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 Amazon.com, Sony, Microsoft and Best Buy, have begun to create alternatives to the infuriating plastic “clamshell” packages and cruelly complex twist ties that make products such as 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 Jeff Bezos, the father of four young children and Amazon.com founder. “But that is what I do: I arm myself, and it still takes me 10 minutes to open each package.”
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This month, 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 and Microsoft, the companies will ship some of their best-selling products directly to Amazon in cardboard boxes that don't fight back.
Such a campaign is relatively easy for Amazon, of course, because it does not need to worry about how products appear on store shelves.
But even offline companies are joining the movement. Microsoft recently unveiled an unusual container for the Explorer computer mouse 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 with arrows that guide buyers into easily unlocking their purchase.
For consumers like Lisa Martin, a mother of two from Chicago, clamshell 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 anti-theft. But when you get home and it takes two days to get your purchase open, it kind of defeats the purpose,” said Martin.