I’m not going to drool over a new flavor, or wax poetic about some gimmicky feature. This ain’t about the contents.This is about the friggin’ BOX. Whether we twist off a cap, peel back the foil, or tear into packages on Christmas morning, human beings are pre-programmed to receive pleasure from opening things. With access to space-age materials, institutions of higher learning and opposable thumbs, we should be able to get at the stuff we want without much fuss.
There’s no excuse for so many products with lousy packaging. Don’t tell me that the Sharpie people don’t know that their pens, unless firmly double-clicked, will dry up in minutes. How many times have you pulled the cotton out of a sealed pill bottle to find out that it’s already mostly empty? Do you throw away spray cans even though you can hear (and feel) that they’re half full? After pumping too much goo out of a one-way dispenser, have you disparaged the idiot in the bathroom mirror: Look what you’ve done. Now, go out and buy more.
Consumers are psychologically complicit. Packages that are too easy to open do not offer enough satisfaction, unless the package IS the payoff. Holiday baskets may be barely edible, but it’s so much fun to open fourteen tiny tins, boxes and trays! That set of wrenches, laid out in descending metric order–it’s a thing of beauty. Everyone knows a blue Tiffany & Co. box is a gift unto itself. Most of the time though, packaging is a pain. “Blister packaging” (great name, eh?) should be outlawed. At least the FDA ought to insist that these clear rigid plastic packages, where contents are visible yet inaccessible, should include a Band-Aid or two.
Opening the product is only half the problem. Half the products labelled “resealable” aren’t. Manufacturers lie. The little picture of the scissors that indicates “cut here”? Cut there, and guess what–the package is still sealed. Be brave. Cut a little lower. No. No! Not there!!! Tempted to rip it open? Bags often rip on a diagonal bias, which means you MUST eat those chips NOW, eat up all up, then go out and buy more.
Even when containers appear to reseal, plastic zippers secretly go all slack-jawed in the pantry. At least in Montana, it’s dry; in more humid climates, fast spoilage equals faster sales. To be fair, even Mother Nature has inconvenient packaging. Coconuts win the prize, followed by pineapples, artichokes and avocados. Avocados are not that tough to open, but they’re designed like politicians: they promise a lot, their skin has to be thick, and when they open up, you realize they’re the pits.
Some things I don’t even try to open anymore. Anything with a child-proof cap. CD’s. Acid-based food in metal cans. “Food” with more than twenty ingredients.Anything with the phrase “assembly required.” You gotta hand it to to the packaging mavens. From the evidence at our landfills, they’ve done a terrific job of maintaining the frustration level of consumers at a critical point, where having to open a product is still worth buying what’s inside.