I’ve written about transcedent shaving on this blog before, talking about my trip to the hallowed halls of shaving at Truefitt & Hill in London, where I got a truly elegant Mach3-compatible razor in July (lovingly pictured at right). I wrote then: My Mach 3 has never felt so classy. As close as I came to touching the face of the shaving gods in London in July, I just experienced a serious karmic shaving reversal, and it’s kind of shocking.
It all started a few weeks ago when I made a bulk order for 52 (!) Mach3 cartridges from an Amazon seller. The product page said: “Stock up and Save! 52 Blades in one package. Enought [sic] to swap to a new blade once every week.” Imagine. . . not having to buy Mach3 cartridges for a whole year. Who among you Mach3 users have not dreamed of a near-endless supply of sharp-and-ready Mach3 cartridges? Sold! I don’t think I’ve ever waited for a box any more eagerly than that one.
When I got the box, there weren’t 52 cartridges — it was a few short. “Oh well,” I thought. “I’m still good until August 2007 and I don’t have time to deal with it, so I’ll just eat the difference.”
I still had a few of my existing cartridges left, so I didn’t dig into my Mach3 motherlode until last week. After tossing the last one I already had, I attached one of the not-quite-52-pack to my gorgeous Truefitt & Hill razor, did my usual old-school routine, and on the first stroke: OUCH! I thought maybe I hadn’t lathered enough, so I lathered more, and it still hurt. I eventually got the hair off my face, but I’m pretty sure a cheese grater would have worked better. It says something about a deep trust in brands that I wasn’t even aware of in myself, but I kept trying all last week, just not believing that my trusty Mach3 blades could work that poorly, and maybe it was something wrong with me.
After another horrible shaving experience with a “new” blade today, it suddenly struck me: are these things fake? A quick search for “counterfeit Mach3” made it clear that these were not my beloved Mach3’s. Enter the public servants at fakeblades.com to lay out in excruciating detail just how screwed I (and many others, apparently) were on my bulk Mach3 purchase. Shocking.
My search also led me to testimony by Richard K. Willard, Senior VP and General Counsel for Gillette before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate. Some quotes (definitely read the whole thing, though):
While corporations that sell well-known, branded products are the obvious and direct victims of counterfeiting, this illicit activity also poses a real threat to the livelihoods and lives of workers and consumers, though many may not realize it.
When the average American thinks about counterfeit goods, he or she may think of phony Rolex watches, fake high-fashion handbags, or cheap knock-offs of designer T-shirts. The purchasers of these items usually know the products are not originals, so they may readily conclude that buying a fake is no big deal, no harm done. What many consumers do not realize, however, is that this benign and somewhat limited picture of counterfeiting could not be farther from the truth. Counterfeiting is far more pervasive and dangerous than street vendors selling fake luxury items. In fact, only a minute portion of counterfeit goods are luxury items; most product counterfeiting has a far more immediate, and sometimes devastating, impact.
. . .
Consider for a moment the consequences should the counterfeit batteries wind up in firefighters’ flashlights and fail during a major rescue operation? The counterfeiter, a criminal, is the only one who stands to gain.
My battery example involves just one package of one product at one company. The magnitude of the problem at Gillette alone is staggering. Our lawyers are working alongside law enforcement agencies worldwide to identify and arrest counterfeiters. Recently in China, over the span of one week, we seized more than 1.5 million fake Gillette products that were destined for France, Russia, South America, the Middle East, and English-speaking nations. In one province, we seized a substantial amount of fake packaging for several of our products. In another, we recovered 100,000 counterfeit razor blades, 400,000 fake disposable razors, more than one million counterfeit Duracell batteries, and 40,000 fake Oral-B toothbrushes. Again, all of this is in just one week, in just two Chinese provinces, and involving just Gillette’s products. Imagine how much bigger the problem is for all U.S. manufacturers and for manufacturers around the world.
. . .
The danger of counterfeiting goes beyond mere financial harm and theft. Organized crime and terrorist groups use the sale of counterfeit goods to raise money for illegal activities and violence. The Basque separatist group, ETA, has been linked to the sale of counterfeit clothing and handbags. Paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have funded terrorist activities through the sale of pirated products, including copies of Disney’s The Lion King. Protection rackets in Italy no longer demand just money from retailers; instead, they want shelf space to sell counterfeit goods. Most alarming is that those who aim to terrorize United States citizens look to counterfeiting to help them achieve their deadly goal: Seized Al Qaeda training manuals recommend the sale of fake goods as a financing source for its terrorism.
Did you know that your shaving-related purchases could be unwittingly supporting terrorism (gasp!)? Mach3 counterfeiting must be stopped — we definitely need to move all those law enforcement resources focused on the Microsoft Windows piracy beat over to this one. A stolen copy of Windows XP never caused facial irritation and general discomfort.
It’s a strange feeling when you glimpse into a world of deceitful corruption that you didn’t even know existed.
I’m headed to my local Walgreen’s right now to pick up some new Mach3 cartridges. I guess I’ll get back to buying them 12 at a time and keep my eyes peeled for terrorist toothpaste.
Update: I also found this document (PDF) entitled “Global Protection of Patents,” in which the Mach3 is mentioned. Check out slide 33 (just after slide 32, which states “Let Your Lawyer Loose Across the Business”), which begins a few slides about the “The Most Successful Consumer Product Ever” and the 63 patents protecting the Mach3. This appears to be a presentation from attorneys from Ernst and Young, Johnson & Johnson, and Gillette at the Advanced Patent Law Institute in November 2005. Having now shaved with a fake Mach3, I have a little more respect for patent enforcement.