Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

End the Razor-and-Blades Business Model

Kim Lyons, the Verge:

Obviously, we won’t see an end to such gadgets because too many products rely on what economists refer to as the “two-part tariff,” where you buy the product (razor, floss dispenser, coffee maker) and then pay a per-unit fee for the items (blades, floss, coffee pods) that make the product usable. Every subscription razor blade company has this figured out: it’s why the razor itself is usually relatively inexpensive, but the specialized blades are pricey.

However, the gadgets that are flooding the marketplace (and Kickstarter) now are a generation removed from razor blades, which actually do take some precision to manufacture. The gadgets I’m ranting about are ones that try to convince you to spend more for a relatively inexpensive, readily available product: floss dispensers with proprietary floss (it’s just string, people); garbage cans with specialty garbage bags; even a manicure machine that paints each fingernail individually using — wait for it — pods of its proprietary nail polish.

The razor-and-blades model simply refuses to die. The Juicero thing happened in 2017, the same year Albert Burneko wrote my favourite thing that has ever been written about Keurigs. HP began offering a subscription model for their printers, which allowed them to claim ownership over the cartridges used and add DRM to prevent third-party refills. This business model is wasteful, expensive, and should be abolished — not expanded.