A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Hooptedoodle #214 - A Brush with the Watchers

Erm – excuse me – good morning.

Good gracious me – what a fright! – you shouldn’t give someone a start like that when he’s shaving. What the blazes are you doing in my bathroom, anyway?

I’m sorry – allow me to introduce myself – my name is Thaddeus. I’m a Marketing Sprite – in fact I am a Junior Executive level Marketing Sprite.

And why are you in my bathroom…?

Well, we are aware…

We? Who is “we”?

It’s complicated, really - it doesn’t matter who we are – we are the beings who monitor the smooth running of the modern world, and we have been increasingly aware that you frequently display signs of a lack of buy-in – hostility, even – to the way things work. [Consults miniature iPad] – yes, it’s all here – within recent months you have expressed dissatisfaction with – let me see – the design of electric air fragrancers, the quality of budget sports socks, the value-for-money represented by the UK TV licence, the cost of inland postage, the Extended Guarantee movement, bananas – bananas? – yes, bananas, apparently [scrolls down rapidly] – the list goes on and on.

Are you telling me someone takes note of my views on these things?

Well, “takes note” is probably not the correct phraseology – our task is not made easier by the fact that you steadfastly refuse to complete satisfaction questionnaires (in fact one of your episodes was on the subject of exactly these questionnaires, I see), but we have a developing picture of a non-believer, a potential subversive, and I have been commissioned to visit you to gain some insight, to improve our records.

Just a minute – what do you mean, “episodes”?

Well, we have sensors in place – they operate through mobile phone pylons, as you may know – any spells of dissatisfaction, or non-compliance with our accepted standards of behaviour are recorded and calibrated.


Exactly – as an example, a 5 on the Discontent Scale is officially termed a Rant, and then there are Tantrums, Tirades and so on up to complete Ridiculous Intemperance, which is, fortunately, very rare. What has triggered this morning’s visit appears to be… [checks list] a Level 7 Strop on the subject of razor blades. What appears to be the problem?

This morning’s problem was that my spare blades do not fit my razor, Thaddeus – since they are from the same manufacturer, that seems unnecessarily inconvenient.

Ah yes – it says here that you have a variety of razors – 4, in fact – which between them take 3 different styles of replacement blades. That seems an unusually high number – is there some reason for this? Is it possible that you could improve the situation by, for example, being better organised?

Well I suppose I could. The problem comes when I go away from home – I pack shaving kit, including shave gel, a razor and a pack of spare blades. Without fail, I find that the fitted blade is knackered, but that I have brought a Mach3 Turbo razor and a pack of Fusion blades (or possibly vice-versa), and they do not fit. So I have to go out and buy some blades – and, because a new razor fitted with a single blade is much cheaper than a new pack of blades, I end up with yet another razor. My wife is far better at understanding these things, but she is rarely present when I am shaving.

You could, of course, buy packs of disposable razors – that would do away with the mismatch problem.

Well it would, but since I already have a copious supply of razors and packs of blades, that is not really a helpful suggestion, Thaddeus. It would be far more helpful if the Gillette Company did not make two directly comparable products, with different blade fittings, thus making extra profit out of customer confusion.

Is it so difficult to remember whether you are using a Fusion or a Mach3 razor?

Yes it is – the whole idea of product names and branding is entirely for the gratification of the manufacturer and their sales staff, and to ensure remuneration for their Marketing people. I do not wish to have to remember the model name of my razor, any more than I care what brand of toilet paper I am using. I might just remember the model of my car, but razors? – no. I seldom discuss my razor at dinner parties, anyway, so why should I care?

[Nervously, checking Episode Level reading on the iPad] All right, keep calm – I’ve got a note of that, thank you. We also observe that you have not replaced the battery in your Fusion ProGlide Power razor for 2 years – we can’t understand that at all.

You mean the battery that makes the razor give off a buzzing noise while I am shaving? – why do I want that?

It is stated in the advertising that the vibration causes the whiskers to stand erect, to give a more comfortable and thorough shave – in fact, it might have been in the adverts in 2010, come to think of it - or back in the Beckham days, but surveys show that customers like this feature and – mostly – replace the batteries promptly.

The buzzing noise makes the whiskers stand erect? – come on, Thaddeus, you know that is just bollocks, dreamed up by some 14-year-old in Marketing.

[Blushing slightly] All right, it is bollocks, but the customers seem to believe in it, and we prefer to maintain the pretence. Thus it is Official Bollocks.

If you will excuse me, I would prefer to finish my shave – such as it is – in peace. Perhaps you could leave now?

