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Who Designed This Crap? Product Packaging, Where\'s My Chainsaw?

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  • Mobile
  • Computers
  • Accessories
  • Laptops
Last response: in Laptop General Discussion
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August 9, 2006 3:05:14 PM

Mobile computers and accessories are cool. However the way they\'re packaged is a real horror show, almost literally. With impenetrable shipping boxes and envelopes, as well as plastic blister packs sealed tighter than most tombs, it seems like vendors really don\'t want you to get to their products.

More about : designed crap product packaging chainsaw

August 9, 2006 4:55:48 PM

I would never use a chainsaw. I use a bandsaw: much safer.

I complained to Panamax about their impenetrable packaging, and they switched to simple cardboard boxes!
Related resources
August 9, 2006 5:58:26 PM

It seems like there's just no winning with this one. One the one hand, I hate the packaging that you just can't open. (I can't tell you how many owner's manuals I have ripped through when trying to open those types of packaging...not to mention small cuts...) But on the other hand, if I was a company that sold things both through retail stores and online vendors I probably wouldn't want to add the expense of packaging my stuff two different ways.

Darn thieves ruin it for all of us...
August 9, 2006 7:22:55 PM

seems a bit paranoid to me. The manufacturer is not the one who loses from stolen packaging, the stores do (they already bought a skid of the product, it no longer has anything to do with the manufacturer).

Why is the manufacturer siding with stores who have poor security procedures and whine about it? The consumer is the one who drives demand, right?

If a store has so much theft it is affecting their bottom line, the problem does NOT lie in their product packaging. the store is either too big to monitor properly, there are insufficient or improperly trained security personnel, or thieving employees even.
August 9, 2006 7:53:40 PM

Whoa, that's pretty cool. And it's only $5 shipped! Not bad at all.
August 9, 2006 7:54:03 PM

are you kidding? buy another product so that you are able to OPEN other products? then why don't they just start selling everything in aluminum cans since we already own can openers!

who cares how cheap it is, that idea is just rediculous.
August 9, 2006 7:57:47 PM

Quote:
are you kidding? buy another product so that you are able to OPEN other products? then why don't they just start selling everything in aluminum cans since we already own can openers!

who cares how cheap it is, that idea is just rediculous.

Ummm....yea that would be totally crazy. And while we're at it, I think skissors are a riduculous idea too! :p 
August 9, 2006 8:05:31 PM

I had a feeling someone would say that about scissors. :)  However, scissors have been around for a VERY long time, and therefore would be a reasonable tool to plan for the consumer to use for opening packaging. However, I personally find these titanium plastic containers to be quite difficult to open sometimes even with scissors due to their thickness, and also how sharp they are once cut.

Cans are also practical, because they keep food fresh for a long time.

These kind of insane boxes/plastic are not practical in any way. They produce more waste, make products more difficult to open, and only serve store owners and not consumers.

OK, so now maybe you found a cheap solution for CURRENT shipping materials. What happens if nobody complains, and then you have to then buy ANOTHER cheap tool for opening your PURCHASED items when they develop some other packaging material?

Easy suggestion: the stores who are concerned about package tampering develop their own containers which can be opened at the cashier when the item is sold. I have seen these in stores such as Best Buy, and it works very well.

there is no reason manufacturers have to be involved in this step.
August 9, 2006 9:21:58 PM

I just don't get it, what's so hard about opening a package? Ok, so you have to actually spend a minute. There is no packaging that takes several minutes unless your opening tool assortment lacks such basic items as a shallow-bladed razor knife, large sturdy scissors, and diagonal cutters (type used in electronics work).

That package featured in the article with the chainsaw on top would take about 20 seconds (not rushing, casually doing it) with good scissors. If you can't spend 20 seconds, did you need the product bad enough to spend far longer ordering it?

A few things in the article don't quite wash either, for example:

TAPE- sure, some people are obsessive compulsive when it comes to overapplying it, but the FACT is, a good tape job tapes over ALL the seams (not just longitudinally) AND at 90' to the top and bottom seams. This DOES make a box more crush resistant in many situations because of the higher structural integrity at the edges of each panel, they don't slide or buckle as easily. We hope our packages never need it, and it seems wasteful, BUT once again there is no amount of tape that any competent human should have trouble with because it's still only 3 swipes with the shallow bladed razor knife, 10 seconds tops.
August 9, 2006 9:38:01 PM

FedEX Boxes - same thing, a simple swipe or two with a shallow razor knife takes 10 seconds. I hate to be insulting but the author of the article has a unique problem if clawing at a box like an animal instead of using tools like a human. Don't fool with the pull tab at all, just routinely grab for the tool you need in the first place.

