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Consumer Reports Takes Aim at Poor Packaging

difficult to open Bratz packaging Photo Credit: puuikibeach

The December 2012 issue of Consumer Reports features a hard-hitting article on what it calls “illogical, misleading, and over-the top packaging” commonly criticized by consumers. The article, Packaging Gotchas: Mad at hard-to-open, shrinking, undersized, or overwrapped products? describes four cleverly-named types of packaging faux pas:

1. Oysters – hard to open packaging, often made out of rigid, clear plastic that has to be attacked with shears, or even, in the case of one Consumer Reports facebook fan, a manual can opener. This category also includes stubborn medication blister packs that won’t release the pills, and stiff bags that resist tearing, only to spew their contacts when they finally burst open. And don’t forget items held prisoner by a frustrating combination of twist ties, tabs, string, glue, and/or plastic strips.

2. Black holes – packaging with a lot of empty space or surrounded by lots of air, such as a half-full bag of apricots inside of a half-full box, or a 2 1/2 inch brownie in a 4 1/2 inch wrapper.

3. Downsized products – too often occurring in subtle or “sneaky” ways, like a soap bar that quietly melted to 4 ounces from 4 1/2 ounces, or a frozen dinner manufacturer that hoped consumers wouldn’t notice its product went from “over 1 lb. of food” to simply “1 lb. of food”.

4. Golden cocoons – tiny “doodads” shipped in over-sized cartons, often with enough paper or bubble wrap to protect something priceless. One consumer complained of four cotton napkins that arrived cradled in bubble wrap, while another Consumer Reports reader received two tiny 1 mm watchband pins surrounded by air bags in an oversized box. “Hey, a number 10 envelope and a stamp costs less than sending this FedEx,” he complained.

In its usual pull-no-punches style, Consumer Reports names names, and illustrates the article with full-colour photos of the offending products. In the interests of fairness, they also give the manufacturers on the hot seat the opportunity to respond.

Given the growing consumer awareness of and concern about sustainable packaging and environmentally friendly packaging, add non eco-friendly packaging to the “Packaging Gotchas” list. Over one-third of those surveyed recently by Perception Research Services were more likely to choose “green” packaging – a surprising 29% increase since a similar survey just a year before.

Visit Consumer Reports to read the whole story online, or to download a full-colour PDF.

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