A recent post on one of the Facebook wet shaving groups asked for recommendations for a straight razor from Amazon. Is buying a good straight razor off of Amazon even possible? I investigated and discovered that with the right kind of strategy I think you can.
The Amazon Question
In recent years, Amazon has had a profound influence on consumer purchases. This is largely due to the fact that Amazon offers a wide variety of products and services that are convenient and easy to access for consumers. Additionally, Amazon’s prices are often lower than those of other retailers, making it a go-to choice for many shoppers.
While some may argue that Amazon’s dominance in the marketplace is bad for competition, there is no denying that the company has changed the way we shop. For better or worse, Amazon has made it possible for us to purchase items with just a few clicks – and often at prices that are hard to beat.
But what about more specialized, even esoteric products…like a straight razor? If you do a search for “straight razor” on Amazon you get a lot of results. In fact, they even have a best sellers list.
Unfortunately, there are some fairly serious problems with the listings. First and foremost it includes both “traditional” straight razors and “shavette-style” straight razors (what’s the difference? Click/tap here to read “Shavette vs. Straight Razor: Which Is Best For You?” to learn all about it. This article assumes you’re looking for a “traditional” straight razor).
Another problem is there is no distinction of the quality or usefulness of the razor. A US $20 “straight razor” is more likely something closer to being a straight-razor-shaped-letter-opener than a US $200 straight razor suitable for shaving.
Improving The Odds
Given these problems, is there any way of improving the odds of getting a satisfactory experience buying a straight razor from Amazon? Actually I think there is. Here are what I think are the major points:
- Understanding how Amazon sells products.
- Gauging the reputation of the selling party.
- Studying product reviews.
Then, using this data, construct a buying strategy.
How Amazon Sells
Sharpologist has tackled this before: click/tap here to read “Is Amazon The Wet Shaver’s Friend?” in its entirety. But here is the most relevant portion as it relates to this article:
“There are 2 different ways of selling through Amazon: Fullfilled by merchants, or Fullfilled by Amazon (FBA).
For the first method sellers will need to manually fullfill orders and deal with customer service. It’s better for QC, accepting returns, a bit cheaper to run as well. However, it’s extremely time consuming and hard to scale up….
The second method (FBA) is like playing games in God mode. Sellers and brands ship their inventory to Amazon and Amazon will handle everything: QC, inspection, pick and pack, returns, customer service. This method is much more expensive but it’s very helpful if you want to scale your business up and expanding the product range.
However, the FBA method has its own flaws. Amazon warehouse workers deal with millions of different products a day. They are not trained to inspect the QC of an item. They have no passion, no knowledge about how a product works. When they receive a customer return, they have to determine if the item is in a sellable condition to be put back in the “New” pile, using whatever skills they have even though they have never used or seen those products before.”
Merchants Using Amazon – And Their Reputations
When it comes to purchasing from a merchant selling through Amazon, it is important to research their reputation thoroughly. This can be done by reading online reviews, speaking with past customers and looking for any red flags that may be present. Amazon shows merchant’s general reputation (on Amazon): look at the “Add To Cart” or “Buy Now” window and click on the merchant’s name link.
It is important to remember that the rating may not be accurate. Some people may write fake reviews in order to hurt the merchant’s business. So a query on your favorite search engine will be beneficial too: if there are multiple negative reviews from different sources, this could be an indication that the merchant is not reputable.
If you are able to speak with past customers, ask them about their experience working with the merchant. Find out if they were happy with the products or services they received and if they would recommend doing business with the merchant again.
By taking the time to research a merchant’s reputation before doing business with them, you can help ensure that you have a positive experience.
Amazon Product Reviews
Individual product ratings and reviews on Amazon can be useful but should generally be “taken with a grain of salt.” Read the reviews carefully and look for red flags that indicate a fake review, such as excessive praise or lack of detail (it may also be helpful to use tools like Fakespot or Reviewmeta that gives you a grade so you can quickly see whether or not the reviews are legitimate). You can also check out other sites that offer independent reviews of products.
Related Post: How to Tell if a Razor Online Review is Fake
A Proposed Strategy
So with all the problems and caveats of purchasing off Amazon, can a strategy be devised to buy a good straight razor from there? I think so. Let me propose this:
- Look for a brand name with a good reputation.
- Look for a “named” product.
- Check the merchant and item ratings.
In the case of a straight razor its probably helpful to refer back to the recommendations I gave in this article. The most reliable straight razor brands are:
- Ralf Aust
- Thiers Issard
So let’s look for those brands first.
Then, from the listings a search returns, look for products that have a specific name. For example if you have just searched “Dovo straight razor” look for listings that say more than just “straight razor” but rather something like “Dovo Bismarck straight razor.”
Let’s take a look at some examples.
A Sample Listing For Illustration
[Note: Amazon links are affiliate….]
How might this strategy work in practice? Here are three sample listings.
- Ships from Amazon.com
- Sold by Amazon.com
- Customer Service by Amazon.com
- 4.2 out of 5 stars from 72 ratings (81% positive)
- 38 reviews
- Apparently shave-ready (based on a review comment)
Reviewmeta says 0% “unnatural” reviews.
Here we have a named product (Astrale) from a name brand (Dovo) sold, shipped, and serviced by Amazon. Amazon customer service for returns is (generally!) good and the return policy is stated as “This item can be returned in its original condition for a full refund or replacement within 30 days of receipt.”
There’s an interesting little detail buried in the product listing page. Under the “Customer questions & answers” section a prospect asks about the “grind” of the razor and one answer mentions “We’ll be updating our listing momentarily!” The response is by West Coast Shaving (WCS) with a “Seller” badge so it’s reasonable to assume WCS supplied Amazon with inventory and Amazon does the selling and service.
So…can you purchase a decent straight razor from Amazon? With the right kind of strategy I think you can, though whether you should is a different question. There are plenty of specialized, trustworthy vendors that sell straight razors and have the knowledge to support them properly: Maggard, West Coast Shaving (affiliate link), Shave Nation, Cut Throat Club (affiliate link), Portland Razor Co., Grown Man Shave (affiliate link), New England Shaving Co. (advertiser), to name just a few. But if you have a reason to buy off Amazon (you have a gift card for example) it certainly seems do-able.
Have you purchased a straight razor off of Amazon? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below!