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In Which I Receive a Little Box of Vegan Surprise

Vegan craft samples

Holy craft, Batman!

If your mom ever made an excellent treasure hunt for you and your greedy, unappreciative siblings, you remember how tingly your toes and fingers got when you finally reached the treasure chest full of whoknowswhat. Now you can have that transcendent shivery feeling and a box of crafty vegan surprise in the mail, and you don’t have to share them…or fish clues out of the toilet.

It’s All in the Bag is providing that service. Buy a bag of vegan, handmade crafts for $15 (small), $25 (medium), or $35 (large holiday bag, now sold out) from their website and receive a mixed bag of vegan sample stuff donated by crafters on Etsy. All profits from the bags go to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary out in Deer Trail, Colorado. (Oh, check out their site! It is so pretty and soft and delicate and just like being in the womb!) So what’s not to like?

The generous organizers at It’s All in the Bag sent me a medium-sized box of mine very own. First thing I saw when I opened the priority mail box is a handmade tote bag hiding all the goods. This one, I am SO sorry to say, looks like something I might have made before taking that gender role-affirming eighth-grade home ec. class. At the top of the bag were some sort of confusing coupons and business cards for things like reusable menstrual pads, dressmaking and alterations (send my baggy-in-the-ass pants to Etsy?), prayer beads, and various cosmetics. I dug a little further and found:

  • A beautiful penguin holiday-themed card
  • Teeny tiny soap samples
  • Yummy lip balms, salty scrubs, smelly lotions, and other miniature cosmetics
  • Doggy biscuits that expired just a couple days after I received the box
  • Single servings of tea
  • A necklace and pair of earrings made of plastic beads
  • Hella-lotta packaging, most of which was decorative/unnecessary
  • More coupons for Etsy stores I probably won’t visit

23 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Melissa Bastian

    on #

    Hooray for Heather of the Vegan Etsy Team and her happy bags of goodness!

  2. Comment by

    heather

    on #

    The tote bags are all handmade by me, 200 to be exact for the holiday bags, sorry they arent gucci or ralph lauren, but i am one person
    also the dog biscuits do have ingredients listed, on a sheet inside the little box
    i also have no control over the packaging, and i tell people to make their packages appeal to folks…if you want your item in the bag to stand out, you package it so it appeals.
    I dont know what items dont have ingredients listed, as I check them all
    thanks for the review, i guess
    I guess people really have no idea how much time and effort I put into these bags
    I do this all myself, I do the advertising, get folks to sign up, make all of the bags, sort all of the samples when they come in, package them all up, and put the 5th graders thank you card on the outside of the 5th grade gender role whatever the heck you said bag
    then i advertise like crazy to sell them, send some out for review, open up boxes already sealed for folks who order out of the usa etc
    I am the only person doing a sample bag like this that doesnt keep every single penny it makes, that I know of.
    It is a lot of hard work
    Enjoy your 2nd grade jewelry and crap
    the idea of the bag is to samples items from shops, shops arent going to send in 200 pieces of 10$ jewelry, its a sample

  3. Comment by

    Angela K. Marvin

    on #

    I LOVED my bag! I personally think the bag itself was adorable and funky. These aren’t so much actual products as SAMPLES, hence all the advertising, duh! And these samples were awesome! I thought the handmade jewelry was darling and I’m debating whether to keep them and enjoy them myself or give them as Christmas gifts.

    Yay for Heather and all her hard work!

  4. Comment by

    christina

    on #

    it is called a sample bag for a reason, isn’t it? and people who usually donate to things, including big charities, usually do some sort of advertising as a trade off… i’d imagine this was the idea behind all of those, “cards for Etsy stores that you probably won’t visit.” what is the point in putting that down anyway? do you expect the producer to personalize each bag with cards they feel will fit the buyer the best? and what is the point in writing:
    I also don’t like smelly things. (this is a sample bag… not a personalized stocking stuffer.)

    personally, i find it hard taking someone seriously when they have no couth in writing.

  5. Comment by

    Sam C

    on #

    Hi Heather,

    Like I said, I think this is a great idea and I recognize how much work it is. I would love to see your great idea succeed, so I’m giving you an honest opinion with constructive criticism.

