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What Ever Happened To "Easy Open" Packages?

By Sammy of Stone Marmot

Feb. 8, 2009

This may be dating me, but I remember a time, maybe in the 1960's and 1970's, where companies bragged about their "easy open" packages. It was very prominent in a lot of their advertising. Many companies considered this a big selling point.

Now, most packages are a nightmare to open. You frequently need some sort of tool to open most every type of package.

For example, dry breakfast cereal used to come in a waxed paper bag in a cardboard box. The cardboard box is pretty much the same and just as easy to open. But before, you could easily neatly tear the waxed paper bags open with your bare hands. Now they come in a plastic bag that is next to impossible to tear open at all, let alone to tear it without the bag suddenly shredding and spraying cereal all over the place, after which the bag is virtually impossible to reseal.

Most every individually vacuum packed item, such as frozen fish fillets, comes in a plastic bag that absolutely cannot be torn open. You must use some sort of tool to open these packages.

So now you must keep scissors in the kitchen to open these packages. These scissors should not be the same ones you use for other things, such as cutting tape or opening mail, to avoid contaminating your food. You must wash these scissors after each use to get the food grease or whatever off the scissors. This is a lot of unnecessary extra effort which we didn't have to do in the past. Why? Most all this stuff already comes in some other outer protective package, like a cardboard box or plastic bag, to protect the inner packages from normal handling.

Some plastic bags have little notches on one or both sides, supposably to make it easier to tear the packages open. My experience is that most of these notches do help to get the tearing started. But a lot of these bags either tear towards the nearest edge, leaving the bag unopened, or down towards the middle, splitting the bag wide open and spilling the contents. The bags that have those resealable plastic "zippers" are most notorious for tearing to the nearest edge, leaving the bag unopened.

Plastic bubble packs are the absolute worst items to open. The soft plastic ones with a cardboard back usually cannot be torn open without obliterating the cardboard (or breaking the product), which often has the instructions and other needed information printed on it. Even with tools you have difficulty preserving the information printed on these cardboard backs.

The hard plastic ones are frequently next to impossible to open even with tools. Scissors often can't cut the convoluted edges of these hard plastic packages, and the scissors often break trying to cut these packages. I've often had to resort to using my bandsaw to cut these packages open. What do people do who don't have bandsaws? I think it is a fairly safe assumption that most households and offices don't have bandsaws. Many people, including myself, have been hurt trying to open these packages. Aren't these manufacturers concerned about liability?

Why are these manufacturers putting their customers through such hell to use their products? Are they hoping we damage the product in the effort to extract it from its package (which has happened more than once) and we have to buy another? That doesn't work for me. If I damage a product trying to extract it from its package, that company has lost me forever as a customer.

These obviously are not the best of economic times. The last thing you want to do is give people another excuse for not buying your products.

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