December 2, 2009

Man Rant -- This Week's Exercise -- Razors

When exactly did the worldwide tiny flat piece of metal commodities market heat up into critical mass?  It's probably been a couple of years, maybe as much as a decade, but the rising price of disposable razors is horrifying.  As we skip-de-my-lou our way towards the apocalypse, it seems that there are certain items which when the Road Warriors start to raid, we will hide and hoard behind heavily armored compounds based on their current commodity selling price:  oil, gold, Twilight-related items, and razors.

I mean, I earn a decent living, I do okay, can't complain.  But I'll be damned if I don't cringe every time I have to replace razors while at the supermarket.   A four-pack of replacement razors on the Mach3 is like 15 dollars, the razor apparatus itself (with two razors per pack) is generally ten bucks or more.  I've never even considered an 8 pack, because I doubt I'd qualify for the financing.  If I'm buying groceries just for myself, a week's worth is something like 50 dollars.  Add in razors, and it's 20 to 25% more.  That makes it not just an item to walk by and decide to purchase, it requires a plan spanning months, and ends up being a war of attrition with dullness, with my face serving as Normandy.  I'm not sure what a razor's normal life expectancy is, but I go all Methuselah on the implement, until the rust sets in or the massive amount of little tiny cuts from the dull blade make me yell "uncle."  Maybe a month and a half per razor change, perhaps more.  I will not give the robber barons at Procter & Gamble satisfaction.   I said, "Good day," sir.

Now I know the ladies have similar complaints.   On top of the whole razor issue, which requires you all to buy basically the same razors as us, but with prettier colors and increased likelihood as objects of slip and fall potential in the shower, you also have a litany of other personal hygiene products that must be obtained on a regular basis that we do not have an inkling about price-wise or frequency-wise, nor do we want to.  But, because we are kindred spirits in price-gouging, that doesn't allow for a show of solidarity by allowing you to shave your legs or any other lady-parts with our Gillette Fusion.  That'll dull it up faster than an insurance seminar.  Please.  We feel your pain, but hands off.

Back to the price issue, according to Wikinvest, Procter & Gamble (after their purchase of Gillette in 2005) controls seventy percent of the global razor market.  The product line includes its Mach3, Fusion, Venus, and Gillette brands. In June 2009, P &  G further expanded its men's grooming business with the acquisition of the high-end shaving company "The Art of Shaving" and the men's skin care line Zirh.   (Screw "The Art of Shaving," by the way.  $150 Gillette Razors?  Conspicuous consumption is bad for children and other living things.  You know where you can stick your "contoured handle?")   Seventy percent of a market is effectively a monopoly, which when you're gouging people, should cause an antitrust alarm bell to go off.  Regulators shave too.  Knowing that Procter & Gamble owns both the huge competitors Mach3 and Fusion and competes them head-to-head against each other in 500 commercials over every NFL broadcast, actively supporting cannibalization across brands (imagine if Coke and Pepsi were owned by the same company), makes me want to personally boycott both of them.  And it's not like Procter & Gamble's earned a ton of good will over years.  These are the corporate dillweeds who pumped Olestra into the market, which if you like potato chips and you like anal leakage, you're in for a treat at family gatherings.  They were sued for toxic shock syndrome due to their tampons retaining breeding pools for bacterial toxins for entire menstrual periods,  they're dealing with a class action suit claiming that their toothpaste made people lose their sense of taste, and they're number 52 on the list of the largest corporate air polluters in the United States.  Plus, two of their three main spokesmen are Tiger Woods, who apparently seems to be under minor scrutiny recently, and French soccer douche Thierry Henry, who basically pissed off the entire island of Ireland by cheating with handballs in the World Cup qualifier.   I expect Roger Federer to rape a goat and get caught any day now. 

What's in a razor anyway?  According to one Internet source,  the combination of elements used in stainless steel blade construction includes carbon (0.45-0.55%), silicon (0.4-1%); manganese (0.5-1.0%); chromium (12-14%) and molybdenum (1.0-1.6%); with the remainder being iron. Blade manufacturing processes involve mixing and melting of the components in the steel. This mixture undergoes a process known as annealing, which makes the blades stronger. The steel is heated to temperatures of 1,967-2,048°F (1,075-1,120°C), then quenched in water to a temperature between -76 and -112° F (-60- -80° C) to harden it (that's what she said). The next step is to temper the steel at a temperature of (482-752°F (250- 400°C). The blades are then die stamped at a rate of 800-1,200 strokes a minute to form the appropriate cutting edge shape. The actual cutting edge of modern cartridge style razor blade is deceptively small. The entire cutting surface is only about 1.5 in (3.81cm) wide by 1 mm deep. This is compared to traditional razor blades which are almost 20 times wider and several times thicker. This design creates efficiencies in manufacturing by allowing the creation of a durable cutting surface using very little metal. Because the blade is so small, a special support structure is required to hold it inside the cartridge. The unit cost is as little as .08 cents for a single blade to as much as $3.50 for the entire assembled razor package (cartridge included). In any case, the profit margin is HUGE.

Clearly, the only answer is to grow beards. And hairy legs. And porno moustaches. Or learn to love Brazilian waxes and electrical epilation. Because otherwise, we're a hostage market. Most of us shave, and most of the options belong to Procter & Gamble, so bend over and take it. Wish I hadn't had the Olestra first, though.


  1. I read you loud and clear, however I must point out that you're not using all you can get from the razor. I stretch my time between new blades for far longer terms. Normandy? Piece of cake. I measure mine in Battle of the Bulge terms. Hell, I have an uncle who went Vietnam with one brand. It was going to be a heirloom, it was, until it got lost during one move.

    Oh, and re: spouses using my razor?
    I made a sign and posted it over the mirror. It reads "Currahee".
    Woman, I shave alone.

  2. Hilarious.

    I've learned, though, not to make too many rules in the bathroom for women. Payback is a bitch. Better to beg than to demand.

    And I'm ancient enough to remember those old-school razor blades. The kind you could actually slit your wrists with. With today's razors, the best I could do now would be a suicide note, embarrassment, and really smooth forearms.

  3. Gillette was also known for torturing small animals in needless testing for shampoos and other products until a decade-long boycott. Even now, I am hesitant to buy their stuff. What about Schick? Or Bic? But I think they all are pricey, I just question myself when I think it because it is usually a while between blade purchases. I splurge on the 8-packs. And go through the same never-change-it routine except for different reason: when I remember that the blade is dull and damaging, I am already wet and naked in the shower and the blades are in the cabinet across the bathroom...