Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Packaging is insane

I like drinking V8 Splash.
I like watching DVDs.
I like using my shaver.
I like listening to music on CDs.
I like using Windows XP.

What do these things all have in common? They come in the world's most insanely difficult-to-open packaging. It is like some sadistical package designer decided to make everyone's life more difficult just to thwart a few thieves by closing off all access to opening the item. The end result is that this Christmas season resulted in a lot of personal human damage because people pulled a muscle or sliced a finger when using a knife on the extremely dense plastic trying to get at what was inside.

I'm beginning to wonder if the average person can't open the packaging, the product inside might not be worth it. The same goes for software development. While Microsoft can get away with insane plastic protectors around a single disk, the rest of the development world can't. Don't know what I'm talking about? Walk into Best Buy or some other retail store and only Windows is shipped in impossible to open plastic containers (all the other products are regular boxes). Those things are literally sealed shut and it takes a knife to open them. A really good knife. So, you'll go home after buying it and slice your leg or arm or finger trying to get at the goodies inside. Basically, a medical disaster waiting to happen. As a software developer, please don't do this. You can't afford a lawsuit.

I tried to open a V8 Splash the other day and, for some bizarro reason or other, the cap simply would not come off. Almost went to get the knife to slice the perforations, but eventually got it open.

DVDs this season have gotten MUCH worse than last year. Last year there was an easy open shrink wrap package and one "security" sticker. This year, there are three "security" stickers with improved glue and much tighter binding along with "improved" shrinkwrap. Knives don't work here - just a half hour wrestling with the stupid box. Even then, the "security" stickers marred the protective plastic cover for the title and description inserts. Over the past year, the actual DVD holders have changed from easy to remove to impossible to remove as well (they hold the DVD in place). Some are easy, but most have these funky holders where the DVD has to literally be bent to remove it. That's really bad for data DVDs (hint, hint, game developers...).

My shaver came in an impossible-to-open package that rivals even that of Microsoft plastic. I think I cut myself on that box - I remember spending a good two hours slicing up the plastic so it would consume less space in the trash.

Whatever happened to the "good ol' days" of packaging where people actually used reasonable cardboard boxes? Cardboard boxes have this unique ability to be able to be flattened nicely for the trash. They are biodegradable. They are easy to open by default. They can be made difficult to open with a little tape. They can be molded into any shape that plastic can. The only downside is that during shipment they have difficulty maintaining their shape...but that's what outer boxes are supposedly for.

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