Reign Of Terror Finally Drawing To An End

1 comment November 15th, 2008at 11:00pm Posted by Eli

After years of frustration, denial, and bloodshed, sanity is finally starting to return:

A number of retailers and manufacturers have a gift for holiday shoppers: product packaging that will not result in lacerations and stab wounds.

The companies, including, Sony, Microsoft and Best Buy, have begun to create alternatives to the infuriating plastic “clamshell” packages and cruelly complex twist ties that make products like electronics and toys almost impossible for mere mortals to open without power tools.

Impregnable packaging has incited such frustration among consumers that an industry term has been coined for it — “wrap rage.” It has sent about 6,000 Americans each year to emergency rooms with injuries caused by trying to pry, stab and cut open their purchases, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“I shouldn’t have to start each Christmas morning with a needle nose pliers and wire cutters,” said Jeffrey P. Bezos, the father of four young children and founder of “But that is what I do, I arm myself, and it still takes me 10 minutes to open each package.”

This month, Mr. Bezos pledged to lead the charge into a new era of nonhostile containers.

In Amazon’s “frustration-free packaging” initiative involving Mattel, its subsidiary Fisher-Price, Microsoft and Transcend, an electronics maker, the companies will ship some of their best-selling products to Amazon in cardboard boxes that don’t fight back. Mr. Bezos hopes to sell all of Amazon’s products in such environmentally benign, consumer-friendly packaging — a goal he said would take years to achieve. “Everyone is excited about this project here,” he said. “Everyone had their own war stories.”


Microsoft recently unveiled an unusual container for the Explorer computer mice it sells at Best Buy. The mouse looks typically imprisoned in its package at first glance. But the container actually has a plastic zipper on each side — inspired by the packaging of food items, Microsoft said — with blue arrows that guide buyers into easily unlocking their purchase.

Sony, meanwhile, has started an ambitious internal project it optimistically calls “death of the clamshell.” The electronics giant is developing three packaging prototypes it plans to test in the coming months at Best Buy and Wal-Mart Stores. One uses an adhesive that is easy to pry open but makes a loud Velcro-like noise — intended to deter thieves.


For the last few years, Consumer Reports has published an annual Oyster Awards for the clamshell packages that are most frustrating to open. Last year’s winner: an Oral-B sonic toothbrush kit from Procter & Gamble and the Bratz Sisterz dolls from MGA Entertainment, which took an adult tester eight and a half minutes to open.

For consumers like Lisa Martin, a mother of two from Chicago, such packaging means exhausting birthday mornings as her young children wonder impatiently why a cluster of adults are stabbing at their new presents with knives and scissors.

“I understand antitheft. But when you get home and it takes two days to get your purchase open, it kind of defeats the purpose,” said Ms. Martin, who was so enthusiastic about Amazon’s “frustration-free” initiative she offered in her blog to “make out” with the company.

This is the best, most hopeful news I’ve had all year.  Well, this, and that election thing.

Entry Filed under: Coolness

1 Comment

  • 1. mike_from_CA  |  November 19th, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Fantastic news.

    I won’t claim to have any unique or universal superpowers against such packaging, but I must say I’ve been pretty successful against that stuff in the past few years.

    The secret of my success? Four words: Swiss Army Knife scissors!

    Cheers –

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