    I sew, too, so I do understand the time, effort, and near-losses-of-finger-nails involved. Happy to help you by making a few tote bags with fabric I have here if you could use the help.

    I’m glad to know the biscuits usually have ingredients listed. I searched all over for ingredients on the doggy biscuits before writing this and I couldn’t find them–still can’t. Maybe they fell out or just weren’t in this one?

    Lastly–and I get that this is a contentious point–, yes, you’re trying to put people’s products out there in an affordable way, and that means samples and/or coupons, but so much packaging around, say, a business card (a roll of yarn or crepe paper), seems like overkill on the decoration.

    I hope this helps make sense of the review!

  6. Comment by

    Sam C

    on #

    Christina,

    In regard to the business cards/advertising, I’m talking about the cards of those small businesses that didn’t donate products, not a trade-off. Of course, some products don’t work as samples, so a business card or coupon is the best a maker of such goods can offer, but there seemed to be an imbalance of those coupons/ads compared to samples.

    The comment “I also don’t like smelly things” gives you insight into where I’m coming from; I don’t generally like scented products, and that colors my opinion of them. It tells you that I don’t like this sort of thing, but you might.

    Honestly, I’m happy that others liked their bags so much because this project is a fantastic idea!

  7. Comment by

    heather

    on #

    I just dont understand why someone who doesnt like handmade/diy products would be the person review handmade diy products
    by the way the business cards attached to the top are mine, and they go with the thank you note that mentions that I handmade all of the bags

    i wouldnt review a pop album, because i dont like pop music

    get what im saying?
    I dont need help making the bags, we are out of DONATED fabric and I will now be purchasing bags to use, as I cannot sew 200 bags myself everytime.
    Unless you have fabric to donate so we dont have to spend some of the money on bags

  8. Comment by

    Sam C

    on #

    I love handmade stuff, and that is precisely why I asked to review this one. When I read your message and it said vegan craft samples, I wasn’t expecting it to be mostly cosmetics (which I wear and like, just not if they’re moderately-to-heavily scented). As examples, I do like the penguin card, the tea, and the lip balm very much.

    Yes, I do have fabric I could donate or use to make bags and send your way.

  9. Comment by

    lemulcah

    on #

    I love getting my vegan craft sample bags! I received my second one a week or two ago. Admittedly, the samples I received this time around weren’t quite as much to my liking as the last time, but that’s kind of what happens when you buy a bag full of surprises. I can’t even tell you how I excited I got when this arrived at my house, and the fun I had opening everything and seeing what I got- it’s like Christmas morning. I happen to like the bag itself, and will either use most of the products in them or have given them to others (aka I don’t currently live with a dog and a coworker was very pleased that I passed the dog treats along. The money goes to a great cause, you get to see what kind of vegan shops are out there, and there are some really cute and useful products to boot. What’s not to love?

  10. Comment by

    Michele Erez

    on #

    I LOVE these bags, I’m a customer, every time they come out, I ‘m always so excited to receive the wonderful variety of vegan goodies and to know that the small cost goes to help animals 100%, so awesome, thank you to Heather for organizing them! I also love contributing my jewelry and business cards to raise money for the animals while promoting my shop, double the fun! ;0) Go It’s All in the Bag! Michele, http://mvegan5.etsy.com

  11. Comment by

    Honest Vegan

    on #

    I just want to make a couple of points:

    * If the blogger wasn’t honest about their feelings, this would just be considered advertising… we have to allow the bloggers the room to express their opinions … if we don’t want honest reviews of our products, we shouldn’t send them off for reviews!

    * The criticism in this case was carefully worded and sensitively so, as to do the least amount of offense possible, whilst remaining honest in the process. Take the criticism constructively, or don’t…. it wasn’t bad advice though, and would serve you and your cause better in the long run!

  12. Comment by

    Molly

    on #

    Sure, constructive criticism is always nice, but this seemed more catty/put-downish than constructive. I think the thing that wasn’t stressed enough is that this is something to raise money for an extremely good cause. I don’t think there’s going to be someone that loves absolutely everything in the bag they get, but these are sample bags. Sometimes you like samples, sometimes you don’t. Besides, these are all items that people are spending their own time & money on. You can’t expect sterling silver & other pricey materials!

