Over the years, I had a growing feeling of unease about the price that Gillette (which became part of consumer products giant Procter & Gamble a decade ago) commanded with its blades at retail, including the years-long creep (profit grab) from the single safety razor blade up to the Fusion ProGlide product that has 5 blades on a single cartridge. A pack of 12 Fusion ProGlide cartridges currently costs around $45 on the website of a major discount chain.
Many shavers have taken their razor blade cost resentment to the internet. They’ve turned to companies led by Dollar Shave Club, a successful startup which just sold for $1 billion. It has used online marketing efficiencies to offer significantly lower-priced blades.
I’ve tested those and can tell you I won’t be having my wallet nicked by more expensive blades again. Imagine the movies’ Rocky fresh from a shave, jumping up and down on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That’s how I feel now that I’ve made the shaving shift.
A few decades ago, I happened upon an ad in a weekly newspaper: “Male Shavers Wanted.” Hold on, it isn’t what you might think.
The ad said that $15 will be paid per shave. I soon inquired at the Gillette Research Institute just a couple of blocks from my home in a Maryland suburb outside Washington, D.C. At the time, I was working a weird shift at a job I had, making it easy to stop by in the morning for the 45 minutes to an hour that was required.
I heard that humans were brought in to test products, such as razors, aftershave etc., previously tested on lab animals. Protesters had caused a ruckus over that practice. I joined the group of human guinea pigs and pocketed $75 a week when tests were underway. I felt like I was on top of the world getting paid to do what most guys think is drudgery.
From that experience, I learned how my skin reacts to this nearly daily ritual. You can check out my earlier piece on why using shaving oil makes a huge difference.
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Dollar Shave Club’s pitch
Photo courtesy of Dollar Shave Club
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the pitch for Dollar Shave Club — probably on the radio.
I had grown tired of spending $10 to $20 on a pack of razor blades, although I became content with the store-bought products knowing they went through rigorous testing.
When I registered online for DSC (Dollar Shave Club), I opted for the least expensive option, “The Humble Twin,” a reference to the dual-blade design. While the name is Dollar Shave Club, the truth is that the cheapest plan is $3 per month for a pack of 5 blades, including shipping and handling.
I discovered quickly, however, that I wasn’t using 5 blades a month, so now I choose shipments every other month, cutting the cost even further.
At minimum, Dollar Shave Club can save you some money.
I like how the blades (the initial shipment includes a razor handle) are sent to the house. I don’t have to continue to harbor the unease associated with being dinged at the grocery store or drugstore by more costly name-brand blades. I find the quality of the shave meets my needs.
While the DSC handle is made of lightweight plastic, I like the dual-blade option because the smaller form factor allows me to trim the tricky area under the nose where a mustache would otherwise grow. I’ve found that designs with 3 or more blades are tougher to maneuver around my facial obstacle course.
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Tried another mail-order player
With the way Internet advertising works these days, if I buy or shop for something, it seems that I’m trailed for some time by either the same product I’ve already purchased or a rival one.
Not long after I subscribed to Dollar Shave Club, a slightly more expensive rival, Harry’s, seemed to begin to stalk me on the Web with ads. Knowing that I’d be writing this piece, I opted for its basic model, a dual blade with what feels like a more substantial, heavier handle.
Harry’s costs $15 every 3 months with 8 blades, which is also more than I needed, but curiosity from my former professional shaving experience got the better of me. If I were to choose 1 of these, I’d probably opt for Dollar Shave Club, mostly because of the lower price. In future months, I’m going to try its slightly higher-priced blade and handle just to see how they compare.
I can imagine there are plenty of men out there who are just fine sticking with their tried-and-true routines paying $20 or more a month for the razor blades sold at retail and backed by macho television ads.
For me, I’d rather enjoy the minimum 50% savings using the Dollar Shave Club or Harry’s products. I’ve noticed that both companies seem to push their customers to add hair gel or skin products to their regular shipments, effectively running up their bills.
For the companies, that’s an understandable attempt to boost their would-be profit margins. For me, that defeats the purpose of working to save some money where I can.