Shaving My Wallet Better Than My Face
Published in The New York Times
April 13, 2007
Falling for the Infinity Razor
GILLETTE and Schick make more money selling razor blades than razors, right?
So, if someone invented a permanent razor blade, they would do anything they could to keep it off the market, right?
That’s why I was willing to believe the claim made in a television infomercial: that the Infinity Razor has a blade that will shave as well in 10 years as it does today. Some brilliant entrepreneur, I persuaded myself, had invented a permanent blade, but was forced — by corporate oligarchs — to offer it only on late-night television.
And that’s how I found myself at Theinfinityrazor.com. Ordering was an experience in itself, a lesson in the seamy side of e-commerce. A small window in the corner of my screen played the commercial, with its high-tech name-dropping (carbon steel, tungsten carbide) and absurd claim making. (“The last razor you’ll ever have to buy. To prove it, we shaved grit off sandpaper ... ”)
I was required to enter my credit card number before proceeding, never a good sign. And then, after making a selection — two Infinity razors for $19.95 — I was bombarded with additional offers.
How about four extra razors? O.K., you don’t want four extras, so how about two? What about steak knives? Or a fogless shaving mirror? (Since I shave in the shower, I agreed to that one.)
Then I was told that “regular” shipping would take four to six weeks, an eternity to someone trying to prove the replaceable razor blade consortium corrupt. So I chose “rush.” Suddenly, with $18.90 in shipping and handling fees, my $19.95 razor (plus fogless mirror) was costing $56.75.
And there was no turning back. Once I chose a shipping option — expecting a chance to review my order — the Web site thanked me for my patronage. My money was gone, like the ball in the last hole of a miniature golf course.
I felt swindled. And that was before the razor arrived. Distinguished only by a red infinity symbol on its gray handle, it was a flimsy disposable razor, barely long enough for a grown-up to hold on to.
And here’s the rub (and I mean rub): The blade was so dull it wouldn’t shave me even once, much less thousands of times. I got a cheek massage instead. For a shave, I relied on my Gillette Mach3 (which, by the way, is an excellent razor, though it does require expensive replacement blades).
I decided to see if I could get a refund. Searching for “infinity razor” on Google, I discovered Infomercialratings.com, a site where people evaluate the products sold in the wee hours. The Infinity Razor received scathing reviews, with headings like “Low Quality” and “Just don’t waste your money.” If only I had Googled before buying.
Back at Theinfinityrazor.com, I read the fine print: “The Infinity Razor comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee — which means if you ever think it is not shaving you as close as it should, send it back, and we will send you a replacement.”
The last thing I wanted was a replacement. In fairness, there was also a money-back offer, but it didn’t include the cost of shipping. I would have to stand in line at the post office to return the razor, hoping to receive $19.95 (in four to six weeks?).
I wrapped the Infinity Razor and shoved it into a drawer. And then it occurred to me: The promise the company made is true. The razor will shave exactly as well in 10 years as it does today.