In Which Your Author Attempts To Come To Grips With Having Purchased a “Black Series” Upscale Toothbrush


That was a tough hour, I’ll tell you. When it was all done, all the scraping and the polishing and the pauses to suction the blood from my mouth, I was told that I was cavity-free for something like the seventh year in a row, but that my teeth looked much plaque-ier (not a word) than they had previously.

“Well,” I offered by way of explanation, “I left my toothbrush in Toronto four months ago.”

Back in July, I visited Canada to drive some awesome cars and receive the news that my services as TTAC’s Editor-In-Chief pro tempore were no longer required. Since I was traveling solo, I spent most of the nights on my friend’s air mattress, surrounded by his enviable collection of vintage hi-fi equipment and first-rate musical instruments. Somehow I left without my old Braun Sonic Complete. I was really angry with myself for having done so. The Braun has long since been discontinued (which is maybe why Walmart is trying to charge $439 for it?) and I’d recently sprung for eight new aftermarket “Genuine Delrin” brushes from some dodgy-ass Amazon Marketplace seller. Since I expected to see my friend again within a couple months, however, I didn’t worry too much about it.

Unfortunately for me, our planned get-together didn’t materialize due to schedule problems on my end. My interim toothbrush was the nicest regular Oral-B toothbrush I could get at the local pharmacy, but I have to admit that brushing your teeth by hand is a real hassle compared to the easy-clean action of the Braun Sonic Complete. I lost ground in the war against plaque and its associated swelling of the gums. My teeth went from looking like the binding on a three-year-old Les Paul to looking like the binding on Les Paul’s original Les Paul. I caught myself smiling in a mirror and resolved to frown until further notice. Then, of course, came the less-than-perfect report from my dentist. I was shamed. My dentist is a woman in her mid thirties, about five foot ten, slightly flighty with her hands — we can file this for future notice simply as my type — and disappointing her feels oddly like failing to perform at the end of a lovely evening out.

Something had to be done.

My initial searches for “sonic toothbrush” on Amazon led to the Philips Sonicare line. It appeared that Braun was out of the sonic business. The array of available Philips toothbrushes is staggering. There have to be at least twenty of them. How could it be otherwise? In our modern America, it isn’t enough for the Aspirational 14% to have sonic toothbrushes; they (we? I hope not we, I’m poor, I drive a Honda) have to have better ones than everybody else. Can you believe that there was once a time in history where rich and poor alike used similar toothbrushes? Next thing you’ll be telling me that the wealthy used to drive the same Ford station wagons as everyone else. I don’t believe it.

The top of the Philips line is DiamondClean. This seemed like a reasonable purchase. If a toothbrush saves you just one cavity over the course of two years, it’s paid for itself five times over. Might as well get DiamondClean. I wouldn’t want to just get QuartzClean or PyriteClean. But wait — at the apex of DiamondClean there is a limited Black Edition. How could I not buy this? Do I not in fact frequently roll around in the AMG SLS Black Series? Okay, I do not. But it has happened a few times and if the Black Series toothbrush was half as exciting as the Black Series SLS it would be worth buying.

Well, that couldn’t possibly be the case. But I still wanted one.

But wait. Once upon a time, the research showed the Sonicare to be more effective than Oral-B. But since Braun went to Oscillating-Rotating instead of just plain sonic operation, the shoe is now on the other tooth, with Braun demonstrating considerably more effectiveness.

Aw, fuck. So much for the Black Series toothbrush.


The best Oral-B is the 5000 Smart Series, but there is a travel-optimized hard-cased variant above it, with the same wireless brushing control and aesthetic-tooth-polishing mode. Ladies (all three or four of you) and gentlemen, I give you…


The 7000 Series Black.

At this point, let’s pause to consider the bizarre consumer-social implications of the fact that both manufacturers of upscale electronic toothbrushes offer a Black Edition. At no other point in human history could this happen. Not only does it depend on the absolute explosion in “luxury” products, it also depends on the existence of online retainers, because no Wal-Mart or CVS in America is going to stock a toothbrush that costs this much money.

