THANK YOU to maverick Mark Cuban and C|Net’s Blogma for ranting about a topic I’ve also been on the warpath over for years- product packaging that makes the customer the enemy. We’ve all experienced it- tough plastic-molded around the product we just bought, the knives, the scissors, the bloody incisions on our fingers. One brand name these are known under in the business is “Thermoform”. Thermal molded plastics. I call it “The Polycoffin”.
But the blame doesn’t rest solely with the manufacturer. Retailers are playing a larger part in detailing packaging requirements, threatening not to “assort” products that do not use the packaging. They claim that a high likelihood of theft is the reason why they do this. The risk to the manufacturer is lost shelf space at retail, lost sale in the store (due to lack of shelf or floor space), both of which are crucial to success for many CE manufacturers. Smaller CE manufacturers don’t have the retail power (read: $$$) to fund their own retail programs in-store so they’re over a barrel. So the retailer wants to reduce their cost of doing business and passes the buck to the retailer in one direction, the customer in the other; knowing the customer will blame the manufacturer, not the retailer for the situation. Mail-order products are also affected because the manufacturer cannot afford to keep inventory of products in multiple packaging types.
But the problem is that thermoform is so cheap now thanks to economies of scale that even low-priced products – kids toys, tools, and blank DV-camera tapes are being put in thermaform. It’s a retail addiction.
So what can we, the measly consumers do about this? I firmly believe the manufacturers take their cues from the retailers. Here are a few ideas on how to take back the packaging and put the customer first!
- Require the Retailer remove the packaging at point of sale. Let them know that the product you’re holding will not be purchased because it is in thermoform. Offer an alternative – tell them if they’re willing to, “Remove your anti-theft packaging from the product after purchase”, then you’ll buy it. You wouldn’t buy clothing with an ink-tag anti-theft device still attached and they don’t expect you to remove it. Same should go for thermoform. Make it their time and effort that’s wasted. Unfortunately this doesn’t work for gifted items 🙁
- Mail the Thermoform back to the retailer’s HQ care of the CEO. This takes up more of your time, but include a politely worded letter that you don’t appreciate being subjected to physical harm in exchange for your purchasing dollars and will be returning their anti-theft device. This requires a lot of people to do in order to be useful.
- Speak to the Manager; boycott the product. If they are unable or unwilling to remove the packaging, ask to speak to a manager. Explain that you will be sending said plastic along with his/her name in a letter to the CEO to the company.
- Liability. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be and generally think our society has become too litigious. But I am just waiting for someone, somewhere to get sliced by one of these packages bad enough to do a)nerve damage, b)require stitches, or c)contract a severe infection that spawns a class action lawsuit.
- Blog About it. (Thank you Jeremy). Bloggers and professional reviewers should consider packaging a part of the criteria as well in their evaluation of products. It’s all about cognitive dissonance. Buyer’s remorse is amplified by bad packaging.
It’s time to end the addiction to thermoform plastic packaging and put the customer first again. We need a better solution to anti-theft.