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Dollar Shave Club -- nice close shave or a real skinning?

Is this even worth talking about? No, but small purchases add up so here goes

We don't always understand the enthusiasm -- and big bucks -- generated by what seem like pretty lame ideas dressed up to sound like the next Next Big Thing.

Currently making the rounds is something called the Dollar Shave Club. It's a club, see? Like those quaint old book clubs -- you sign up and each month, a clean-shaven mailperson brings you a pack of razor blades.

As far as we can figure, this is for people who can't find the drug aisle at the supermarket but maybe we're missing something. After all, it's raised $125 million from investors so at least someone thinks razor blades are something rational people might care enough about to subscribe to. 

Anyway, here's the pitch: You select from three razor blade styles and the Dollar Shave Club sends you a few blades per month. Let's say you pick the medium-grade blade, the 4X -- "a gentle shave in a single stroke." You'll get four cartridges in the mail each month for $6. Shipping is free, which is no big whoop since we're talking here about razor blades, not 50-pound sand bags.

Let's do the math: 4 blades/30 shaves per month for $6 = 20 cents per shave.

This raises the obvious question: why is it called the Dollar Shave Club? Why not the 20-Cent Shave Club? Or the 6-Dollar Shave Club?

But leaving the name aside, how could anybody pass this deal up? Press reports -- no doubt generated mostly by overpaid, overcaffeinated and slightly hirsute publicists -- proclaim that Gillette is shaking in its boots, worried that its business is about to get clipped.

Speaking of Gillette ...

Gillette June 25, 2015, 1:23 p.m.
Consumers rate Gillette

OK, maybe Gillette is about to be swept out like hair on the barber shop floor. But then again, maybe not. Personally, I never buy Gillette blades because I long ago realized I couldn't remember which blade went with which razor, so now I only buy disposables. 

But let's say you're that highest of all humanoids, an electrical engineer capable of remembering large strings of numbers and always inserting the USB plug correctly. You can buy a pack of 4 mid-range Gillette Fusion Pro Glide blade refills from Amazon for $17.79.

Let's do the math: 4 blades/30 shaves per month for $17.79 = 60 cents per shave. 

Wow, maybe those fast-talking publicists are right; maybe things are looking bad for Gillette.

Oh but wait ...

Photo © ricardoferrando - Fotolia

Before you rush off to sign up for those exciting monthly blade deliveries, let's pause to consider the solution adopted by so many of us, even those with tender skin and tough beards: el cheapo disposable razors from Bic and other low-cost providers. Of course, hipsters and derelicts tend to eschew shaving altogether but the Dollar Shave Club guys apparently think this is a passing fad.

Last time we looked, you could buy a pack of 12 5-count helpings of Bic disposables on Amazon for $13.30. That's 12 packages, each with five razors -- 60 razors.

Now we could sit here all day and talk about who has the smoothest shave, the coolest-looking bathroom counter or the sexiest mail deliveryperson but the truth is in the shaving. I personally use the cheapest disposables that spring to hand at Costco or wherever I happen to be when the impulse strikes and use them until they are about as dull as your Uncle Charles. (btw, I almost never use shaving cream. It serves no purpose other to remind you which part of your face you have already scraped and if you use it every day, the can will soon be empty. Trust me on this). 

Let's stipulate that you could easily use one pack of Bic disposables per month without having to visit the dermatologist or the emergency room. This would mean that a single 12-pack of Bic disposables would last you 12 months, a year in other words. So we're talking $13.30/12 -- $1.10 a month.

Let's do the math: 5 blades/30 shaves per month for $1.10 = 3 cents per shave.

Electric glide

Of course, there is the final option -- simply abandon such difficult decisions, throw caution to the winds and buy a Philips Norelco 2100 electric shaver, one of Norelco's better cheaper models, currently selling for $29.95 at Amazon. 

Now, how long these things last and how well they shave depends partly on how you treat them. Drop the shaver in the toilet and it won't last long at all. But clean it out regularly, keep it charged and it will probably work for years -- let's say 10 years. So that's $2.99 per year/29 cents per month for the shaver.

Replacement blades are selling for $14.04. Unless you have a beard like Chewbacca (the "Star Wars" creature, not your neighbor's dog), a set of blades should last a year or more, so that works out to $1.17 per month.

Let's do the math: 29 cents/month for the shaver, $1.17 for amortized blade usage = $1.46/30 shaves per month = 4.8 cents per shave. 

And the winner is ...

Photo © m_dinler - Fotolia

So, as with most things consumer, it's up to you -- if you really think one shave is measurably better than another and if you actually give a damn one way or the other, by all means throw caution to the winds and buy whatever you want. But if you're a value-shopper-in-training, we'd say the numbers tell the tale.

Of course, it's also possible that we have completely misread the entire situation. Maybe all this fuss about razors has to do with shaved heads rather than beards. In which case, just ignore the above. 

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