But the Dang Thing Won’t Open

Kind of a duh article about how difficult packaging is to open, but perhaps a small element of zeitgeist.

Mona Doyle recently filmed people attempting to open bags of pre-cut lettuce. The tape plays like a bit from the television show “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Everybody uses force and torque that would otherwise be reserved for the gym. Either the bag opens suddenly and sprays lettuce all over the floor, or defeat is conceded and scissors or knives are employed.

When Doyle, whose Philadelphia company does research about food and beverage packaging, showed the tape to an audience of produce packers, they chuckled. But Doyle says that belligerent packaging is making consumers spitting mad. They use words “hate” and “difficult” to describe products that seem to be welded shut.

Doyle has no solid statistics on injuries caused by our hassles with packaging, but they do exist in England. One study there shows that ‘wrap rage,’ as it is called by the Brits, has been the cause of more than 60,000 injuries. These often occur when consumers resort to knives and scissors to deal with stubborn packages, according to a 2003 report in the Daily Telegraph.

(That said, here’s a paradox: Hard-to-open bags don’t seem to be stopping us from buying pre-cut lettuce, considered the biggest marketing phenomenon in the history of produce. Sales of the convenience item are soaring. The Produce Marketing Association reports that sales hit $2.6 billion in 1994, then $8.8 billion in 2003. The numbers are expected to zip up to $10.5 billion in 2005. Obviously, cutting our own lettuce into bite-size pieces irritates us even more than cutting open a bag.)

Doyle says American consumers’ demands for ease and convenience have evolved over decades and, once given an easier way, we demand even easier ways. In plain language, we are spoiled.


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