Amazon Recognizes That People Hate Annoying Packaging

from the customer-friendly-policies dept

Two years ago, around this time, we wrote a post entitled This Holiday Season, All I Want Is A Package That Opens Easily, noting how annoying some consumer packaging is. We were especially critical of the so-called "blister packs" or plastic clamshell packaging that is a source of not just frustration, but injuries to many as they struggle to open them. Apparently, Amazon has finally decided it's time to do something about this and has announced a new initiative for "frustration-free packaging." As Jeff Nolan notes, this is an example of a company recognizing that what's good for customers is good for the company.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    David, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 6:36am

    Great Idea, but..

    It's a great idea, and I am all for it personally for both the frustration factor and for environmental reasons. My only complaint is that they are only doing it with 19 products...

    I guess a pilot program is a good idea, I just hope it takes off...

     

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  2.  
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    Joel Coehoorn, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 6:47am

    It just makes sense

    The hard-to-open packaging we all hate was designed to reduce shoplifting at retail locations. The idea is that people were opening an item in the store, and then claiming they brought it in with them if questioned on the way out. Apparently the packaging is at least somewhat effective in this area.

    However, it serves no purpose at all for an online merchant. The only reason we see it is because manufacturers don't want to have to deal with two types of packaging. But a program from somewhere like Amazon to help them repackage thing (or even repackaging items in-house) sounds like a great idea.

     

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  3.  
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    Olz, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 6:56am

    Sticky CDs and DVDs

    I hope it expands to include those labels they put around the edges of CDs and DVDs. Its a pain to get the labels and their sticky residue off.

     

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  4.  
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    Jim, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:01am

    Pre-cut stuff?

    I wonder if an acceptable alternative would be for Amazon's shipping department to just slice the things before packaging? I imagine that most injuries and frustration for customers stems from using the wrong tool to open the packaging. I would check a box to have my memory packaging "pre-sliced" - hell I may even pay $0.25 extra for the service.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:03am

    > As Jeff Nolan notes, this is an example of a company
    > recognizing that what's good for customers is good
    > for the company.

    More likely, what is good for the company (lower shipping costs) is good for the customer.

    I don't believe for a picosecond that Amazon did this for
    the altruistic reason that customers hate frustrating
    packaging. I have no problem believing they found a
    way to get more profit from each sale, and that ends
    up being win (Amazon), win (customers), win (environment).

    Lucky for Amazon.

     

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  6.  
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    Lucretious, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:11am

    I'm constantly amazed that blister packaging hasn't been sued off the market yet. The shit is actually dangerous if you don't have something razor sharp to cut it.

     

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  7.  
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    John Doe, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:11am

    I hope they tackle the packaging on kids toys. Anyone who has ever opened a toy, especially a doll w/ accessories, can tell you they use a lot of tape and 1,000 twist ties!

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:14am

    Trip to Urgent Care

    My wife put the tip of a pair of scissors right between her index finger and thumb. You'd be amazed how blood "fountains" out of your body when you hit the right vein.

    After several minutes of applying a painful amount of pressure, it was straight to the Urgent Care for stitches.

    That $4.99 pair of headphones ended up costing a cool $54.99 after co-pays.

    I'd happily pay to have better packaging, or have the package "pre-sliced" as suggested by Jim. Why some manufacturer thought a pair of 5 dollar headphones should require tin snips to open is beyond me...

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:16am

    Re: Sticky CDs and DVDs

    @Olz: Actually, they're already doing that with CDs. You can get a lot of them 100% packaging free through Amazon's MP3 download service.

     

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  10.  
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    Overcast, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:27am

    Yes, please - just put it in a cardboard box and ship it. At least cardboard degrades into the same thing a tree will when left to the natural course of things.

    Plastic's a whole different 'animal'.

     

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  11.  
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    Pessimist, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:32am

    Re:

    I don't know why people get worked up over putting plastic and metals into landfills. Consider it long term recycling. That stuff will be there 100 years from now and we can just go back and dig it up.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re:

    When we tear down a building in the US, we tear it down and ship it off to the landfill. But in Mainland China, they actually break a building down into little pieces to re-melt and reuse the steel rebarb.

