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Razors, Information and Consumerism

February 3, 2016

Keeping neatA while back, I listened to a podcast where a gentleman was speaking on the topic of consumerism and how he believed that generally, we are sold a “bill-of-goods” for most products and services. I don’t think he meant it as a compliment! He stated that we are given misinformation and/or incomplete information in order to make products and services more attractive. What caught my ear was when he was asked to give an example of how he felt we were being “manipulated” into purchasing things he doesn’t need to and for prices he doesn’t need to pay.

He quickly said, “Well, for example, let’s talk about razor blades. I use a razor blade for at least six months before replacing it. I just make sure to dry it off before putting it away.” The interviewer (and I) were a bit incredulous. But the guest was adamant that he indeed could use the blade, without cutting, nicking or otherwise damaging his face. His point was that these very expensive blades do not need to be replaced every week or every month or even every two months. By extension, he claimed that many other products are like that in our throw-away society.

Okay. He made me think. And I figured, since I shave almost every day (I occasionally skip weekends), I could give his razor blade example my own test. Well, he’s right. I’m finishing month 10 and the blade shows almost no sign of needing to be replaced. [UPDATE 4/1/2016 – I finally replaced the blade after one full year. Not because I had to, I just felt I should.] There is a bit of material that appears to be designed to make the “trim blade” more comfortable, and it’s thinning out. But beyond that, no discomfort, no nicks, scrapes or pulling of any kind. Now, I admit, my beard is not that heavy and others may not be able to go nearly this long. Still . . .

The next thing I did was extend the experiment to the shaving cream. I searched for the least expensive can I could find. And, as might be expected, it works just fine. Going a step further, I even tried not using shaving cream at all. Instead, I simply wet my face and used the same razor. Not quite as nice or close of a shave, but still, no pain. Hmmm. Well, I like using the cream so that’s going to stay! But the inexpensive stuff, not the fancy expensive stuff.

I wonder where else we might be over-consuming. This razor thing is pretty simple, so one might imagine complicated products and services are more worrisome. How about car repairs? Home repairs? New electronic equipment? (On electronics, I do myself in. I don’t need any advertising. Instead — engineering and technical articles get me to the store to buy the latest and greatest.)

And this got me thinking about how hard it is to avoid advertisers trying to convince us we “need” something or exhorting us to “Ask our doctor” about this, that or the other drug. How can this be good in the long run?

If the guest on this podcast is correct — it appears that he is on to something — and people start catching on, will there be a significant reduction in consumerism? If so, what happens to our consumption-based economy? What happens to the return on investment for your advertising and marketing dollar spent? We have already seen a shift away from consuming “things,” and instead consuming “experiences.” The Millennials are, once again, showing us the way.

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