Sunday, June 22, 2008

Razor blades: Too good for their own good?

Razor blade makers face a dilemma. Their products need to be better than the competition but imperfect in terms of how long they last. Their textbook business strategy is to practically give away the handle and then sell replacement blades at high margins. Makers of printers for your home computer make all their profit selling replacement print cartridges, using the same approach.

No doubt you have seen the ads lately by Gillette and others telling us to throw our blades away when the blue strip turns white. Call me crazy or old-fashioned, but I have always thought that the time to ditch the blade was when it started to pull uncomfortably when I was using it. This happens faster with some brands than with others.

There was a time in the late 1970s when Wilkinson Sword made a little razor cartridge that kept its edge seemingly forever. I should have bought a caseload of them, because after about a year they disappeared from the market and were replaced by something less durable.

But Wilkinson still makes disposable twin blade razors that seem to shave for months. I bought a pack in England last fall and am on about the third razor. (I shave first with an electric razor and use the blade to finish the job, in the shower). In contrast, none of the fancy new Lubricated Venetian Blinds last anywhere near that long. BUT!! they still seem to last longer than the makers intended, and we are now having to put up with ads telling us to throw the darn thing out for our own good.

How prone to suggestion are we? Will you throw out a good blade because the strip has turned colour? Will you keep a bad one because the strip is still blue? Me, I will keep an eye out for another pack of Wilkinson disposables next time I am across the pond.

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