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Quality versus Luxury

I recently had a very good conversation with a fellow board member where we discussed the differences, pluses, and minuses of a few different products. As I listened to his descriptions and his likes and dislikes of each product, I began to realize that while we often times shared very similar views of an item, we would still end up with very different reviews or overall rankings of them.

After some thought on the matter, I've come to realize that an individual's evaluation or overall opinion of a wet shaving product depends largely on their view of wet shaving in general.

The two differing views of my friend and I are Quality and Luxury. 1) Quality, meaning the degree or grade of excellence and 2) Luxury, meaning sumptuous and conductive to pleasure and comfort but not essential.

For me, wet shaving is the Quality way to shave. I choose to use this method of whisker removal because I find it essential in achieving the level of excellence that I expect. Likewise, when I review an item, my primary focus is the quality of that item. If the item performs it's assigned duty in the removal of facial hair and the maintenance of healthy skin, then it is a quality item.

While my good friend may share the same view of wet shaving, his primary focus when evaluating a product is based on Luxury. For an item to be Luxurious, it must not only be a Quality item, but it must be sumptuous and pleasurable, two things that are inessential to a quality shave.

As an example, for my last couple of shaves, I have been using Arko products. While I will hold my final judgment until I have used the Arko more extensively, it appears to be a Quality product. It provides me with a close and irritation free shave and does so with minimal work on my part. I do not, however, find this to be a Luxurious line of products. There is nothing about them that makes me feel as though I have been pampered or that by using them I have achieved anything beyond the results that I perceive as essential.

In contrast, when I use Taylor's Rose shaving cream, I not only get a Quality shave, but I also feel like I've given my face (and nose) an inessential treat. I have enjoyed a bit of Luxury.

Based on these facts, I believe that there are a lot of Quality wet shaving products on the market. I also believe that there are a lot of Luxurious items, however, Luxury is a far more subjective thing to quantify.

If I've gained nothing else from all of this, I know that in future product reviews, I will make sure to separately address Luxury. I will not allow my like or dislike of an inessential factor to reflect on my grading of Quality. I will always, however, base my repurchasing decisions on Luxury.
Kyle, very well stated. Your perception on the breakdown of the product is well thought out. Some of us think they are one and the same but they are not. Another example is Saint Charles soaps. I find them to be quality products and very affordable as compared to DR Harris and Floris. Next time I review a product I will keep this in mind.
Very true, Kyle. Quality is the characteristic that a product must exhibit in order to be useful; this is true for all products, not just shaving products, in my humble(ish) opinion. This argument/philosophy doesn't necessarily apply to inexpensive disposable products (though it does help), but in the context of wetshaving inexpensive, disposable products barely seem relevant (Proraso and blades notwithstanding).

Luxury, however, is that little something extra that makes us go "Damn, that's great!" If something is a quality product I'll consider purchasing it again, since it serves it's purpose well. If it is also luxurious, all the better, I'll just want it more. But if something more luxurious is available (that is I can afford to purchase it) I may consider that as an alternative to the first product. The new product would, of course, have to be comparable in quality to the original, preferably of equal or greater quality. However, the more luxurious product doesn't necessarily have to be of equal or greater quality to replace the original product; this is why budget-brands often produce "luxury" items - think of leather seats in your Kia.

Consider the following argument: if, for example, the potential replacement is sufficiently more luxurious (and for simplicity let's assume that the price is roughly equivalent) then a consumer should be willing to trade quality for luxury until the point where the marginal benefit of both luxury and quality are equated. The rate at which consumers will be willing to substitute quality for luxury will be specific to the individual, thus we will choose to purchase different products, if they are available.
Talk about hitting the nail on the head-your post described exactly what is going on in my mind about wetshaving-however, i didn't put pen to paper and formulate those thoughts as u did. very nicely done!

i guess now we will have to decide which camp we are in -the "Q" or the "L"; then when new ones come into the wetshaving world which way will we direct them?

Again, an excellent, excellent post.:biggrin:

I find these concepts not as different and separate, nor competing. I firmly believe that in the context where one is looking at either a quality product or a luxury product, that a priori the concept of luxury subsumes that of quality. Saying that a product is a luxury product without quality runs you down a fools alley.
Perhaps it is too simple to look at a quality soap as one that has no added fragrance, merely the oleo of it necessary consituents versus a luxury soap that also (note ALSO) has an essential oil added for nothing more than fragrance (pleasure). Let the MBAs argue about the return versus marginal costs, but perhaps this is too simple?
Agreed, Kyle, excellent thread. :biggrin:

However, I'd suggest the term efficacy might be closer to the meat of what you're thinking of than quality.

To me, when considering a tub of Truefitt & Hill Trafalgar cream, I know it's extremely effective (efficacious) at giving me an excellent shave and contributing to healthy skin after the fact, but it's that PLUS the intoxicating scent and, yes, the luxury of its lather that go to my brainstem and scream quality!

Musgo Real, Proraso Green and Nancy Boy are all highly efficacious creams for me, but I list them in increasing order of what I'd term quality, or fit-and-finish at all levels, which is how I really define the Q-word.

(I seem to recall a very in-depth discussion of the nature of the word quality in Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Might be worth it for me to reread... Hmm.)

This has very similar undertones to the two-post tete-a-tete Ron and Joel had on handmade-versus-high-quality in the PJ3 thread.


I think a good argument could be made for the use of either word.

Efficacy - the power to produce a desire effect; effectiveness
Quality - degree of excellence

If you claim a product is highly effective, then you are saying it has a high degree of excellence or quality. Inversely, if you say a product is of high quality, then you're saying it does it's job well and produces the desired effect, etc, etc, etc.
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