside yours...?
As always, entering for your chance to win is as easy as leaving a comment.
Here's what to do:
1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMProducts" somewhere in the comment (beginning, end, in parenthesis, in bold, whatever). That will let us know that you would like to be entered in the giveaway. You can still leave a comment without entering, but if you want to be considered to win the contest, please remember to include "DMProducts."
2. You have until Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, at 5 p.m. PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.
3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
This contest is open to anyone in the world who's in search of a D-Box, and willing to share their feedback with us. It could also make a great gift for a fellow PWD too. Best of luck!