    This concept is quite fascinating, but isn't repeatable in the US because in China, there exists a huge surplus of labor.

    It remains interesting to see how other cultures "Make Do" when we are pretty good at "Making Waste".

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 8:19am

    Does that mean amazon will stop shipping me a single DVD in a box big enough to hold 100 DVDs? Seriously, I don't see how it's cost effective for them to ship a box 100 times too big for the item. We started bringing our amazon boxes to the local shipping store for them to re-use.

     

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  14.  
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    JJ, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 8:20am

    "This is an example of a company recognizing that what's good for customers is good for the company."

    Bulls**t. This is an example of a company recognizing that when they sell all their goods online, then they don't have to worry about shoplifters... and then pretending that this somehow makes them better than anyone else.

     

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  15.  
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    Jake, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 8:24am

    One of these days that 'anti-shoplifting' packaging is going to get me arrested for carrying a concealed weapon; the most effective tool for cracking it that I've yet found is a 3.5-inch hunting knife.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 8:37am

    Its a good start..

    I think they should also concentrate on reducing unnecessary packaging. Why is it that an SD card comes in a package the size of a DVD case? That is pointless and because it's a blister pack it further infuriates me. Marketing people piss me off!

     

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  17.  
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    tracker1, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 8:44am

    Get a good set of kitchen scissors.

    I usually use my kitchen scissors for opening these kind of packages, tends to work better than any other tool I've tried. Heavy scissors work great... lighter scissors, not so much.

     

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  18.  
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    Erv Server, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 8:50am

    plastic clamshell packaging

    that plastic clamshell packaging has always torqued me off, it should be illegal

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 8:52am

    Re: Pre-cut stuff?

    What's the right tool? A sledgehammer? A reciprocating saw? Some of these packages are insanely difficult to open.

     

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  20.  
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    Paula, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You know, that could just possibly solve our constant growing unemployment problem...

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re: Pre-cut stuff?

    Hacksaw...

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 9:19am

    Re:

    As a former manager in an Amazon.com fulfillment center (FC), I can tell you "shrinkage" due to theft is a problem. It's an extremely large warehouse just full of fun stuff. During the holiday season, Amazon meets peak demand by hiring tons of temp workers. As you can imagine, many are there simply to do a little discounted Holiday shopping. Each FC has dedicated loss prevention managers and personnel, along with surveillance equipment. It's nowhere near the force of a Target or Walmart, but theft happens daily. When packages are easier to open, it is easier to swipe the small item out of the large package and hide it on your person. There are metal detectors that associates have to go through to leave the FC, but they won't pick up that 8 GB SD card, and they rarely detected one CD or DVD. In a typical shift, 10-20 empty DVD cases, CD cases, or electronic device packages were discovered.

    That being said, when I read this, I was very surprised. I suppose they weighed the increase costs of theft and determined that it would be exceeded by the profit from increased sales.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 9:29am

    Packing Peanuts

    Let's be honest, the most annoying thing about any packaging are those d@mn packing peanuts!

     

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  24.  
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    Brian Holiman, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 9:35am

    About freakin time! I have hated those blister packs since the day they came out. Show me a nice easy to open cardboard box anytime! I agree, it will recycle to. I'm not a greenie but if you can be green at the same time without costing more money, then do it.

    I have used heavy kitchen scissors to open this stuff and have on occasion been forced to use industrial tin snips to get in some of it.

    And please, 52 wire ties to keep the my daughter's new barbie doll looking good in the package. Give it a rest! It takes so long to get out of the package, she loses interest in the thing and moves on to the next one! Now thats too much!

    The old days are not always good but the packaging from yesteryear was better.

     

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  25.  
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    Clayton Quinnell, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 9:56am

    Blister Packs? I have an easy solution...

    For people who want to complain about blister packs, they are dangerous... only a razor or very sharp knife..

    two words...
    CAN OPENER.
    Thats all you need... go try it now, it really works.
    (Thanks to wired magazine for that suggestion...)

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 10:34am

    Reduce returns

    I think the real advantage to the marketer of the impossible to open package is that they reduce returns.

