Shaving Revisited

A while back, I described my early experience learning to wet shave. I got to the point where I was mostly happy with my shave. I could complete my shave without too much blood and my skin felt soft afterwards, but I still struggled to find an even shave across my upper lip and especially my neck.

So I’ve gone back and forth, testing a number of razors, creams, gels and blades over the past four years, and I realize that each method takes some practice. Some more than others, but each handle and blade has its own learning curve.

Talking to friends and a few readers who emailed me their favorite shaving products, I’ve come to realize there is no best method for everyone. What works for me, may not work for you. So with that said, I’ve narrowed down my list of favorite shaving products.

Gillette Mach3 – This is the best handle and blade for my money. The 3-blade systems is easier to navigate around my face than the more expensive 5-blade Gillette Fusion models. The Mach3 isn’t as easy to use out of the gate as the Fusion, but with some practice I get as close a shave with the Mach3 as I have with any blade I’ve tried. You might see a “Power” version of the Mach3 that vibrates, but skip it. It’s made of cheap plastic and won’t last as long as the simple metal handled version. ($7 with one blade)

Proraso Shaving Cream – It has a hint of menthol but not enough to overwhelm. It lathers up nicely and doesn’t require a shaving bowl like some fancy creams. I feel like I just stepped out of a barbershop after using Proraso. ($10)

Taylor of Old Bond Shaving Cream – If Proraso has the feel of an authentic barbershop, then Taylor of Old Bond makes me feel like I stepped out of a luxury bath. This is a more dense cream compared to Proraso, but it smells delicious and a little goes a long way. I rotate between these two creams. ($12-$17)

Parker Synthetic Shaving Brush – You can get away using your hands, but I prefer applying shaving cream with this brush because it’s less messy and allows me to apply it evenly all over my face and neck. My brush has lasted over four years, and I plan to replace it at the first of the year. ($22)

Osma Alum Block – After I finish shaving, I wash my face with cold water and then rub this block over my face to close any nicks. Even if I haven’t nicked myself it stings a little, which I don’t mind. ($12 for 2)

Aveda Aftershave Lotion – It’s expensive but lasts a long time, and nothing I’ve tried soothes my face like it does. ($35)

One thing I’ve learned over the years that is that using a cheap shaving foam or gel isn’t worth the hassle and abuse to my face. Whenever I use a foam or gel my face pays the price so I will skip a day shaving before I use one again.

What are a few of your favorite shaving products?

The Nest Screwdriver

My new Nest Learning Thermostat arrived yesterday.

So far, I love it. But I’m not going to talk about the thermostat right now. I want to use it for a few weeks before sharing my thoughts on it.

Instead, I want to talk about a screwdriver.

Installing the Nest requires two screws. Instead of heading to the garage to search for my toolbox, Nest includes the tool I need.

Few companies sweat the details to this level.

The subtle indentation on the handle reminds me of those on the Apple TV remote. Some might say those tiny details don’t matter. I mean, it’s a screwdriver! But that misses the point. Anything that’s in the box should match the quality of the elegant Nest device.

The screwdriver is more than a tool. It tells a story. It says we went the extra mile. It surprises. It amuses.

Does your company have its own screwdriver?

Simplifying Choice

If you won my business because you had the lowest price, I might return but only until someone beats your price.

But I feel no sense of loyalty.

If you won my business by providing an overwhelming number of options or configurations I might return until someone else can reduce the choices down to what I really need.

But I will feel no sense of loyalty.

The only way to guarantee I will return is to provide me with a memorable experience.

That I saved a few bucks will be forgotten by the weekend. But a company that provides me with a fast and simple way to select the product that’s best for me and then stands behind that product will earn my repeat business.

Last month I purchased a car stereo. The salesperson asked a few questions and then, from a wall of dozens, showed me two models that fit my needs. I asked which would work best with my iPhone and she pointed to one of them. I bought that one.

We need more people like this woman. She listened and narrowed my choices down to exactly what I needed.

It seems to me you have two choices: offer an increasing number of products and options or taking a stand as the expert and drastically simpifying the process for your customers.

My First Visit to Chick-fil-A

Last weekend I visited a Chick-fil-A with my family. The place was packed, but we ordered and found a corner booth with enough room for seven.

Before we could begin our meal a man approached our table and asked if he could help us. Before I could answer he said, “I see you have a few ketchup packets but I’ll get you the good stuff for your sandwiches.”