Amazon Boxes - same as FedEx, use tools, not claws.

Bike lock - NO you do NOT have to cut the curved coutours. Cut on the three straight sides, flex it a little and it'll slide right out, easy as it gets unless someone stole your scissors.
"royal f'ing nightmare"? That's ridiculous.

OCZ Flash Memory - Quote, "easy to open with your fingers. I still advise wearing gloves,"
No, No, NO!!!!!!!
Quit clawing at it. S C I S S O R S.

I realize what I'm writing might be insulting but that's the reader's problem because these are plain truths to opening packages. Learn how instead of complaining that the way you do it is hard compared to doing it the easier way. I LIKE well-packaged products and by well I mean what you consider hard to open. I don't want a package any random Joe Employee can open, or that lets in moisture or who-knows-what on the boat ride over to whichever continent.

The one concern I have is when packaging is non-recyclable, or rather, not widely recycled as that varies from region to region.
August 9, 2006 9:54:53 PM

WHAT A POINTLESS ARTICLE. for real dude get a job or something, because this writing buisness is not working out.

like are you that goddamn lazy, you cant get a pair of scissors. for the love of shit its plastic

your just giving fat lazy americans more excuses for multi-million dollar corp. to come up with stupid gizmos and gadgets to eat away at your money.

this all started with people like this dumbass author complainen that there products were defective because the packaging wasn't secure. now you lazy ass is complaining you cant open it.
August 9, 2006 10:57:06 PM

I watched a little kid cut himself on one of these plastic boxes, he wasn't
trying to open it he just rubbed his palm across the edge, which was sharp
as a razor. You should recognize that. It was red, and it was Christmas.
August 9, 2006 11:19:53 PM

Ok, so am I the only one who noticed the perforated plastic panel on the back of the Defcon lock package. those things take about 2 seconds to rip open with your hands. pretty much all packaging has a specific way to open it, without resorting to tools, most people just don't look, and then get all frustrated. slow down and use your brain. (no offence intended, I'm sure you all have brains)
August 10, 2006 5:21:19 AM

That has to be your funniest one yet, Barry, good show.



Being an ex shoplifter (served my time, paid my dues) I can tell you it's very easy to get into a blisterpack in less than 30 seconds.

Tools needed -
X-acto craft knife (with curve blade XAC222)

2 Cloth Finger Guards (gloves are conspicous) one for fore finger and thumb

If you know when to go into a store and what products are easy to confiscate it's no trouble.

I won't give what stores or times or anything else, but I suggest to you all never to do it. I was caught not by RFIDs or carrying merchandise but by a little lady's words that convinced me to do better and turn myself in for past crimes. *shrugs*

Point is... blisterpacks and tight packages don't help, it's just a pain in the neck for honest consumers.
August 10, 2006 6:11:49 AM

Quote:
Point is... blisterpacks and tight packages don't help, it's just a pain in the neck for honest consumers.


Seems to be the trend for DRM and software activation as well...
August 10, 2006 12:02:45 PM

Quote:
I watched a little kid cut himself on one of these plastic boxes, he wasn't
trying to open it he just rubbed his palm across the edge, which was sharp
as a razor. You should recognize that. It was red, and it was Christmas.


an excellent point everyone seems to be ignoring... how SHARP the plastic usually is. With regard to I's points, yes if you have the proper tools available it can be SOMEWHAT easy to open a package, and I have those tools quite handy as well... at WORK. However, these hard plastic cases, especially when they are very thick and folded over all around the edges, are hard to cut through at all, and are USUALLY excessively sharp after that. that is really unecessary. Maybe you are a younger person and do not remember packaging materials of 10-20 years ago, when it was easy to open almost anything with your hands? Why have we gone BACKWARDS in packaging development?

Most of us do not run home businesses with razors, box cutters, etc all over the house, they tend to be down in the basement somewhere for those occasions where (rarely) needed. We are talking about consumers here. These days, they are even making many products which must be assembled, but do not even require tools. Why is that mentality reversed in packaging?

good point from the (ex) thief, the packaging does not stop an experienced one anyways. However, I would imagine these are only geared for the casual and unexperienced shoplifter. that still does not preclude my earlier point of a store's security being insufficient, rather than blaming product packaging.

