Why Aren't Gillette Razor Blades the Best That Blades Can be for More Than a Few Months at the Beginning of Each Product Cycle?
January 15, 2019, 08:20 PM
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Gillette has been a marketing powerhouse for generations. Whether this is another genius Gillette move to get you to spend more is an interesting question.

Uh … “White Man Bad” is usually a good guess at what the message is. Corporate Wokeness usually is not much more intellectually sophisticated than that.

Speaking of Gillette, Mickey Kaus wrote in Slate in 2010:

Mickey’s Assignment Desk–The Gillette Cycle of Despair: Here’s an evergreen story idea I’ve wanted someone to nail down for decades: Why do Gillette’s fancy razors seem to work so well when they are introduced, then gradually get worse and worse until a new, fancier razor is introduced? … The most recent example: When I first bought a Gillette Fusion five- blade razor, I thought it was absurd (and absurdly expensive). But it was fantastic. Best shave ever, etc. And the blades lasted for months. … A couple of years later, however–in an all-too-familiar development–I’ve noticed that the expensive replacement blades for this razor don’t seem to cut as smoothly, and they seen to wear out much faster. Experienced Gillette customers intuitively know what this means: the company is about to introduce a newer, more complex, and even more expensive shaving system. … And sure enough, here it is , the Fusion ProGlide! … Its blades will cost more than $4 apiece, according to the WSJ . And I’m sure they will be fabulous–at least for the first year or so. Then, if my experience is a guide, ProGlide consumers may notice a puzzling dropoff. … This cycle has held true with every Gillette product I’ve ever used, starting with the Techmatic in high school.

My sneaking, completely unproven suspicion, of course, is that the seeming improvement with each newer, fancier, priceier razor has little to do with all the various innovations Gillette advertises (e.g., two blades, three blades, five blades, a “snow plow guard” that prevents hydroplaning, etc.) and a whole lot to do with the quality of the steel that’s used in the blades. The investigative mission, should you decide to accept it, would be to somehow prove that Gillette uses high-quality steel when it introduces a new razor, and then gradually lets the blade quality get degraded, saving the company money until it introduces the next innovative shaving system (the main innovation being that it uses the high quality steel again). … This could all be misguided consumerist paranoia, of course! But if so, it’s a paranoia that resonates widely, I’ve found. …

P.S.: The equally paranoid corollary is that you should never turn down a promotional razor –e.g. the free-sample kind you get in the mail. They use the good steel in those, to hook you! They last forever, or until the day you go out and buy some replacement blades, whichever comes first…

Commenter Simple Song responds:

If I had to guess I would think this is a tooling issue and not a steel issue. That is, I doubt they change up the steel to make the blades crappier but instead they just stop maintaining the tooling.

That is, all the tooling, dies, etc., that are used to precisely sharpen the blades gradually wear out and they stop replacing the tooling when they know they have a new blade coming out. They may or may not be intentionally doing this, but they certainly have plausible deniability.

The degree of precision required for modern manufacturing is actually pretty incredible. For example Lego bricks, I believe if the steel injection mold that the plastic is squirted into is off by more than about ten microns (1 / 100,000 of a meter) then either the Lego can’t be snapped together or can’t be pulled apart. While the hot plastic injected during the molding process is not terribly abrasive, it does cause a tiny bit of wear on the molds and so Lego is constantly having to scrap and re-mill their molds to make sure the quality stays high. It’s also why non-Lego interlocking bricks totally suck–they don’t have the precision.

[Comment at Unz.com]