He returned a 30 seconds later with Chick-fil-A sauce. Since this was our first visit to a Chick-fil-A we had no idea such sauce existed. And yes, it was good. The kids dipped their chicken and waffle fries in the sauce and skipped the ketchup.

A few minutes later the same man asked if he could refill our drinks. He also brought over a stack of napkins and was friendly without being annoying. I expect this level of service at an upscale restaurant, but not a fast food joint where I can feed the family for under 35 bucks.

As we got up to leave, my son accidentally dumped his extra fries in the trash bin. This same man offered to replace them at no charge. When he saw me approach the exit with a car-seat over my shoulder, he stepped ahead of me and opened the door.

Is this just the norm for Chick-fil-A? I don’t know, but I was so impressed I stepped back into the lobby while Kim gathered the kids. I wanted to find out what this man’s job title is.

“I’m very impressed with the service here,” I told him. “What’s your job title?” I asked.

“My job is to make sure customers leave happy,” he replied before heading off to assist someone else. 

I never did find out what his official job title is, but I guess that doesn’t matter.

The fact is he made our visit a lot more comfortable and even, I dare say, memorable. With five young children, we’ve been on the flip side of this experience where our patronage wasn’t appreciated because our kids were acting like kids. Don’t you love that stare some servers give you when your child can’t decide between the fries, fruit cup, or carrot sticks? Oh how I love that!

Anyway, this experience reset my expectations of what a fast food experience can be.

Do you have someone at your company whose job it is to make sure customers leave happy? If not, should you?

You can really set your business and products apart from the competition especially if you’re in a market where the bar for service has been set low.

Shopping for Car Insurance

Your company’s website matters. In fact it matters a lot, and can be the difference between winning or losing a customer.

Tonight I sat down at my computer to research car insurance, since I need specific SR22 non owner insurance. I searched sites like Forbes, Edmunds and J.D. Power to narrow down my choices to the highest rated companies.  Then I visited each company to request a quote, and this is where things began to fall apart for most companies.

Years ago you had to speak with an agent in order to get a quote, and some companies still believe in this model because they provide only a soft quote. The policy must be reviewed, or I have to wait for an email or call before my policy can be finalized.

Don’t waste my time.

That attitude might have flown in 90’s, but not today. I know exactly what type and amount of coverage I need for the two cars we own. I don’t want to wait around for someone to call me. I want to get a quote, schedule coverage and pay for it. With as little hassle as possible.

I’m hesitant to recommend any companies, but I know people are going to ask me what company I eventually selected. Before I get to that I was perfectly happy with my previous insurance company, Response Insurance. They embraced the idea of interacting with them online years before others got their act together. I filed three or four small claims with them online and was impressed with their level of service each time.

I would have stayed with Response had they not been bought by Kemper Direct who decided a good way to keep me as a customer was to “customize” my policy that resulted in nearly doubling my rates for, what I could tell, was the same coverage I had with Response.

As for my recommendations: If you or anyone in your family is or was in the military, go with USAA and be done with it. Everyone I talk to loves this company and it’s at or near the top of every rating I came across. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an option for me.

I also recommend looking at Amica Mutual and Erie Insurance, although Erie is only available in a few eastern states. Both scored consistently high in most reviews. A Forbes review said “Most companies try to find a way out of paying a claim but these two companies try to find ways to pay your claim.”

I ended up going with The Hartford. I didn’t know it at the time but they rate #1 in J.D. Power’s “Auto Insurance Purchase Experience”, and it’s easy to see why. Their website is clean and easy to navigate. I love how they use DMV records to pull in the details on the cars I own as well as the registered drivers of those cars into their quote system. That’s just slick.

I was able to select exactly the coverage I wanted on the date I wanted and pay for it immediately. They offer a number of payment options as well. Within minutes I was able to login to my account and review my coverage. They were not the least expensive option, but that wasn’t my only focus.

I’m starting to sound like the Hartford paid me to write this review so I’ll shut it down.

The Hartford won my business by embracing tech savvy car insurance shoppers instead of forcing me into the old agent/insured model.

I Bought an iPhone 5 at Walmart

Kim has been begging me to purchase a better camera than what she currently uses which is the camera on her iPhone 4. When I read online that Walmart was selling the iPhone 5 for $127, I decided the time had come.