Every time I go into Best Buy, even some of the $20 products right at the door directly in front of the employees are wrapped in cemented plastic. give me a break.
August 10, 2006 1:21:07 PM

Lol, sorry I couldn't resist the comment about scissors.
August 10, 2006 4:38:49 PM

Quote:
seems a bit paranoid to me. The manufacturer is not the one who loses from stolen packaging, the stores do (they already bought a skid of the product, it no longer has anything to do with the manufacturer).

Why is the manufacturer siding with stores who have poor security procedures and whine about it? The consumer is the one who drives demand, right?

If a store has so much theft it is affecting their bottom line, the problem does NOT lie in their product packaging. the store is either too big to monitor properly, there are insufficient or improperly trained security personnel, or thieving employees even.


Having packaging that is resistant the thievery is a selling point for the manufacturer. Remember, the store is a consumer. They just sell what they've bought. That being said I have a set of tin snips that I use to open this crap.
August 10, 2006 9:30:11 PM

There are some advantages specially for sensitive products like all types of memories. At least is a good way to be sure you are purchasing a brand new product instead of a returned one which you never know if it is defective or not. I prefer to spend some time in opening this kind of package instead of going back to the store to complain about a defective product.
August 11, 2006 1:00:50 AM

Wait, you mean you can get cut if you run your hand across a straight edge of plastic that's less than a millimeter thick? Are you surprised when you get a paper cut as well?

Yes, some of these plastic packages can be slightly dangerous if you're not careful, but it's something that has been traded in favor of airtight packaging. You know it's a new product, and it protects from water damage and such. I'm not saying there aren't improvements that could be made, but I don't think this is a real problem here.

I can't remember the last time I wanted to open a cardboard box sealed with packing tape and didn't get a utility knife. Even if it is only lightly sealed it's just the easier way, and if you need to reuse the box now the cardboard isn't all ripped up from the tape being torn off.
August 11, 2006 2:42:42 AM

Quote:

I can't remember the last time I wanted to open a cardboard box sealed with packing tape and didn't get a utility knife. Even if it is only lightly sealed it's just the easier way, and if you need to reuse the box now the cardboard isn't all ripped up from the tape being torn off.

Fine, I love cardboard. I can eat through it if I have to. I'm talking about something like the Athlon retail processors, which come in a bubble plastic container at least 2 mils thick, so tough that only a brand new straight edge will cut it in one pass. You can't use scissors because even trimming the bottom edge all around still won't separate the halves. You have to surgically cut all the way around in the middle to get it apart. It's so tough it won't rip or tear at all after the initial cut. Now you have this largish uncrushable plastic trash that will last a million years.
I'm the consumer, it's my dollars, and I want a CPU in a jewel case, so I can store the old one if I want, that packed in a small cardboard box and shrinkwrapped. What's so hard about that?
August 11, 2006 3:25:25 AM

I have dealt with many of those plastic packages that are near impossible to open because they are fused around, even with that x tool. I used to use titanium-blade scissors, up until the point that the plastic took the knife edge out of them and became a throwaway.

I do not think the stores pay extra for the packaging in any way. What they do pay for is the white rectangular security stickers that make the sirens go off as you leave the store. Since these are placed on the packaging by the store itself, it is not the manufacturers concern.

It is stupid making such a big deal out of the packaging. Thieves will, if they really want to, open and take anything, regardless of how its packaged. If you really want to stop theft, install cameras in every aisle and pay some guy minimum wage to watch the screen, or lock it behind glass - don't make the life of every consumer become an exercise in frustration, bloody fingers and mangled cutting tools.
August 11, 2006 10:20:09 AM

I once slashed my wrist just about ripping a belkin kvm package open, I was jetting blood, actually looked like a suicide attempt, still got the dodgy scar.
August 11, 2006 10:32:52 AM

This is a great rant article - and a very valid rant at that. For the responders who say

" There is no packaging that takes several minutes unless your opening tool assortment lacks such basic items as a shallow-bladed razor knife, large sturdy scissors, and diagonal cutters (type used in electronics work). "

Let's think for a moment...

Situation where you would like to open these plastic packages from hell but may not have you handy-dandy-machete collection....

Airport (yep you see this packaging at airport stores quite a bit too)
On Vacation/Business Trip

Or better yet, how about not driving home to your garage so you can open something you just bought and you won't be home for several hours.

Next issue....store security....

If someone tries to steal something from a store that is in somekind of packaging... often the trick is to hide it in the jacket while disassembling it, or take it to the restroom and crack into it there.

Here is the flaws with this approach to security:

1) Often times the store sells the very thing you need to get into the product...and amazingly, it is not under super-seal plastic...but rather attached to a piece of cardboard with a tiewrap hanging on a hook.