Let’s also consider that these products, like the Mercedes Black Series cars, are direct references to the Centurion Card. It’s amazing how many people know that the Centurion Card exists, even if most of them have little to no idea what it actually does or how you get it. It’s also interesting to see the escalation of American Express cards over the years. I remember my father telling me about the Amex Gold Card when I was a kid. “It has no limit,” he said, in the tones that an earlier generation used to describe the bomb at Hiroshima, “you could charge a Rolls-Royce on it.” When he eventually got one, I was deeply disappointed that he didn’t immediately charge a Rolls-Royce. Given that our local dealer had precisely one Rolls-Royce in stock, however, and it was a fucking Camargue, I no longer resent him for not doing so.

I get the sense that the Platinum Card is now what the Gold Card used to be. My Platinum Amex doesn’t seem to have any limit, although to be fair I’ve never tried to charge a Rolls-Royce. I have had a couple of days where I made five figures’ worth of charges to it in a single day, an action that prompts panicked phone calls from my Visa Signature card issuer, and I had no trouble doing so. Lately I’ve been thinking about downgrading to the Gold or even the Green card, however. I’m not really living much of an upscale life. And the USAA American Express card is both an Amex card and black in color, although it has none of the visual panache of the Centurion Card. Let’s see:



Also, it’s plastic instead of titanium. It’s primarily good for two things:

  • the lowest APR of any Amex;
  • the laugh you get when you say, “Let me use my black Amex to pay for this” and you whip out the same credit card that “butter-bar” second lieutenants use to buy diapers at the PX.

Which brings us to the point of high-end credit cards; impressing retail personnel. But if you’ve ever worked retail, you know that you don’t care about what stupid credit card the customer has. So maybe the point of a high-end credit card is to imply that you don’t know how little the retail people care about it, because you’ve never worked a retail or foodservice job and therefore wouldn’t know that kind of prole-ass detail. Very meta-impressive. I think.

I’d like to wrap this up by saying that I paid for my black toothbrush with my platinum Amex, but the truth is that I had an Amazon gift card. Amazon gift cards tend to be black nowadays. So there’s that, at least. Instead, we’ll wrap up by showing a photo of a house in which I lived as a kid, with a AMG Black Series parked in front of it. The lesson is that you can rise from humble beginnings. Except my beginnings weren’t that humble, it’s just that my parents were divorced at the time. No wait, maybe the lesson is that you can go from a rental house to a loaner car. Hold on, it’s possible that the lesson is that…


…even in this modern upscale era, you can still screw up a photo by having your thumb in front of the lens.

27 Replies to “In Which Your Author Attempts To Come To Grips With Having Purchased a “Black Series” Upscale Toothbrush”

  1. CGHill

    You’d like my optometrist, then.

    I’m running my second Sonicare — the battery in the first finally went permanently flat — and I couldn’t even guess how many different heads it’s had.

  2. Dan Shepard

    I had no inkling of the absurd number of toothbrushes you can but, much less in a “black edition”.

    FWIW on the AMEX front, I’m pretty happy with my premier rewards gold. If you don’t use the fancy features of the platinum (namely, airport lounge access, which will amortize the yearly fee in something like 40-50 drinks), the gold is worth looking at. Rewards are better, if you care about such things, but not quite as many perks. On the other hand, the fee is also way lower.

  3. Tomko

    For a guy who’s driving a manual I’m surprised that you’re brushing your teeth with an automatic.

    Check out a Radius Scuba for the finest in manual toothbrush experiences.

  4. Widgetsltd

    Has shipping been suspended between Canadia and the good old USofA? Couldn’t your friend deflate that air mattress, toss the Braun MegaUltraCare in a box and ship it out?

  5. 3deuce27

    “I lef”t my toothbrush in Toronto four months ago.” Thanks for the first laugh I’ve had this weekend.

    I get my manual tooth brushes at the Dollar Tree, usually (3) for a dollar.

    I think maintaining the manual skills of brushing your teeth properly is an important skill to practice, sort of like reading involved material, doing crossword puzzles, daily rapid walks or a vertical terrain hike, bicycling, a half hour of calisthenics/isometrics, meditation, or practicing quadratic equations.

