Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'd Sure Like to Shave Some of the Cost From This Item

I put it off for as long as possible, but yesterday evening, I had to cave in: It was time to buy new razor blades.

I came somewhat late to shaving (at least in my own estimation), but by my sophomore year in high school, it was an everyday thing. I wasn't exactly part of the Blade World for a while, as I used an electric shaver up until the final month of undergrad school. (Even then, it was only out of necessity; my car broke down while I was student teaching, and I had to stay with friends unexpectedly one night. Since I had no change of clothes and no way to get home, I walked over to the nearby Kmart to grab the necessities. Since I certainly wasn't going to buy a new electric razor, I purchased disposables for the first time, and--until I got used to them--I looked like a Dracula victim for a day or two.)

But eventually, I became a regular with the blade. (I should mention that, during my electric shaver days, I shaved off two entire beards with one. My running joke at the time was "Now I know what the lawn feels like when it's being mowed.") For a while, I would go with whatever new model my company churned out, proceeding from Sensor to Sensor Excel and then on to Mach 3 and Mach 3 Turbo, with which I've remained for many years now. And in the beginning, the blades for same were priced fairly reasonably, but it the past few years, they've suddenly gone through the roof; while I can remember paying $7.00 for a 3-pack for the longest time, but now they've gone to 5-packs as the smallest quantity, and the price has shot up to nearly $15.

So I griped about this on Facebook last night, and the responses from friends pretty much ran the gamut: "No-shave July!" (umm, no, I have camp next week and can't scare the young'uns); "Go Thelonious Monk style; toss the razors and let it grow" (see above; I can't really pull that look off); someone suggesting a straight razor (I'd likely decapitate myself); and the usual snark about how the government should regulate razor prices (I'd slap the guy who wrote that if I didn't know that he was being sarcastic).

But someone did post an article that at least shows that I'm not alone in having this problem:
This spring, the titans of shaving, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette (NYSE: PG - News) and Energizer Holdings Inc.'s Schick (NYSE: ENR - News) launched another round of their endless duel, with systems touting improved blades, more ergonomic handles and, inevitably, higher prices.

Shaving is big business. Gillette brings in more than $4 billion in annual sales; Schick sees sales of around $1 billion a year, according to analysts' estimates. Though the recession hurt sales of blades and boosted sales of cheaper disposable razors, the two companies still have a lock on the U.S. market. Gillette commands 70% of the razors-and-blades category, and Schick holds about 10%, according to market-data firm Euromonitor International Inc.

A hardy subset of men, however, isn't interested in playing the game and takes extraordinary measures to opt out.

"I'm a full-on capitalist, but there's a little bit of 'sticking it to the man' here that I enjoy," says Mr. Hagan of his stockpile of Mach3 blades, which Gillette launched 12 years ago.
The guy in question has amassed 100 of the blades, and he's also found oil that extends the life of them even longer.

Speaking of extended blade life--as they've gotten more expensive, I've also delayed replacing them for a little longer. (Yes, I follow the little color strip above the blade, but when it completely loses its color is open to debate.) While I used to replace them every two weeks, it's more like three nowadays; the blade I'm about to change out is going on Week #4. (And it must be noted that I'm both goateed and mustachioed, so I'm not covering as big of a surface area as someone who needs to shave his entire face.)

I realize that, even at the ridiculous price, I am getting a lot of time for my dollar; five blades @ three weeks per blade @ $3 apiece still gets me nearly four months' worth of shaving for my $15. But why did they stop selling them in 3-packs? Paying nine bucks at the current price would be one thing, but $15--as another Facebook poster said--wrecks my grocery budget when it's time to buy thees things.

So I'll toss this one out to the blog world: 1) What do you normally pay for razor blades? 2) How long can you get a single blade to last? 3) Any suggestions on getting even more out of my blades (like the oil referenced, but not identified, in the linked article)? Any comments would be appreciated.

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