Case in point would be Lowe's, Home Depot, or your friendly neighborhood Best Buy clerk's unattended desk...where gobs of scissors can be found and readily 5 fingered.

2) Often times the product that is wrapped in the super-seal isn't worth stealing to begin with. I have seen product for <$10 in this packaging. I would dare say they spent $2 back at the factory for the raw plastic that went into it.

For someone out there looking to start a new business, here is an idea....

Open up a store right next to FedEx UPS USPS, etc or become one of those Post.Net FedEx Store UPS Places and buy one of these plastic molding machines. Advertise bring what you want to send, no box. Then make a rectangular-prismatic shape ont he machine just big enough for the box. Use a solid rather than transparent plastic for customers who want to be discrete (I'm sure you can find a way to charge more for this 'option') and make your impregnable box for shipping. Write on there where it goes and who it's from or any other handy-dandy label for the preferred carrier and then it will be in a stronger protection than the cardboard box.

Also, don't forget to sell:



and

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August 11, 2006 3:12:53 PM

lol. I can't describe the contempt I have for these articles.

Sorry Barry; I know we've had our differences in the past. I think you're a great writer, but the article genre you have going here is just painful.

It's 5 pages of moaning and groaning, kind of like a comic skit gone awry: something by which you might laugh at first, but gets dragged out and you just want to end it all half-way-through.

The packaging is meant to be theft deterrent, and yup, like DRM, they took it WAY too far. Keep in mind that the easy-to-open package of cloth is a package of cloth, and not a 2GB memory stick.

People don't return products because they can't open them: that's like admitting you stuck your finger in your nose when you get a nose-bleed. They moan and groan and forget all about it when they use their shiny new product. Thieves, on the other hand, are more likely to swipe the 30mm2 USB memory key from the easy-to-open case while their buddy distracts the salesman/loss-prevention than they are to try and stuff an 30in2 injection-molded case into their shirt.

If it's easy to open, it's easy to steal. Theft drives up cost. In essense, easy-to-open packaging will drive up the cost of the products.

It would be nice if this article at least mentioned the reasons why the packaging is designed the way it is. There is a reason for it. Instead it just provides one perspective (which is, I think, what irks me the most about this series). And c'mon. Seriously. You have trouble opening a Fed-Ex package? C'mon... I mean really. That's just lazy. Why don't they make it less sturdy so the contents fall out during transit, or hell, increase the quality so that the price of the packaging exceeds the cost of the contents? If you're going to complain about stuff, at least put some rhyme or reason to why things are the way they are. The world isn't run by morons.

If I don't like the series so much, well, why do I read it? Because I like Barry's writing, but I don't like the articles. These are glorified forums posts, where the forum is the front page of THG. Rants like these are a dime-a-dozen, and honestly don't deserve the front-page space of THG. I could be the only one that finds these posts as/more annoying than their topics, but hell, I feel compelled to be heard. Please: put this in a blog. Give barry his own forum. Perhaps even http://crappystuff.tomshardware.com. There's enough ranting out there to keep the bored populous occupied. Let's stick to technology and reviews, and keep the ranting in the blogs, please?
August 11, 2006 3:32:34 PM

whizzard, we live in a paranoid and fearful world. The media and your parents, family, friends, etc all tell you to be afraid of the flu, bird flu, mad cow, killer bees, allergies, you name it.

I won't dispute the box issue, I actually think the fedex boxes are quite sturdy and excellent for their purpose. the opening tabs don't work, but I can't bring myself to care about that (since most fedex pacakages come to work where I have a knife handy anyways.)

However, believing this packaging is really helpful in reducing cost of items cannot be true (well, I do not think so anyways). That's a LOT of HARD plastic they're adding to the packaging, and it costs money for EVERY SINGLE item. If 50% of these items were stolen without the packaging, then it would certainly be worth investing in cement containers. However, obviously the portion of stolen products is VERY SMALL (when considering a particular product at a particular store). Many people seem to be convinced that there are thieves all over the place constantly, stealing everything. Sure there are thieves out there, but they DO NOT form the majority of the population, in fact a VERY SMALL portion.

