The Bearded Conspiracy

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I’ve discussed the rather ludicrous razorblade arms race that Gillete and Schtick (sorry, Schick) are involved in before. One side-effect of this arms race is that the cost of the top-line razor blades, which used to be a minor expense, is going up and up. It used to be that I could purchase eight disposable blades for ten dollars. Now it costs me twelve bucks for four blades on my Schick Quattro.

Yeah, I know. But whatever I might say about the ludicrousness of Three Blades! Four Blades! Five plus a sideburn trimmer!, they do give a good shave, and a single blade can last a month or more.

The thing is, these boxes of replacement blades are small, so it’s easy to slip this twelve-dollar item into your jacket pocket and walk out the store. A rapidly growing black market in stolen razor blades has risen.

I don’t actually know if this is true or not, but that’s the only thing that explains the security measures that stores such as Sobeys and Loblaws have implemented. Yes, security measures. In many cases, it’s no longer possible to purchase the top-line replacement blades on the aisles; you have to ask for them specially at the check-out counter, sort of like cigarettes. And then there was what I stumbled upon at Sobey’s, this afternoon.

Looking for a set of replacement blades, I go to the shaving aisle, and I spot my product… behind security glass, with a set of instructions on the handle which says, and I quote:

LIFT HERE
ALARM WILL SOUND.

What, dear friends, am I supposed to make of this? Is it telling me that an alarm will sound if I lift here? Am I not supposed to lift here? Am I supposed to leave the razor blades behind the security glass so I can admire it like the lost gospel of Thomas? If I lift the security glass, will sirens wail throughout the neighbourhood, and roving spotlights strafe the store? Will dogs be let loose?

There were no other instructions. No, “please ask clerk for assistance”. No “take a slip and show to cashier along with two pieces of valid identification and we’ll bring you your package (allow six to eight weeks for delivery)”. Nothing. I’m left to wonder if I’m being strongly encouraged to grow a beard.

Not wanting to grow a beard (think Chinese facial hair on a Caucasian face — I only get five o’clock shadow at two p.m. the next day), I take my chances and “lift here”. An alarm does indeed sound. A soft “bing-bong! bing-bong!” that you’d typically expect from the moment after you get into your car and before you fasten your seatbelt. Nobody takes any notice as I take one box and put it into my basket. Security does not follow me as I continue shopping through the store. And when I ask the cashier why such security measures are in place, the best explanation he could come up with was “marketing gimmick.”

Maybe so, my friend. Maybe so.


(Update: 5:07 p.m.): I just returned from a different Sobeys, having forgotten to pick up milk on my first trip. It too had the same arrangement with its top-line razor blades, and I collared a passing clerk to ask why this was so.

The clerk told me she’d only just started working there, and hadn’t noticed the security lids, but together we surmised that we were allowed to take the items off the shelf, and the alarm was in place to discourage someone from spending a lot of time with the lid open, loading up on stolen goods.

We did, however, see a package of replacement blades left dropped on the floor, and we decided it was left over from someone who had tried to pick up one package, heard the alarm, and had dropped it and run off in terror. Way to make a sale, guys!

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