All right then – but bear in mind that we are listening, and we may come back if we are concerned. Perhaps you might learn to believe – just a little? [fades away as I take a step towards him – the last things to vanish are the spectacles]

And that’s it, really. I’m not unduly concerned, but thought I should report on the meeting. Maybe I should try to calm it down a bit in future? – nah – what the heck?


  1. Tony - I thought I was the only one with the razor problem. Comforting to know I'm not alone but you're right, clearly the confusion increases sales - very clever really. Could grow a beard?

  2. You could:
    1. Put ALLyour collection of razors and blades in a single bag and take that.
    2. Don't bother shaving while you're away from home.
    3. Discontinue shaving completely.
    4. Open a barber's shop.
    5. Stay at home.

  3. Your post did make me laugh, I too have a collection of razors.....when I say collection I actually mean 7. Now 3 of them are the same....I don't remember what make they are, or infact what make all the others are. On a recent trip to Disneyland Paris, I took the wrong blades for the razor I bought with me, which got me into trouble with SWMBO and the brats. We had to make a trip to a chemist, i was frog marched in by my ears, then had to explain to the mrs that i couldn't remember the name the razor i'd bought with me. So I now have 8 razors, 1 being a cheapish french one , that I'll have to try and remember is a french one and thow out when I've used all the blades up....I only rate my chances at 4/10....sigh!

  4. Thank you gentlemen - I am glad this is recognised as a general problem - makes me feel less of an oddball. Gary's suggestion #1 - take my collection of shaving tackle on trips instead of my luggage, rather than as part of it - is particularly interesting.

    The worthy Prof De Vries, from whom I have not heard for a while, sent me one of his guaranteed-Google-free emails, which explored solutions along similar lines to the old puzzle about how many socks we need to take from a drawer to be sure of getting a pair. All very valuable, of course. He also mentioned that he had discussed this post briefly with Mme De Vries, who was fascinated by the fact that the comments received are all about the practicalities of solving my razor/blades problem, and completely gloss over my having accidentally contacted the Guardians of Truth - she (and I would never suggest that this was a sexist judgement) claimed that this was typical male behaviour - solve the immediate problem and avoid mentioning the elephant in the room.

    I am trying to decide whether we should be offended...

  5. I don't know about calming but might be best to put the razor away now, and any other sharp objects for that matter.

    I can't remember what sort of razor I used to use, I have vague memories of a cup of soapy stuff and a brush which would make it all foamy but was more than 30 years ago now. But yes, confusion= good for profit, bad for environment and consumer.

    1. I am touchy about shaves - I feel a good wet shave is one of the pleasurable experiences we should make the most of. This dates back to the time I started shaving, and for some weird reason my dad bought me a (large, heavy) electric Ronson shaver which burned my skin and guaranteed prolonged acne. Almost as an act of defiance I switched to soap and a safety razor, and have never looked back (apart from occasional bearded spells, of course).

      I'm a big fan of mentholated shave oils and all that exotica. Well, I don't get out much.

  6. I'm a Mach 3 man myself - not that I have any belief that it is a better brand, but simply because it's easy for me to remember and I have money invested in the Mach3 permanent handle (mercifully without a buzzing thing - that does sound like total bollocks).
    The point behind your critique (sorry, rant) is that we are presented with a vastly unnecessary level of false choice by marketing departments that figure that some improvement, even if notional at best, fraudulent at worst, is better than producing the same thing year after year. I saw that in the software industry and it always shamed me when I tried to coerce customers into unnecessary upgrades to new functionalities that benefitted them not a whit.
    Maybe we need a few Bernie Sanderses in power for a while.

    1. The software industry is close to my own stony heart - I have also been on both sides of that little game at various times. As a user, I am currently unable to install an upgrade to my iPhone OS (to Ver 9.3, just to demonstrate to Thaddeus and his pals that I am paying an appropriate amount of attention), which upgrade offers no extra functionality that i need, but for fear of missing out on bug fixes or getting up a software backwater I must keep trying...

      Your thoughts on phoney enhancements are spot on and well expressed, but take care, or you will get a visit, and find a 2½-inch man sitting on your bathroom shelf.

  7. I was going to recommend Boots own-brand twin-blade razor system, been using them for years, cheaper than branded razors and they don't change...but when looking them up on-line I fear that they may have been replaced with a new-fangled triple-blade version. Curses!

    1. Thanks for this David - I realise this is well-intentioned, but any suggestion which leads to an increase in the number and diversity of razors in my collection is likely to be looked at askance, so to speak. I might change brands if I achieve a sufficient Incident Level score to throw out the whole lot, and start again, but the research sprites will be called in to check the market first. You don't suppose Thaddeus does private consultancy?


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