    All in all, a lot of the comments made in the post were unnecessary & downright rude, especially the comment about the bag. Like the saying goes, if you don’t have something nice to say… Besides, if anyone takes this review seriously and ends up not purchasing one because of it, you just helped to raise less money for PPS.

    Next time, have a little more tact & actually be constructive, not demeaning.

  13. Comment by

    jesse.anne.o

    on #

    I actually do think this is a valid review, with constructive criticism. She made a point to pick out the items she liked, listed them first to lead with a positive impression and also included disclaimers as to why she, personally, didn’t enjoy them as much as someone else might. I also think that you can read this type of review and decide if you like such an item anyway. As often happens, I disagree with a reviewer but if they include enough feedback about the item I can make my own decision as to whether it suits *me*. That’s what reviewers *do* and the status quo knows it doesn’t have to agree with every reviewer, every time.

    What I think has not been mentioned here is the professionalism and customer service style of the vendor. Yes, even if you’re doing something for charity, there still needs to be customer service.

    I could see reading this review and, if the vendor replied with professionalism and said something along the lines of, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Thanks for your feedback and I’m glad you enjoyed at least a few things about the sample bag.” When someone is this reactionary and unprofessional, even if I liked the product, I’d be much less likely to purchase it because I’d expect them to be equally as reactionary and unprofessional with my questions or order itself. (As an aside – the nonprofit you’re supporting would probably not be thrilled to see it either, as you’re associated with them.) There are so many vendors (even on “it’s only Etsy”) that have customer service down pat, that they have raised the bar for others and it’s one of the reasons for Etsy’s success — good service and a feedback model. (In fact Etsy has an entire series on customer service: http://www.etsy.com/storque/search/tags/service-tips-for-sellers/)

    Reviews are reviews and don’t fall under the category of “If you can’t say anything nice…”. If that were the case and they were not able to express their personal opinion (positive or negative), reviews would be worthless.

    Products, whether for retail sale or fundraisers, are not Girl Scout bagdges; it doesn’t matter the amount of time and energy you put in them if the final product isn’t received well.

    I hate to see someone attacked for being tactfully honest in a review – a review that might actually be responsible for new sales if the responses were played correctly. And I hate to see a vendor take something like this so personally.

  14. Comment by

    heather

    on #

    a tactful critique would have been well received but I am sorry to say this sounded more catty than constructive to me
    My customer service is great, I have tons of positive feedback and many folks love the bags.
    I dont think it was tactful at all.
    Agree to disagree

  15. Comment by

    Molly

    on #

    Jesse, you say that she started off with what she likes in the bags, but she really didn’t. The entire review was pretty much picking out what she didn’t like. An honest, constructive review would have also highlighted the items she DID like, but she really didn’t mention them at all.

    Again, the things she didn’t like about the bag could have been stated much more tactfully & maturely. This wasn’t a review but a negative critique. A review would have highlighted the positives as well as the negatives.

  16. Comment by

    Laura Leslie

    on #

    Like the saying goes, if you don’t have something nice to say…

    Do you not understand the definition of the word “review”? If all reviews said only nice things, they’d be entirely useless to readers.

    From SuperVegan’s “Product Reviews” guidelines:

    “We’ll do our best to review your product fairly; our reviews express our honest opinions, though, so don’t send us your stuff if you can’t take criticism.”

    Sam’s review was fair, tactful, and honest. Heather’s defensive and unprofessional response has undoubtedly lost her many potential customers, myself included.

  17. Comment by

    heather

    on #

    i am done responding to this, I am glad you think it was a respectful review but i def disagree
    and by losing you as a customer, you arent hurting me
    you are only hurting the animals that benefit from these bags

  18. Comment by

    Molly

    on #

    Yes, Laura, I do understand the meaning of review. Did you not read my post above yours? You can put things constructively without being demeaning, which was my entire point. I’d also like to repeat- why point out all of the negatives but barely focus on any of the positives? It just sounded more like an attack than a review. TACT would have been much better in this “review”.

  19. Comment by

    stefanie

    on #

    why point out all of the negatives but barely focus on any of the positives?

    Maybe because the gift bag sucked? It’s a $25 pile of advertisements and wastefully packaged junk.

