Many of us have been driven
to use profanity while trying to open toys or small electronics in hard
plastic clamshell packages. Sawing at the shell with a razor knife.
Tearing off plastic shards with pliers, one infuriating strip at a time.
if your company makes small appliances that are sold in those packages,
you have to admit they’re an annoyance. But toys are the worst. Toys
can get marred by whatever blade is used to get inside the plastic
shell or the parts break when you try to disentangle the product from
the countless adhesive-taped twist-ties that lash the toy to the
Amazon.com tried to do
something about it last year when it launched its Frustration-Free
Packaging program for toys and small electronics. This year,
Fisher-Price and Mattel, who were among the first to join the program,
are expanding their product offerings in time for the winter holidays.
program can benefit the OEM as well as the consumer. The producer can
legitimately claim that a package of mostly cardboard is more
recyclable and thus more environmentally friendly than a hard plastic
shell package, in which the plastic is rarely recyclable. There’s also,
potentially, a higher level of customer satisfaction. No manufacturer
wants their customer’s product experience to start with frustration
over the unwrapping process.
Of course, there
are good reasons that consumer products come packaged in hard plastic
and twist-ties. It’s extremely effective at protecting the product from
breakage on its journey from factory to consumer. Because the contents
can’t be easily accessed without destroying the packaging, losses are
kept to a minimum and the chances of the customer getting an incomplete
product are very small.
Amazon customers are less than thrilled about the products they’re
receiving in Frustration-Free Packaging—and they’re posting their
comments to the Amazon product pages. Several reviews on the page for
the Frustration-Free Packaging version of the Motorola T305 Bluetooth
Portable Hands-Free Speakerphone accuse Amazon of sending consumers
second-hand products. Worn parts and missing pieces, the reviews say,
show that the product was used and returned, then sold again as new.
ratings on these specific products seem to sum up the user experience.
The Frustration-Free Packaging version received an overall 1.5-star
rating. The same product in traditional packaging was rated three
stars. While most FFP Electronics received good reviews, about one per
page on my Amazon visit received a negative review along the same lines
as the T305.
But would I still consider ordering an FFP electronics product? Maybe. Toys? Absolutely.
Promoting the Package
unique retail business model makes it possible for it to sell its
products in this way, but it seems likely that other retailers or small
appliance/small electronics OEMs will attempt to differentiate
themselves through alternative packaging approaches. The promotional
message seems like a no-brainer—consumers know and despise the
But the end result must
still be to deliver a complete and perfect product into the hands of
the consumer. Anything less is a step backwards.
Tim Somheil, firstname.lastname@example.org
APPLIANCE Magazine had an important role in the founding of today’s International Safe Transit Association. Read more: