Saturday, March 17, 2007

May Require Tools and a Pint of Blood

Today I bought a toothbrush. It came in one of those awful, clear plastic, tightly molded packages that are impossible to open. Armed with a pocket knife and scissors, five minutes and several close calls later, I had my toothbrush.

It seems like almost every small retail item these days comes in this sort of packaging. I learned, thanks to Wikipedia, that this is “clamshell” packaging, not to be confused with “blister” packaging (that is similar, but uses clear plastic attached to a piece of paper or cardboard). I wondered just what the actual advantage to the retailer or the customer is. The only relevant info I could find on the web was an article on Wired.

The summary is: It helps retailers show off their item and avoid theft (no, really) and has zero benefit for the consumer. The theft thing, as the Wired article notes, is confusing, since the clamshell packaging is being used on cheap little items like toothbrushes, which are already relatively small packages to start with. But remember that “shoplifting adds up” (according to retailers) and that they usually stick a cheap magnetic strip inside the clamshell pack to boot.

The article claims companies are starting to make “easy to open” clamshell packaging, but I haven’t seen it. What I have seen is more and more products in these packages. What I’d like to see is some sort of device that you could clamp on the edge of the packaging and slice or melt the edge off. Further web searching reveals a few such devices:

Klever Kutter: which honestly seems more like a box cutter, and I can’t see how this would have worked on my toothbrush package. Oh, and apparently it's a French product.

Open-X: A cutter that slides between the front and back at the edge, it appears. Seems like it would have problems with some clamshell packages I’ve seen with extra thick or well-sealed edges. Oh, and I think Open-X is police code for prostitute.

Package Shark: A cutter that has a recessed groove with a razor blade inside to cut off the edge. Again, could have problems with extra thick edges. Oh, and it bears no resemblence to a shark.

So there you go. I can’t endorse any of these products since I haven’t tried any of them. However, I will say, if you buy one and it arrives in a clamshell package, you have the right to scream at the top of your lungs.

1 comment:

Tom said...

The Klever Kutter, available from for $1.96 each, is manufactured in West Michigan.
This tool is the first of a generation of new box cutters that will not injure people or damage product. A workplace laceration costs on the average of $30,000 by the time you calculate medical expenses, lost time and worker comp losses. Product damage from "naked blades" costs US retailers in excess of $6 Billion each year.