    The reviewer stretched the “positives” much farther than you deserved:

    “generous organizers”
    “beautiful”
    “Yummy”
    “By no fault of It’s All in the Bag”
    “not much All in the Bag can do about this”
    “truly I really like this idea and want it to succeed”
    “I think you will make it”

    If you think that’s a demeaning review, your heads are going to explode when someone finally gives you real criticism.

    you are only hurting the animals that benefit from these bags

    Did you really just say “You are hurting animals by not buying my product”? Think about it for a minute. No, really. Just think about how manipulative, passive-aggressive, and inane that statement is, and hope one day you’ll be wise enough to apologize.

  20. Comment by

    Sara

    on #

    I actually really liked the bags until I saw how unprofessionally Heather handled the criticism on here… That’s really unfortunate because her Facebook page (which I was referred to by another business) is what directed me here in the first place.

    I’m all for supporting businesses with a wonderful cause, but not unprofessional businesses. I’d be upset if my donated products were being wasted on a business that was burning all of its bridges with the community most likely to support it.

    I would strongly suggest Heather to learn to #1 ACCEPT and #2 USE negative feedback to further develop her business rather than writing hormonal responses to it all over the internet.

  21. Comment by

    Aurora Vegan

    on #

    I’ve heard the saying that bad publicity is still good publicity, but this entire review reads as catty and unprofessional.

    1) You are attacking thousands of hours of work all done for helping animals. Not just the vegan craft samples distributor but the tons of hand made sellers to who contribute to this. We put a lot of time money and effort into the items we contribute, many of us, not for the advertisement but out of our love and compassion for the animals the money of these bags goes to.

    If I were you I would feel ashamed of myself. What’s next on your agenda, gonna make fun of childrens cancer fundraiser items? Most of those I’ve seen are just a piece of yarn with a PLASTIC BEAD tied to it.

    2) Your so called excessive packaging, you obviously received a Holiday Sample Box. Many contributors went out of their way to spent extra time and money on that ‘excessive packaging’ because it is the holidays.

    ~Also you are obviously a person with poor business since. Presentation is everything, esp. when you are one of 30-40 people lumped together.

    3. Again I say, SHAME ON YOU for making fun of this box. I know personally that one of the jewelry artists who contributes samples to there runs a feline sanctuary out of her own pocket. She not only uses her shop to fund the animals she cares for ( which includes but is not limited to abused & orphaned cats, chickens, geese, and wild birds) but she also contributes 100 of items to animal rights awareness fund raises and events every year.

    So someone cannot afford to shell out the money for sterling silver or Gucci-esqu samples, it in no way cheapens the bags or the sentiments behind them.

    You expressed your opinion and now I have expressed mine.

  22. Comment by

    VeganKittenSxE

    on #

    I have purchased one to three bags each time these have gone on sale and I have always been pleased with my purchases.

    Some of my bags have included wonderfully packaged items such as a pair of surgical stainless steel & crystal earrings in a darling little black gift box ( that fits perfectly in my jewelry box drawer! )

    A gemstone necklace that was as well made as it was stunning that was wrapped up in a bamboo cloth gift sachet that is completely reusable.

    A wonderful handmade ceramic key chain stamped with the word Vegan on one side and a cute little star on the other.

    Soap samples of every scent imaginable! My packages always smell so great because of all the wonderful little *vegan* soap samples I get in them. It is so nice to get little samples like these, they let me explore new scents and scent combos that I would never have imagined I would enjoy. After all there is no smelling online, lol.

    I say this review is a bit unfair to the VeganCraftSamples business. Out of overy box I have gotten there have been some things I didn’t like or care for but there are also tons of items that I really loved and was impressed by.

    Educating via consumerism is one of the greatest things that Vegan Craft Samples does.
    I say major kudos to heather for setting up this sampler. It allows me, a vegan consumer, to explore purchasing places I never imagined all while helping our farm friends while doing so!

    Remember my vegan family, the more we put positive light on veganism the better we will do for the animals.

  23. Comment by

    Jason Das

    on #

    For those whose priority is helping the animals at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, they are happy to accept your donations no matter how you feel about It’s All in the Bag or SuperVegan.

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