Every year for the past 9 years I have let my facial hair grow out during exam time. Call it a sacred ritual or simply lethargy, whatever it is, I like doing it. Once exams are over, and the beard starts to itch, I get fed up with my furry face and shave. My weapon of choice has consistantly been the Mach 3 from Gillette, that is until this past grooming fiesta.

I have been a bit short on cash as of late so I decided to stave the Mach 3 purchase and opt for the cheaper Excel 2 blade 10 pack. Before Mach 3 hit the market I was an Excel man and it suited me just fine, but I admit the absolute bliss of three blades hitting my ultrasensitive skin was a sensation I was not going to let up on. So that was it for the Excel 2. Now the Excel 2 had always done a good job and since it is much more inexpensive, I felt that I was okay in dipping back to a less comfortable shave, in return for more food money.

Naturally I thought everything would go as it had about 3 years ago, what a surprise it was then to find that the Excel 2 blades I bought were carving up my face! What the Mach 3 could do in one swipe, and what my old Excels could do in 2 or 3 passes were taking this new batch as many as 9 passes without doing a smooth job, moreso, hacking up my face.

At first I thought it was just that initial blade. After going through 2 more blades and experiencing the same results, I grabbed an older Mach 3 blade, finished my shave and went to my computer. I wrote the product number down and sent a complaint to Gillette. I also went to the store to buy another batch of blades, one pack Mach 3 and the other Excel 2. It was plausible that the pack I purchased was a nasty set and that was it.

It wasn't.

I let my face grow out again to test my hypothesis and found that again the Excel 2s were nasty. Utter crap. I emailed Gillette again and inquired as to what the problem was, or why the lack of quality. My reply was a set of vouchers for free Gillette products. I was enraged, I sent another letter only to get a reply stating that there was no decrease in quality and if I was unsatisfied, I could mail for some more free vouchers.

My theory is this:

In order to push their new ultra-line of blades (the Mach 3) Gillette has purposely decreased the quality of their other lines of blades, almost forcing consumers to go to the more expensive product to get even just a decent shave.

Enraged, I went out and bought a straight-edge. I had no clue how to use one, and was afraid to death to go near my face with it in fear of accidently slashing my jugular. I asked my grandpa how to use one since that is all he has ever used. To say the least I am absolutely enthralled! I have never had a closer shave, and all I need to do is take special care of the blade and sharpen it now and again.

I will never go back to a modern shaver/blade system nor will I ever purchase another Gillette product. I may have simply been the victim of a really unlucky stint of badbladebuying, but I am more prone to believing that the Conspiracy rages on.

The development of the multi-blade razor has had interesting financial implications for the Gillette company and this may feed your Conspiracy theory.

They spent a lot of money developing the twin blade - then they borrowed a page from the software industry and management consulting industry of - build one time, charge many times. Although they are manufacturing, what they make has very little cost.

All the development cost was recognised in one period recognition. A big hit that established a very low baseline (not to mention the offset for current year revenue). All revenue generated by the twin blade is subsequent years goes for the most part to net income. Stock price is driven by revenue growth and earnings. (There are fascinating implications of Agency Theory in this one - think: stock options.)

Problem. Too much revenue, not enough tax write-off. You cannot ride this pony forever. Solution. Develop another razor and pull the same trick. On steroids this time. The development costs were huge. The sales of the triple blade have been less than stellar. This is where the Conspiracy Theory comes in.

The same pattern was established when they bought Oral-B tooth brushes, et al. Who could believe we would pay more than a couple of dollars for a toothbrush? Track the progress through their annual reports.

When the latest piece of Gillette crap came out, I took one look at the cost of the replacement blades and said "no more!"

I went to Ebay, bought a 1967 Gillette Adjustable Double Edge Razor for $9.95 +$2.00 S&H, and 200 double edge blades for $15.00 S&H included for a total of $26.95. Each blade lasts me a week. So, I will get 1400 shaves for a average cost per shave of 0.01925 cents!

I use shaving soap and a badger brush, I shave in the shower, the shaves I get are superb, and I will never buy the disposable plastic junk razors again. I recommend every man do the same. Some things didn't need to be "improved."

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