How are you fixed for blades, boys?

truman-set-blue-14eac32154ba192034af652bd5e55edcMany years back, I found a good deal on a Norelco electric razor and figured it would be a great alternative to the ever-rising cost of name-brand razor cartridges. It’s worked well, for the most part, but there are times I miss the ritual of blade shaving.

Electric shavers have gotten better over the years, and my beard is so light-colored that I don’t have to worry about five o’clock shadow, but even so you get a closer shave with a blade — and there are some areas, like right at the base of your nose, that an electric razor just doesn’t seem to be able to get.

Lately, several companies have tried to do an end run around Gillette and the other national brands by selling lower-priced razor blades online. The best-known is Dollar Shave Club, which has gotten a lot of attention for its cheeky (sorry about that) videos and TV ads:

DSC offers several different blade configurations through a subscription plan, where they automatically ship you new cartridges each month. Twin-blade cartridges are $1 per month, which does not include shipping. Four-blade cartridges are $6 per month, which does include shipping, and six-blade (!) cartridges are $9 per month. They will send you four cartridges per month of the four-blade or six-blade models, so they’re assuming you get a little more than seven days use per cartridge. For the twin-blade cartridges, they send you five per month, which would only be about six days per cartridge.

LifeHacker did a story indicating that Dollar Shave Club’s cartridges are made by a company called Dorco, and you can get them even for even less than DSC’s price, and without the subscription model, if you buy them in bulk directly from Dorco.

Recently, I heard about Harry’s, a company from one of the founders of Warby Parker, the Internet eyewear site.* Harry’s, too, offers blades (and shaving cream in a tube) for less than the retail brands. But Harry’s claims its blades are even better than the higher-priced national brands — “American designed, German engineered, fair price.” Unlike DSC, Harry’s is not just buying a pre-existing product but has designed its own. The company is also touting a charitable aspect — for each product sold, the company donates cash or merchandise to non-profits like The Mission Continues, a charity that places wartime veterans on six-month fellowships working for non-profit agencies as they transition back into society.

Harry’s cartridges are 4 for $8, 8 for $15, 12 for $20 or 16 for $25. Free shipping is included on the 8-pack and above. They recommend changing the cartridge every 5-7 days. The only option is a four-blade cartridge. There is an automatic re-order option, but it’s not the default (which I like — I may get more or fewer days out of a cartridge than the manufacturer expects).

The Harry’s cartridges are a little more expensive than the DSC cartridges, but still a good bit less than the retail product.

Harry’s offers two different starter kits, depending on how fancy a handle you want. Each kit includes a handle, three cartridges and a tube of the shaving cream. On a whim, I’ve ordered the $15 kit (The “Truman,” as opposed to the $25 “Winston”). If I don’t think it’s worth it, or if the blades don’t last very long, I can always go back to the Norelco.

*I may buy new glasses later in the year, and I went to the Warby Parker site to check them out, but it turns out their business model doesn’t include bifocals. Laugh while you can, Warby and/or Parker; you’ll pass 40 one of these days.

UPDATE: At the time I wrote this post, I was unaware of Harry’s referral program. I have now updated the Harry’s link above, and if you order through it, I’ll get free blades.

How are you fixed for blades, boys?

I switched to an electric shaver years ago, and I’m content with it – my beard is so light in color (lighter than the hair on top of my head) that even if the electric doesn’t shave quite as close, it doesn’t matter in my case. And I save on the recurring expense of razors and shaving cream or gel.

But I followed with interest the hubbub a short while ago about Dollar Shave Club, a company which will ship you razor blade cartridges automatically for as little as a dollar a month. That $1 per month gets you twin-blade razors; four-blade and six-blade razors are available for $6 and $9 per month respectively. The $6 and $9 prices include shipping, while the $1 does not. A handle is free with your first order. The company released a viral video promoting its service.

The initial review I read on Lifehacker noted that whether the service would be right for you depends on how often you want to change the razors. Dollar Shave Club offers a fixed schedule, and there’s no way to change it if you like to change your blades more often or make them last longer.

Well, now the SmartMoney web site, quoted by Lifehacker, has discovered that Dollar Shave Club apparently gets its razors from a company called Dorco, which sells comparable razors in bulk directly to consumers for considerably less than Dollar Shave Club is charging. You can get a 10-month supply of the six-blade razors for $29 instead of $90. The founder of Dollar Shave Club responded that his company offered the convenience of monthly delivery, but Lifehacker pointed out that it doesn’t really take up that much space to store 10 months worth of razors, and you can burn through them at your own pace, not on some imposed schedule:

My biggest frustration with DSC was that I don’t like the idea of that recurring monthly bill, especially since to me, razor blades aren’t like clockwork.

I think I’ll stick to my electric shaver for the time being, but I’ll have to remember the Dorco site if I ever want to go back to blades.