Companies only concerned with their bottom line, wish to hire a minimum of security and other staff to help prevent theft and invest in better procedures, and would rather try to force manufacturers to bear the cost with rediculous packaging. That is misguided, and only encourages massive stores with crazy low employee to customer ratios. It is a very small symptom of a very big problem. Greedy retailers! But I don't really want to talk about that, just wanted to point out my "bigger picture" mindset for my point of view.
August 11, 2006 5:22:17 PM

Tell that to an arthritic person.
August 11, 2006 10:55:11 PM

Two updates to the story:

Update August 11, 2006: A number of you told me that FedEx Express boxes have white plastic strips just like ones on Amazon boxes. So why do I have so much trouble with FedEx boxes? I grab the pull tab and yank. I need to pull the tab up gently and hold the entire tab tightly with my fingers. Then the white plastic strip helps tear the box open. I found that out this morning when I tried to open the UPS version of the FedEx Express Box. Regarding stretchy plastic shipping envelopes, some tell me these envelopes have embedded strings for opening them. This week I got a couple of envelopes from FedEx and UPS and for my life I was unable to find opening strings on them. Maybe I get stuff from vendors who don't use those kinds of plastic envelopes.

Update August 11, 2006: A number of you, in a number of ways both nice and nasty have told me about the perforations on the back of the Targus Defcon lock package. You can pull open a rectangular door and then pull the lock out of the packaging. Two things here: First, it's amazing how a little conditioning from all the open-me-if-you-can packaging I've struggled with in my life blinded me to the perforations. Second, once that rectangular door is open, there are a number of ways you might cut your fingers or hands trying to get a round object through a rectangular door.
August 13, 2006 5:51:30 PM

When I get a product in one of these goofball packages I have the cashier open it for me. If they break it, they give me a new one! :mrgreen:
August 14, 2006 11:39:42 AM

that's a great idea! next time I buy such a product I am definitely going to have the cashier open it!
August 19, 2006 7:59:55 AM

I think you're overlooking the obvious for the vignettes, and that you haven't tried the chainsaw thing; if you had, you'd notice that the plastic -does- shatter nicely when come at with speed. (#insert ObChamploo kthx) In fact, a little coffee buzz and a freshly trimmed fingernail opens the packages nicely, and they're only annoyed when you go nick the printed inserts.

For the obvious: PET (with additives for clarity and finish) was chosen because it's recyclable, and the ribbed edge etc. because the packing company's selling bills of options (each a hunk of AutoLISP) against itself prix fixee.
For the Pynchon twist: PET packages are also designed to retrieve blood and other fluids from the people returning the product. At first they just wanted your address and phone for 'quality control' reasons or such....

Less obvious: Yes, I am inclined to say that kitchen shears of the $2-3 variety from Target are the solution, but you are also right that one will necessarily be rubbing the 4+ newly-cut edges with one's hand if you do not occupy the other hand in diverting the scratch edge. That is impossible of course if you're opening an entire blisterpacked say, server, or mattress or something, in which case of course you can use the XActo.

I get lost with that though; maybe I still entertain the long deprecated notion that one should avoid interacting with sharp objects. XActos are self-reproducing cutting automata. Talk about ying and yang.... In an airport, you of course use the inside bits of your fountain pen or break an appropriate object where its use will be obvious to others or as mentioned, have the cinnabon staff do the deed. Many people choose to use the demo phones at the Sprint fake-sales-locations to do this, but often enough they get replaced with real activated cellphones and it's not so cool to see those wasted.

Moreover, the ultrataped boxes are a hideous waste of resources. I do not need 20 countrymen killed to misappropriate the geological resources needed to keep my box of cakeboxes of DVD-RAMs squarish; paper tape works great (if you order it) and the pulltabs always generate a senseless box format.

I believe that the step where the packaging is advanced a step, where we simply embed e-Paper that switches to silver=white or black (or back to clear) in the PET is needed.
Now, I have copyright (here, now) on packaging designed like cockleburs so that you can't help but take the package and be injured in a public way if you change your mind...but there are other models to try also. Strappy reusable designs that let you eject the goods and move forth.....
August 21, 2006 4:26:19 AM

Quote:
I don't want a package any random Joe Employee can open, or that lets in moisture or who-knows-whatquote]

Maybe there should be the super tough plastic packaging for privaltely imported cars so that all the little bits don't go mysteriously missing during transit (tachos, head units, etc).

I remember the original XBOX controller packaging was a pain in the arse; the plastic was really sharp and it was a prick to cut open with scissors because the plastic was at different angles all the time.

Why don't stores do the same thing with "high risk" products as what they do with CD's/DVD's? Take it out of the box and leave the packaging on the shelf. My local K-Mart does this with 360 accesories and no-one cares because console accesories aren't really impulse purchases. A cheap flash drive however...
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