The real reason for frustration-full packaging

Have you tried to open a sealed plastic package and were unable to do so even after throwing every single tool you have in your toolbox and finally resorting to clawing and chewing out the package? Have you ever had multiple ‘plastic’ cuts before you got your package open? Have you took more than 15 minutes to open a package?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have encountered a frustration-full packaging that leads to what is called ‘wrap-rage’. This happens quite a bit at my home as we buy several toys that take forever to get out of the box. Just when you think you got it out, you discover a few more wire-ties holding yet another part of the toy to the cardboard.This can get quite stressful, especially if you have a toddler who is screaming he wants the toy out of the box right now.

Gee, I have to wonder sometimes, whether they spend more time making the packaging than the actual product.

I recently got a  Tom-Tom ONE to replace my dead Garmin i3; and the packaging for the Tom-Tom ONE *defines* frustration-full packaging. With no easy way to get the product out, I finally had to resort to completely destroying the packaging by cutting everything to thin ribbons. After I was done, you could have mistaken the mess to chewed out garbage. (Too bad, I didn’t snap a picture)

In any case, I finally decided on returning the Tom-Tom as the maps and the navigation prompts weren’t very good. And that brings me to the actual reason behind this post. Only when I started thinking of returning the Tom-Tom did I begin to realize that I had a package that was a mess. I was a bit embarrassed on returning something that was completely destroyed and it almost made me reconsider my decision to return it.

Then it struck me, do manufacturers make these types of packaging in order to make the product harder to return?  Is there some secret study, chock full of statistics that shows lower rates of return, higher the frustration level of the packaging? It certainly seems plausible. I am sure more than a few people would hesitate to return something, if they just took apart the packaging completely to get to the product.

It just seems stupid to completely frustrate the user, when it is the first time they are encountering the product. There is really no out-of-the-box experience, if you cannot take it out of the box first.

I am sure companies can claim that plastic shell packaging protects the product on a shelf or in transit. But look at Apple’s Mini Mac packaging. It’s a simple package, and it protects a computer!

Apple’s Mac Mini Package

Amazon’s step towards frustration-free packaging is a right move, although I see that they are probably interested for different reasons (easier to ship etc). I am sure Amazon is not particularly interested in opening the billion products they keep in inventory. Still, if it makes some of the manufacturers sit up and listen, I am all for it.

Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging Initative (Image Courtesy of

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