    My son came down last week to spend a few days with me, and I was surprised he had an electric tooth brush. I was going to give him a lecture on the subject, but decided that whatever got him to brush his teeth was not to be dismissed. I think when he comes down this week, I will take a closer look at his E-Tbrush… not!

  6. 3deuce27

    As regards the new Platinum/Black, you got me on the AMG SLS Black Series, though, I did follow one North on Pacific Hwy So. to Seatac the other day, but I have driven the Panamera ‘Black’ series, twice. Once, on and off a transporter while loading a gen-3 Pro-touring LS powered Camaro, which would easily out run the Porsche, but in nowhere near the comfort, and another time for a weekend, which led me to casually to almost seriously evaluate which of my grandchildren/great grandchildren would really benefit from higher education in the college of their choice up to $35,000 a year. I kind of felt like a need to narrow the recipients to the truly worthy so I could add a Panamera to my stable for those long distance continental jumps, one of 3,300 miles that is coming up at the end of the month where the Panamera would fit the bill to an exquisite T.

    Sadly, the trip cost per mile with the Panamera just doesn’t pencil out, so I will probably throw a camp cushion and sleeping bag, along with a manual Tbrush in the back of my recently acquired 80′ Chevy LUV pik-up and hit the road. With the newly installed electronic ignition she should get 28-30 MPG, and at and all up cost of the vehicle with new General Altimax Touring tires, a set of new shiny wheels, plus the used canopy, and a new Alpine radio and speakers, plus fuel at and average of $2.85 gal. my per mile cost for the trip, writing the whole package off at the end, should be a 1600% less then the same trip in the Panamera. The real benefit will be the continuance of my spotless(and seriously lucky) driving record for the past 30+ years. Not likely I could drive across country twice in the Panamera and not pick up a slap on the wrist for exuberant motoring . I will also be able to park at trail heads and not have to worry about a $100,000+ car sitting exposed to the yahoos with no one around to check their illicit behavior.

    On top of that, if the old LUV breaks down, I can park it in the ditch and stick my thumb out and journey on. Done that once or twice. My cousin once left a 59′ Eldorado convertible in the Nevada desert and never looked back… col! Got to love old Emerson, he passionately loved cars, but they never owned him. RIP dear cousin.

    • Marc

      If you are looking for a nice compromise between the two LUV and the Panamera check out a last-gen Jaguar XJR, an absolutely superlative highway car. The all aluminum construction makes the car feel way lighter than you can ever imagine, its very quick and much of the annoying Jag turbo lag was ironed out in this car. All the features like adaptive cruise control work very well even by today’s standards and the car is immensely comfortable. You can pick up a pristine example these days for well under $15k:

      • 3deuce27

        Jags… now your talking

        Thanks Mark, but my acquisition, some time ago now, of a 98′ XK8 coupe precedes your comment. Unfortunately it is out of warranty and I never travel long distance in a vehicle that I can’t leave beside the road and walk away, one of the reasons for taking the LUV and my waiting patiently for the new Mustang and 2016 Camaro and their base and extended warranties.
        After all this wait, I will probably buy a GLK or GLA , 328i/d sports wagon/touring or some new flavor of the moment. Making a decision on what new car to buy is like trying to design a house for myself. I’m a tough client.

        I test drove a number fairly low mileage XKR’s, and all of them seemed to have issues, usually of an electrical nature.

        A cross country trip in a XKR taking pics of it at significant sites would be a lot of fun. A long gone friend of mine bought a new Maserati in 1966, and took delivery in Italy and drove it all over Europe taking Pics of it. His sister gave me his album of that trip when he passed. I would love to do the same one of these summers after picking up a used, but collectible and fun to drive something of 1990 vintage and older, since we can now import 1990 and older cars from anywhere. The MB 500E would be a nice to drive along the Amalfi coast, but it has a hardtop and it will be a long time before I can bring back a 1999 Aston Martin DB7, so maybe a nice MB 300CE-24 cabriolet would fit the bill and I should be able o find a nice example for under 20G’s.

        Thanks for the suggestion, Mark.

