Life’s Little Rip-offs That Drive Consumers Totally Nuts

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Printer ink—which often costs more than the damn printer itself—immediately comes to mind. So do razor blade cartridges that cost more than $4 a pop.

The latter example is taken to task by the WSJ’s resident Cheapskate Neal Templin. After years of shaving with Gillette razors—and paying $3 per blade lately—Templin declared that he’d had enough. He no longer wanted to play the sucker as yet another easy revenue stream for Gillette, and he sure as heck didn’t want to buy into the idea that he needed a razor with four, no five blades ($17.99 for a four-pack!) complete with battery power to get a decent shave.

So what did he do? In the same way that there’s a cheaper alternative to brand prescription drugs, he went generic in his choice of shaving tools:

I went to my local CVS pharmacy, where the chain was pitching its “three-blade shaving system.” I paid $12.50 for a razor and 10 blades, bringing my per-blade cost to $1.25.

I’ve been trying out the CVS razor for the past couple of weeks. It was just as comfortable as the three-blade Gillette I’ve used for several years.

The Gillette might have given me a slightly closer shave than the CVS razor. I really can’t say for sure. I can’t tell the difference between a great shave and good one. But I can tell the difference between paying $2.50 and $1.25.

Many consumers see no difference between big-name prescription and generic drugs—or between national brand and cheaper store brand foods for that matter. So how do the increasingly expensive products keep customers on the hook? Mainly because consumers say OK, give me the “new and improved” whatever, rather than giving me the solid standard product at a better price. From Templin’s piece:

Jackie Burwitz of Energizer Holdings, which owns Schick, says, “If you look at the sales data, consumers are willing to pay up for a better-performing razor.”

There you have it. There’s more money to be made developing fancier and fancier razors than in keeping the same razors and engaging in a price war. In other words, we American males have only ourselves to blame for the five-blade razor.

The same goes for so many other of “America’s Biggest Rip-offs,” including wine at restaurants, text messages, premium gasoline, and movie theater popcorn. There’s only one real reason that these rip-offs exist, and that’s because consumers buy into them.

You might roll your eyes in exasperation, curse once or twice, and leave the poor sap working behind the counter with a dirty look or a sarcastic comment. But you hand over your money anyway, and that’s all these businesses care about.

You know these charges are outrageous, but hey, it’s only a couple of bucks. And next time, you promise yourself, you’ll plan ahead and you won’t be suckered into paying up, right?

Related:
How Many Times Can You Use a Razor Blade to Shave?

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