I wasn’t sure if Walmart had phones in stock or if they were still running the promotion so I decided to call two stores in my area. Here is my experience:

1. Called, transferred to Electronics where nobody answered.

2. Called, transferred to Electronics where nobody answered.

3. Called, transferred to mobile services where nobody answered.

4. Called, transferred to mobile services where nobody answered.

5. Called, transferred to Electronics where a man answered but said I needed to speak with mobile services. He transferred me to mobile services where nobody answered.

6. I went to Walmart and made my way to mobile services which is located inside the Electronics department. Asked woman if she sold the iPhone 5. She said they were in stock but she could not sell them to me because, “the system goes down in five minutes" but I could return tomorrow. “What system?” I asked. “The system where you buy an iPhone.” she replied.

7. I went to the same Walmart this morning where four Walmart associates were helping customers. I asked if the system was up and the woman asked, “What system do you mean?” I said, “The system that lets people buy iPhones.” which resulted in a strange look on the face of the associate.

8. The associate was courteous as she took down my account information. Two other associates, standing less than five feet from me, were talking potential customers out of any phone that wasn’t a Samsung Android phone. I had a difficult time keeping my mouth shut when one of the male associates told a customer who had inquired about the iPhone that one “couldn’t do anything with an iPhone until it was jailbroken”.

9. After my account information had been entered into the system, the printer decided to crap out. The women asked me to wait a few minutes until she could figure out the problem. She tried turning it off and back on again. Nothing.

10. All the while, several more customers came to the counter to inquire about the iPhone 5. When the male associate couldn’t talk them into an Android phone, he asked them to stand in line behind me.  At one point, he flashed his Samsung Note at a couple and said, “I have an iPod and an iPad, but I won’t buy an iPhone. This here is the phone you want.” Around the time where he pulled out a stylus, the couple had seen enough and got in line behind me.

11. The printer was still refusing to print. The women helping me was getting frustrated and began clicking around her screen. When I was about ready to ask if I should come back later, the printer came to life!

12. I signed my name and dated four sheets of paper.

13. The woman handed me off to one of her coworkers who offered to help setup my phone.  By now, there were at least a dozen customers waiting to put their details into the system that would allow them to buy an iPhone. “I can set it up at home.” I told her.

When I got home, I plugged the new, white iPhone 5 into Kim’s PC and restored her applications and settings. That took less than 10 minutes.

Is it any wonder why Apple wisely decided to build their own stores?

Supercuts Tip Reminder

I took two kids to Supercuts today. I sat on the empty couch and opened up Reeder on my iPhone to get caught up on my favorite blogs while the stylists went to work. 

The music playing over the store’s speakers was that mind-numbing pseudo-pop you hear in grocery stores with the lyrics removed. I barely noticed it until I heard a woman’s voice following at the end of a song:

“Please remember to tip your hair stylist.” 

And then the next song began. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. Was Supercuts so tacky that they send reminders to tip over their speaker system?

Yes, they are.

I turned around to look at the stylists working on my kids. They must hear this dozens of times each day, but have probably tuned it out by now. If I were a stylist at Supercuts I’d be embarrassed.

Supercuts headquarters must believe some people need a public reminder to tip. But they offend the rest of us who don’t need a reminder. Let us decide if the service we received is tip-worthy. This isn’t a restaurant where tips make up a good portion of a server’s wage.

Maybe Supercuts could take it a step further and just tell us how much to tip. Being told to tip takes the joy out of the act. And it feels wrong and almost subliminal given how quickly the message was delivered between songs.

Is this really as tacky as it appeared to me today or am I overreacting?

One of These Remotes

One of these remotes, with its curved design, felt like an extension of my mind the first time I held it in my hand.

One looks like it was designed by the government.

One is backlit and one isn’t. But the one that is doesn’t need it because the most used buttons fall exactly where my fingertips expect them to be. Even in the dark.

One has a button to turn it off and is a different size then the button designated to turn it off. And they are right next to each other so I’m constantly confusing one for the other.

One of these remotes has four colored buttons with no labels. I pretend they are Skittles.

One remote is largely unchanged from when it debuted nearly 15 years ago.  The 30 second forward, 7 second rewind and pause button can all be reached with my thumb.

The other came standard with my HD receiver delivered last month, and puts the most used buttons in the most awkward to reach areas. 

One remote tries to do everything and and succeeds in doing everything poorly.

One is built to perform a few tasks well and is so well designed that a two year old can use it.

I sure miss one of these remotes.