        • Marc

          Ha- you really got my mind wandering on road trip possibilities. Amazing what $20k can pick up in the used market these days! You could even get a nice e34 M5 Touring and bring it back to the States for a profit…

          All the best on the upcoming road trip!

          • 3deuce27

            “nice e34 M5 Touring ”

            Love long roofs and another good choice, Mark, but unless it comes with a retractable top it won’t do for a summer Europe trip and I already have my own version of an M5 Touring that rarely gets driven. (E-39 525 Touring with an M5 drive train).

            Looking at what 1990 and older cars that could be available in Europe that we couldn’t get here is fun exercise for a gearhead that appreciates the older Euro cars.

  7. jz78817

    doesn’t matter how old you are, your dentist is one of the few people who can make you forget you’re a grown-ass man.

  8. Marc

    Haha, the Amex Centurion card is probably the biggest marketing gimmick there ever was. It is literally a calling card for aspirational 14%’ers, no real 1%’er would be caught dead with this.

    The whole point of the card is to convince a lot of sorta-wealthy people into thinking Amex values them like real moneyed classes, it is definition of aspirational 14% marketing. By making it seems like a prestigious honor to be awarded the card, Amex suckers them into paying $7500 for the initiation fee and $2500/year in annual fees thereafter. What do you get for this? “Concierge services” that make reservations etc. for you, the obligatory vague promises of “upgrades” and of course no preset spending limits. Here is the joke, a real 1%’er has a p.a. to make bookings and reservations for them and doesn’t need “upgrades”. A card like this presents no value added to their lives whatsoever. And the aspirational 14%’er that this is actually targeted at is not rich enough to have his/her own assistant to begin with and therefore shouldn’t be throwing away all those thousands on pointless Amex ‘membership’ fees. Literally NOBODY needs this card.

    As for the no spending “limits”, those are for peasants, what a joke that is to an actual 1%’er. They don’t need any credit from Amex. They tell their banker to put $100k aside for a line of credit for a CC and that’s that. Anything over $100k they will buy by calling their banker and having them wire the funds. By the way you want to know what a REAL 1%’ers credit card looks like? The ones UBS and CS give out for Swiss bank accounts to HNW clients are completely featureless plain gold mastercards that only say on the back “if found please return to Mastercard Europe”. There is no way you could tell by seeing it what it was or that the person holding it has millions in a Swiss bank, and that is exactly the way they want it.

    • Gert Frobe Body Double

      1%er only means like $350k a year of household income. Many of these people have awful taste and under a million dollars of financial assets.

      • Jack Post author

        Yeah, by that standard I’ve been a one-percenter a few times in my life and I did stuff like eat at McDonalds and wear Carhartt shorts with bleach spots.

        • Marc

          alright, alright, settle down, 0.01%’er, there you guys happy now ;), im only talking within the context of the original ‘aspirational 14%’ term, which implies there is a 1% above them, I didn’t realize I had to go to scientific notation here…

          the point being- Amex markets this card as something intended for UHNW people (which for the sake of convenience I’ve labeled 1%’ers)- as this technically requires a seven figure income: when it reality it is a marketing gimmick for the aspirational 14%’ers , as they could be the only ones that would ever pay these ridiculous fees knowing they can’t really afford it.

        • Marc

          btw Jack, as any Lamborghini dealer in Miami will tell you, the 0.01%’ers are the guys in shorts these days, the people in suits are merely the guys who wait on them.

          “People that walk in in flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt, those are the real buyers,”

  9. Rock36

    This former “butter-bar”had/has just the regular ol’ blue USAA World Mastercard. I have a magnificent APR and limit that I’ve never been close to reaching, and that is just fine for this aspirational 14% er.

    I also am brushing my teeth with a regular ol’ pedestrian Oral-B brush which was a free parting gift from my dentist during my last check-up and cleaning.

    • Jack Post author

      I left my toothbrush in Toronto
      As I blasted through the night
      My teeth got brown like Tonto
      My skin remained pale white

      At the US customs station
      They frowned at my AMG
      Asked about my destination
      Where I’d left my Oral-B

      Then I woke up in Ohio
      With the fur thick on my tongue
      In the morning I would try, though
      The plaque’d already won

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