Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Right Livelihood: Ditch the Gillette Razors

One of the benefits of the practice I've had was, regarding my buying habits,  the beginnings of a formation of a "middle way" that avoids neither profligacy nor niggardliness.

A while back I was at a conference, and discussions with people seemed to support my suspicion about Gillette razor blades, namely: every time they introduce a new, non-backwards compatible "shaving system" it seems the quality of their existing "shaving systems" declines.  This I also suspected because of my knowledge of how certain integrated circuit companies function: they regard their factory as a product as much as the stuff they peddle in their commercials.   When they have a "new" class of products they get substantially re-tooled factories, which, because it's money allocated, means that at least in the short term  factories for existing older products might get less attention. In fact, once the costs of the re-tooling of the factory have been amortized, there only needs to be on-going funding of the factory such that it can be related to cash-flow. So I suspected that this might be the case with "shaving systems" as well.  I mean, other than the website Gillette has, do you see much advertising for the Mach-3 system these days? I had been buying the junk for years, "upgrading" to "systems" that were more and more difficult for me to use, as I seem to start to notice facial hair in places where previously I either took no notice or, I guess, grew there.

But with the recent entries from the division of Proctor and Gamble, I decided enough was enough.  Why am I paying so much for plastic with tiny bits of metal, that is so bulky it now has to include  an "edging" blade?  Have you any idea what the markup on that crap is?  How the hell is that crap recyclable?  P&G it seems haven't traditionally put much thought into the entire life-cycle of the materials they use, and those multi-edge blades are a case in point.  Most telling, though, go to any local Walgreens, Kroger, or what-not, and see if you can find a classic double edge razor.  I've not had any success in my neck of the woods, though the stores do sell some blades. Gillette of course got into this proprietary "shaving system" model precisely because double edge disposable blades could be made well, cheaply,  performed well, but didn't make a huge profit for them.   These "shaving systems" major purpose is to make money for Gillette, without any great benefit.

So I've ordered the stuff above.  Reviews of the product seem to indicate that I might be able to get 4 shaves per blade, which could cost me around $1.30 per week, which is substantially cheaper than even the competing Schick products.  The reviews also state that the blades are as sharp as you can get; they're made from a Japanese manufacturer of surgical knives. Plus, it has a smaller environmental footprint as it uses less plastic, as the plastic that might be used in the case (not sure if it even is plastic, but supposing it is) is separable from the blades themselves.  The only "downside" seems to be that I might have to be more mindful shaving, but then that's actually an upside, isn't it?

It is wonderful to see possibilities for living more simply and frugally, but living better.  So I may not be able to live like a samurai, but I can at least shave like one.


Adam said...

I heard some time ago that part of the reason razor blades and batteries cost so much is because they are some of the most stolen items at grocery stores and pharmacies, along with baby formula, diapers, and feminine hygeine products. It was years ago, and can't remember where I read that, but having worked in grocery stores in my youth, in my experience it is definitely true.

Mumon said...

Yeah, I'm sure that "inventory shrinkage" is one reason they cost so much, though lots of stores, including my preferred provider, put the pricier stuff behind "alarm" devices. It's a vicious cycle: they cost more, and the people least able to afford them have only the pricier stuff from which to choose.

But I think the business model of the major manufacturers is clearly another reason too: heavy advertising costs at the Superbowl etc. must be paid for in the end price of the products.

This stuff, by the way, is so, so much better than the gels-that-foam, lasts longer, and gives a much, much better shave.

And thanks to your comment, I just found out where to get it by mail order!

Nathan said...

I've been thinking about this myself lately oddly enough. I tend to use those damned blades until they're completely dull because I don't want to spend the money to buy more. The price is ridiculous, and I totally agree about the waste issue as well. The whole reason I shifted to buying the Gillette refill blades in the first place, was to avoid the disposable razor waste. But it's almost pointless when the "system" changes every two years, and the old blades disappear from the market.

Time to come up with a different plan for myself I guess.

Wiseass Zen said...

I still use the old type of razor, the ones where you unscrew the top and have to replace the blades. I made a post about it called "Zen and The Art of Shaving". Those old type razors and the hot lather give you a hell of shave, but you need to be careful!

Tameka said...

Hi, I’m working with Schick Quattro for Women®– we have a new coupon for $2 off disposable razors! Enjoy!

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Thanks for this, Mumon. Like Nathan I just tend to use the darned things until they go completely dull. Living in Montana (now India) I can usually get away with only shaving 2 or 3 times a week, too, which isn't so bad. But yes, I think I'll soon switch to the old fashioned system Wiseass mentions. Mindful consumption, mindful shaving; sounds good to me.

Mumon said...

Wiseass Zen:

Yeah, that's exactly what I'm talking about.

Nathan, Buddhist philosopher:

I think it wouldn't be a bad outcome if this went viral, but my hopes are not high.

Gillette speaks much louder at sports events than I ever will.

Shodo said...

Umm - are you recommending the Feather blade that appears just above the post? I'm using a headblade, which I like but it's hard to find blades... I want something I could sharpen and reuse, but unless I can use an old-fashioned razor on my own head, pretty hopeless.