Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Half-Assed Review: Dollar Shave vs. Gillette Disposables

Happy New Year!  I figured I would start off 2013 with something a little different, and I thought it would be interesting to make my first post at the the zero hour of 2013.  And besides, I needed a distraction from writing a bunch of techno-babble articles, and watching the same tired ball drop again on TV, so here goes...

Battle of the Blades

I recently signed up for the $1.00/month, base level "Humble Twin" membership plan with DollarShaveClub.com (hereinafter abbreviated as "DSC").  After the first month I think I have enough shave-time to do a comparison review.  I'll break it down into a few basic categories, and digress into my usual nauseating spewage of quasi-rationale.  Let's cut to it, shall we?  Har Har... :)

I've been a faithful customer of the Gillette Custom Plus disposable razor brand for years.  I've also used many others, from Schick and Wilkinson to generic crap, as well as electric razors from Braun, Norelco and Remington, among others.  I have a face that needs a daily shave, even if I find the routine boring and (mentally) irritating.


I have not been compensated, endorsed, coerced, threatened, or influenced in any way whatsoever by any manufacturer, vendor, re-seller, or anyone besides myself as it pertains to anything contained in this article.  I have not contacted any other parties in regards to this article or any product mentioned herein.  I am not a professional product tester, although I have been known to pretend to play one on my imaginary TV show.

For clarity: The images shown herein show the Gillette Custom Plus with the green handle, and the Dollar Shave Club product with the silver and black handle.

The Mechanical Aspects

The first thing you'll notice is that the Gillette product is essentially a "uni-form" assembly, with no (easily) removable parts, whereas the DSC "humble twin" product is a little bulkier, heftier, and heavier, with permanent handle, using interchangeable blades.  Basically, the "humble twin" is very similar in design to more expensive hand-held razors, such as Gillette Mach 3 or the Schick Quattro Pro.  Aside from that, the geometry, and size, of these two products are noticeably different.

Shaving Head Angle

The DSC form has a more shallow deflection angle with respect to the "normal" shaving surface and the portion of the handle to which it is directly attached.  Put another way: The angle between the main handle grip and the segment that attaches to the blade assembly is more acute with the DSC model, and more shallow with the Gillette model.  The DSC has a sharper bend.

Shaving Head Design

The shaving head itself of the DSC model, is smaller in surface area, with a different proportional aspect ratio (side-to-side is wider but the front-to-back width is narrower).  The outer edges are not as smooth and actually protrude above the shaving surface more than the head on the Gillette product.  The pivot range is also roughly 20-25 degrees "back" from that of the Gillette product, which affects the angle required to hold the handle for a comfortable shave.
Figure 1 - Pseudo-scientific diagrammatic mumbo-jumbo stuff

Handle Design

The handle of the DSC is about 5% larger and 10% heavier than the Gillette model, due to having more metal content in the handle and a bulkier shaving head attachment mechanism.  The weight balance is also much more towards the shaving head.

The Shaving Experience

Admittedly, this is a subjective comparison in most respects, but I will try to highlight the more objective, measurable differences.  The smaller shaving head, and relatively sharper edges, of the DSC product make for a much less comfortable shave due to the outer edges focusing pressure against the skin in more narrow points of contact.  Also, because of the edges protruding more in front of the blade surface plane, the shave is not as close to the skin.  This results in having to take many more passes over the same area to get as close of a shave as the Gillette.  The net effect is a bit more skin irritation when achieving a comparable result with the Gillette product.

Figure 2 - Relative shaving head sizes and angles

Figure 3 - Relative head designs
The Cost

The DSC base level "Humble Twin" plan is advertised at $1.00 per month.  However with shipping it comes to $3.00 per month, or $36.00 annually, which includes 5 blades per week, or roughly 260 blades per year.  The Gillette Custom Plus sells in a package of 52 at Sam's Club, for $23.88*. If the Gillette blades each last a full week, that equates to a monthly cost of $1.99.

From my personal use, I would say that both products last about a full week per blade-set each.  If that's fairly accurate, then the cost comparison leans in favor of the Gillette Custom Plus by a savings of $1.01 per month, or $12.12 annually.  Yes, I know that's a freaky number (12/12), but I'm not that superstitious, I just act that way.

Figure 4 - comparison of size and bulkiness
Final Thoughts

I know this is subjective and based mostly on anecdotal mumbo-jumbo, but I have to pick the Gillette Custom Plus.  I really hoped the Dollar Shave Club razor would win, because they're the David against the Goliath of the shaving industry that includes Gillette, Schick, Bic, and upstart ShaveMate.  At least that's if I am to believe the touching cards they ship with each pack of blades.  I also am a sucker for clever, funny commercials, especially when they star the company founder front and center.

But it's really all about saving money without sacrificing comfort and quality.  And as cheesy and overused as that phrase already is, it's not only true, but applicable here as well.  For all the talk we Americans give about "buying American", when it comes to stocking up on our kids' school supplies, I'll take the 3-ring binder sold at Walmart for $2.99 over the 3-ring binder at Joe's Home-made School Supplies for $4.99, even though Joe makes his in the shed out behind his house and Walmart ships theirs in from China.  The main reason is that I'm not buying just one of them, but three or four, per child, and I have 4 children to equip (or at least I did, until the older two graduated and started into college).

And besides, that binder shipped from China fed a lot of Americans along the way.  From the docks where it was offloaded, to the trucks that transported it around, and the forklift drivers and loaders at the warehouses that stored it, to the store clerks to un-pack it and arranged it on the shelves, to the clerks that rang me up at the front.  And don't forget that Joe can go to work for Walmart if he wants to.  I'm guessing that with the chump change they spend on the 11-year old Chinese factory worker who assembled it, that the majority of that $2.99 went to everyone in between, including Walmart, where it helped plump the wallets of a few golfers in the boardroom as well.  3-ring binders or disposable razors, same difference.

What was it Gordon Gecko said?


Am I sentencing Dollar Shave Club to an eternity of dishonor?  No way.  I will keep an eye on their terms of service and product line and make my decision when it looks like they have something to change my mind again.  I'm not one to commit a business to the electric chair unless they've done me wrong, and Dollar Shave Club has not done me wrong as far as I know.  I'm just not overwhelmed by their product "right now", but who's to say what they will do in the future?

Holy crap!  I sure digressed on this one, didn't I?  Sometimes I amaze even my simple self.
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