    If I buy a box of something, carefully open it, then decide I don't want it I'm not a bit shy about returning it. One I've destroyed of those impossible to open packs, it's no longer in resellable condition, so I'm a little more sheepish about it.

     

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  27.  
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    tubes, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 10:41am

    Re: Packing Peanuts

    Thank you I cant agree with you more!! The thing is peanuts don't work. The product will still move around easily in the box. I can't tell you how many products I have recieved broken because they ship with peanuts.
    I used to work for a company that made paper packaging many of yous have probably seen it or something similar. Long pieces of 3-ply paper folded over & crimped in the middle a few companies ship with it. I love when I get this when I order something on the internet. It is so useful later on when I need to pack something later, using it for moving or even use it as a fire starter. The thing is it actually keeps the product in the same position & place in the box & generally it won't break either. Paper will absorb most impacts.

     

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  28.  
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    Nobody, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    In most places in the US, when they tear down a building they grind up the cement into aggregate for roadbuilding. I'm not sure what they do with the steel, though.

     

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  29.  
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    mcs, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 11:05am

    Re: Re: Packing Peanuts

    Packing peanuts work, but only when they fill the box COMPLETELY. If a box is 3/4 full of peanuts, it might as well have none.

     

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  30.  
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    Crabby (profile), Nov 4th, 2008 @ 11:59am

    Re: recycling

    Actually, most building materials are recycled, especially metals. Copper is going at nearly $3.00 per pound and you can bet someone is going to truck it to a recycling plant instead of the dump. Do a search before you start harping on the "wasteful USA" because some of us are sick of hearing it. China is one of the most polluted countries in the world.

     

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  31.  
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    Crabby (profile), Nov 4th, 2008 @ 12:03pm

    Re: tool

    I have the Swiss Army knife Classic, which actually works quite well. You still have to watch out for the sharp edges but this will get the package open for you.

     

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  32.  
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    tubes, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Packing Peanuts

    Sorry to tell you but they don't work, no matter how stuffed the box is. Plus NO ONE ever completely packs the box anyways & peanuts are a pain in the ass in every way. When I worked @ that paper packaging company, we did multiple R&D tests using everything on the market. From peanuts (starch-based & petroleum-based), foam fill, bubble wrap, air bags, etc. Peanuts & air bags also tested the worst. There is too much movement allowed in the box. The product will always move to the side of the box & when the product moves to the side that is when it will be damaged.

     

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  33.  
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    John, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 4:34pm

    I agree with poster #26

    I think the blister packs were invented to reduce theft AND to reduce the rate of product returns. If you've basically destroyed the packaging to get to your item, will you return it if it doesn't work? And since you can't put the packaging back together, the store will probably charge you a 25% restocking fee.

    And I know theft is a terrible thing, but like the other posters have said, do we really need 50 to 100 small ties to hold a Barbie doll in its box? It's a sad state of affairs when a 5 year-old can't get her own doll out of the box and needs mommy with a super-sharp razor blade to cut the doll out of the packaging!

     

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  34.  
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    Teka, Nov 4th, 2008 @ 7:08pm

    Re: boxes

    Seriously, I don't see how it's cost effective for them to ship a box 100 times too big for the item. We started bringing our amazon boxes to the local shipping store for them to re-use.


    From talking with people and receiving a fair number of amazon deliveries, I think that the box size issue might not be a big deal for them. the Fulfillment Centers, labeling, shipping contracts and all the rest seem to work best with the mostly standardized shippers, probably with a tiny flat rate charge plus an added charge for weight past X amount.

    When 90% of the boxes being handled are exactly the same size and shape, efficiency must be going up enough to more then cover a fractional-cent spent on extra boxed air being shipped along with my thumbdrive. Also, Kudos on the recycling!

     

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  35.  
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    nasch, Nov 5th, 2008 @ 8:25am

    Re:

    I'm not arguing that Amazon doesn't save money doing this, but what's altruistic about try to do something to please customers that your competitors aren't doing? It does seem like a strange concept sometimes coming from a big company, but that is what competition is supposed to be about. It's not altruism, it's self-interest.

     

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