RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Here's an update on the razor wars. Razor makers went from a single blade to two, then Gillette produced a razor with three blades. Schick responded with four, and in 2004, the satirical newspaper, the Onion, mockingly predicted that Gillette would strike back with five.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Which Gillette has now done for real.
Its five-blade Fusion Razor was advertised at the Super Bowl. So, I went a couple of days without shaving, and then sat down to shave half my face with the five-blade razor, and half with four.
We got Gillette's Vice President of External Relations, Eric Kraus, on the line, to see how it went.
Mr. ERIC KRAUS (Vice President of External Relations, Gillette): It's no science that if you add a blade, you're going to get a closer shave. But what you also get is a significant amount of irritation, and...
INSKEEP: Let me just check, let me just check your statement there. You said that it's no science that if you add a blade, you're going to get a closer shave, by which you mean...
Mr. KRAUS: Right. But that's not the beauty.
INSKEEP: But, but, but I think that...
Mr. KRAUS: That's not the beauty.
INSKEEP: ...some experts are suggesting that there is no science that an extra blade would be a closer shave. I mean, if you...
Mr. KRAUS: Well, I would, I, you know, as I said, we test our products among hundreds and even thousands of men.
INSKEEP: I've got some shaving cream here, if you'll pardon me, I'll just...
Mr. KRAUS: And which side of your face are you going to shave with the Fusion?
INSKEEP: That's a difficult choice. I'll leave that up to you.
Mr. KRAUS: Okay, why don't we go left side with Fusion.
INSKEEP: Some kind of communist or something like that?
Mr. KRAUS: No. No, just, you gave me the option, and let's go with the left side.
INSKEEP: Okay. Let me just rinse off my hand, because now it's a mess. This little switch here, if I can just press this button on the back, people might be able to hear this motor turn on.
(Soundbite of a motor)
INSKEEP: What is that?
Mr. KRAUS: Well, that sounds, that is the power version of Fusion. Fusion Power. And...
INSKEEP: I can't turn it off now. It's out of control.
Mr. KRAUS: No, you most certainly can. Just, just place it there.
INSKEEP: Oh there we go, there we go. All right. You really think I'm going to put a vibrating knife blade on my face?
Mr. KRAUS: Well, let me tell you, people...
INSKEEP: How about if I just go to a barber, an old barber with shaky hands. Will that do the same thing?
Mr. KRAUS: No, because you won't get the benefit of the five blades.
INSKEEP: Oh, okay. I am all lathered up now, here, and you're telling me I should do this with the motor on? With the little...
Mr. KRAUS: Absolutely.
INSKEEP: ...a lawnmower.
Mr. KRAUS: Press the button, and Steve, take me through. What are you experiencing right now?
INSKEEP: I'm starting, I'm going to start near the throat.
Mr. KRAUS: Oh, that sounds good. Pretty...
INSKEEP: It feels like I'm shaving. While I'm shaving, let me just ask, how do you come up with the idea for five blades instead of four? I mean, who does the research?
Mr. KRAUS: Well, it's not the number of blades, you know, they're, we heard the same skepticism when we launched Mach 3 back in 1998, and when we first...
INSKEEP: Those were back in the old days when there was only three blades.
Mr. KRAUS: Right. Only three blades, and there was skepticism about adding additional blades. The real magic is not the number of blades, but it is all the razor's features that come together. And it's the blade thickness and the blade coatings, it's how the blades are aligned in the cartridge, it's the lubra-strip.
INSKEEP: You may, you may hear a sharp or a different scratching noise there, now. That's me shaving with the four-blade razor on the right side of the face.
Mr. KRAUS: Yeah, it sounds a little more irritating.
INSKEEP: Oh, I don't know. It feels all right. Okay. All right, I've got my judgment, and we have Jordana Hochman, who's on our staff, here. Jordana if you can do this without feeling that your personal space has been violated, can you check the two different sides of my face here and see if, what do you think?
Ms. JORDANA HOCHMAN: I honestly don't feel that much of a difference. But I do think that you missed a spot on your right side.
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: You know what? I'm going to give you credit. I'm going to give you credit. It could have been operator error, but I think that the five blades was just a tiny shade better.
Mr. KRAUS: Well, thank you.
INSKEEP: You know, it's the spot that I missed that doesn't seem quite as...
Mr. KRAUS: That, that put you over. That's correct.
INSKEEP: Oh, oh, wait a minute. Down here, I missed a spot over on the lower left-hand side. Okay. Well, Eric Kraus of Gillette, you've been very gracious with your time. Thanks very much.
Mr. KRAUS: Good luck, and please shave more than once or twice a week.
INSKEEP: Eric Kraus works for Gillette, which has just come out with a five blade razor.
This is GROOMING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
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