Product Loyalty

To what extent do we owe a duty of loyalty to our products?

I learned on one of these babies.

The other day, the razor that I have used for a decade or more gave up the ghost.  It refused to hold a blade cartridge one stroke longer.  As a reward for my years of devotion, I ended up with a centimeter-long gash running vertically through the mustache zone.  Gracias Mach 3.

In order to remain competitive, Gillette, Schick and the other razor barons have been engaged in a dangerous game of upping the ante one blade at a time for several years now.  One-bladed razors are historical artifacts.  Two blades?  Later, Gramps.

Alright, I’ll admit that I climbed the ladder to three.  I even graduated from the Sensor to the Mach 3.

Elaine was loyal to her birth control device. She had to determine if a prospective suitor was "sponge worthy"

However, the men’s grooming train then promptly left me on the platform.  In dynamic, manly advertising campaigns designed to evoke the red meat lovin’, Chevy truck drivin’, yet suave libidos of American guys, the grooming lords rolled out :

  • the Mach 3 Turbo (better anti-friction blades)
  • the M3 Power Razor (like an electric toothbrush with blades)
  • In response, Schick fired back with the Quattro (obviously, four blades)
  • “No pussies are we,” said Gillette upon rolling out an entire line of five-bladed monstrosities called “The Fusion.”

I got off here.

In a memorable piece, The Onion joyfully shouted: F*** Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades.

Where will it end?  Either the devices will become so overloaded with blades and aloe glide strips that they will fail from metal fatigue, or American men will develop medical problems in their wrists from having to manipulate these John Deere-like devices across their faces.  Can’t you see the lawsuits now?  Maybe I’ll be out in front of these legal actions.  I may have finally found my niche.

Anyhow, all of these fancy razors were designed with built-in obsolescence.  This means that they are engineered to fall apart after a fixed amount of usage, thereby guaranteeing repurchase by the mark patsy pigeon consumer.

The space shuttle is less complex in design.

The problem was that the razors weren’t failing quickly enough.  Schick/Gillette put their bests minds toward solving this problem.  Result: we’ll get the little shavers hooked on “glide” strips “essential” for a smooth shave.

And it just so happens that these strips lose their glidy-ness after about a week.  Funny how that worked out, eh?

As a kicker, we’ll make the blades extra cuttier, extra rippier, extra bloodier.

Taking a page from street drug pushers, the first one was free.  It came in a block of junk mail one Saturday.  You remember that day.  It was the last day that your old mail carrier worked.  After that day’s load, he went off work permanently with a Federal Worker’s Compensation claim.

Freakin' pushers.

After they got you hooked on the freebie.  You went out and bought more blades.  Once you realized their insidious game, you wanted to stop.

Grow a beard, move to Vermont was your plan.  But, they had you by the follicles.

And your former shaving product was relegated to some back aisle of the drug store with your Aunt Mary’s old “hot water bottle” (which actually used vinegar, not hot water).

*****

Hey, how come the Honda Odyssey goes twice as far before falling apart?

Built-in product obsolescence is a real problem for the consumer.  Forget about the $10 shaving system.  How ’bout the $27,000 Dodge Caravan engineered to rattle itself to pieces at around 100,000 miles?

Yet, we as consumers are expected to maintain loyalty toward products and their manufacturers.

I, for one, am having a more and more difficult time remaining loyal to these entities.  They charge me a fee vastly greater than production cost up front, only to milk me for more money on an annual basis for replacements or newer models with “indispensible” features.

The item that comes to mind here is the cellular phone.  Running Girl is constantly teasing me that I have never had a cell phone that I liked.  The only answer to her prodding is: You’re right, honey.

The current scourge of my existence.

I have hated every pocket phone, flip phone or smart phone that I have ever owned.  The reason is simple: They have all sucked.

Verizon/ATT/Sprint/Etc. charge up front to buy a phone (or they hook you with the aforementioned ‘freebie’).  Over the course of a year, if your burner doesn’t fall apart, lock up, disintegrate into a smoldering mess in your hands or otherwise just expire, you are considered fortunate.

Then, at the one-year mark, the company “rewards” you with a new phone.  The catch: you have to extend your contract for another 100 years.  At this point, I believe my great-grandchildren are on the hook to Verizon for a boatload of sheckles.

Great deal, huh?  It is simply brilliant how the cell companies have made their products a 21st century necessity.  We can no longer live without them.  Neither can our 12-year olds.

The Major → Grouchy old coot?  Without a doubt.  But, I just hate being the pawn of multinationals.  Sure, they give me the illusion of choice in the marketplace.  But, deep down I know I am their bitch.

+++++

All this stuff about product loyalty really got me thinking about finding a product to which I could express my loyalty.

After some reflection, I think I found it.

My toilet.

Man's BFF.

Think about it.  It sits there for decades at a pop.  You (and everyone else in the blessed household) use it everyday multiple times.

Talk about loyalty.  There is never a question of going elsewhere.  If given the choice, you, me and the aforementioned Aunt Mary will always take the home field advantage.  The End. Q.E.D.  Full stop.

As a matter of fact, we recently paid somewhere north of $200 to have our downstairs unit rebuilt.  We were told that our American Standard “classic” was worth the overhaul as opposed to replacement with a low-flow environmentally-friendly product.  Although guaranteed to use less water, we have been made to understand that these Y2K johns are less efficient at, shall we say,  “transportation” of heavy cargo toward its ultimate destination.

When you consider the amount of use and daily wear-and-tear placed upon your toilet, $200 every 5-10 years seems like the best bargain out there.

Sure, everyone has stories about their tetchy potty that requires constant fine tuning of the handle.  Certainly, uglier problems rear their heads from time to time.

But, your toilet is perhaps the most dependable product you will ever own.

That, gentle readers, is an item to which I will gladly pledge my loyalty.

— The Major

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by lisa on January 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    You make me laugh!!

    Reply

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