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Worst Design Ever? Plastic Clamshell Packaging 398

Posted by Soulskill
from the spilled-more-blood-than-all-the-swords dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Rebecca Rosen writes that if you've recently opened up — or, more specifically, tried to open up — a CFL light bulb, you can sympathize with the question posted on Quora last year, 'What is the worst piece of design ever done?' The site's users have given resounding support to one answer: plastic clamshell packaging. 'Design should help solve problems' — clamshells are supposed to make it harder to steal small products and easier for employees to arrange on display — but this packaging, says Anita Schillhorn, makes new ones, such as time wasted, frustration, and the little nicks and scrapes people incur as they just try to get their damn lightbulb out. The problem is so pervasive there is even a Wikipedia page devoted to 'wrap rage,' 'the common name for heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open hard-to-remove packaging.' Amazon and Wal-Mart are prodding more manufacturers to change their packaging to cut waste. 'We've gotten e-mails from customers who've purchased scissors in a clamshell, which would require another pair of scissors to open the package,' says Nadia Shouraboura, Amazon's vice president of global fulfillment. Other worthy answers to the Quora question include the interfaces on most microwaves, TV remotes, New York City's parking signs, and pull-handles on push-only doors, but none gained even close to the level of popular repudiation that clamshells received."
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Worst Design Ever? Plastic Clamshell Packaging

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  • by DrEnter (600510) * on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:48PM (#40182399)
    I've had plenty of terrible times trying to get things out of plastic clamshells. I've also had no trouble at all... when they don't press seal the entire circumference of the package. If they just use a couple press locks (maybe with a touch of adhesive or a staple), these packages aren't bad at all. Why they insist on hermetically sealing them, though, that is baffling to me.
    • by Jeng (926980) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:53PM (#40182473)

      Why they insist on hermetically sealing them, though, that is baffling to me.

      I believe it is that way for as a theft deterrent. The harder it is to open the harder it is to open in the aisle in the store and not get caught.

      There are replacements for clamshells that do an even better job of this though and without the bodily injury that occurs from people trying to open stubborn clamshells.

      • It's also a return deterrant. Once you've shredded the package, you're much less likely to try and return it if you don't like it. Still, you could solve that by using a tear away strip. The packaging is irrepairably damaged, but the product is then easy to get out.

        Another key advantage is that it's very effective at protecting goods in shipping. It makes a very good shock absorber and it's very hard to damage the product inside. Unless you work in manufacturing or product development, you probably don't realize how much damage and vibration boxes suffer in the back of a truck.

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:18PM (#40182849) Homepage

          Another key advantage is that it's very effective at protecting goods in shipping.

          Which, of course, explains why the last chisel I bought was hermetically sealed in an indestructible plastic clamshell package.

        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:21PM (#40182901) Homepage Journal

          It's also a return deterrant. Once you've shredded the package, you're much less likely to try and return it if you don't like it.

          Interesting...

          I've seen this put forth here a few times on this early thread...and I'm baffled. Really?

          Would anyone here be deterred from returning something just because packaging was shredded? I've never heard of this before till this thread....I'd not have thought of it at all actually.

          Way back in the dark ages, when I was working retail jobs in HS and first years of college, I was amazed at what people would try to return...shoes that were obviously worn. I had one kid bring in an old old worn pair of shoes, said his brother handed them down to him, and they didn't fit and wanted to return them for a new pair that fit him. No joke...

          I used to also sell clothes in the young men's area....and had some lady bring in bags of clothes..that were obviously worn and in cases stained.

          What was nice...was back then...the management backed you up when you refused to accept a return in that shape. I argued with her...called mgr...he looked at it and said no and when the lady started throwing a fit, he called security and they had her removed from the store telling her not to come back. Don't get me wrong...customer service was good with us...I got award for it and sales, had many happy return customers.

          Sadly...you don't see that today...bad service, and mgrs would never back up a sales person like that...and they accept returns on EVERYTHING....which is horribly abused. Hell, i've talked to girls that thought nothing, of buying a complete outfit to wear out somewhere nice...and then, returning it the next day......really?

          With that mentality...I can't imagine a clamshell case would deter anyone from a return.

          • Which is why I use the Walmart Rental store. Someone could make a very good amount of money if they had a decent rental system that I paid a small sum to borrow something (with deposit). Autozone and Advance Auto have it for their car tools.

            When I needed a stud finder for hanging a few photos I found the stud finder that had the easiest to open/close packaging. Bought it, used it twice, returned it. I would have paid $1 or $2 to do that but that's not what stud finders cost and living in a small apartment I

            • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:17PM (#40183719)

              >> I use the Walmart Rental store.

              This is ok because (check all that apply):

              It's a big company.
              WalMart is evil.
              It doesn't hurt individuals at all, just a company.
              It doesn't hurt any one individual very much.
              It doesn't hurt WalMart, it hurts their suppliers.
              Nobody offers stud-finder rentals.
              I'm helping the environment by recycling tools.
              There are more important moral issues in the world.
              Fuck everybody else, I look out for only me.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Must cost the shops more to process returns though as they can't just check and re-sell the item, it has to go back to the manufacturer for re-packaging or be written off. It must also increase the number of "dead out the box" returns due to items getting damaged as people wrestle with the packaging, light bulbs being a good example of something delicate often sold in clamshells.

      • by coinreturn (617535) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:05PM (#40182683)

        Why they insist on hermetically sealing them, though, that is baffling to me.

        I believe it is that way for as a theft deterrent. The harder it is to open the harder it is to open in the aisle in the store and not get caught.

        Regardless, if I ever meet the inventor, I will punch him/her in the face.

      • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:31PM (#40183007)

        Why they insist on hermetically sealing them, though, that is baffling to me.

        I believe it is that way for as a theft deterrent. The harder it is to open the harder it is to open in the aisle in the store and not get caught.

        That's what you would think. But I used to work for a store apprehending shoplifters in my younger years. The only people who are frustrated by this type of packaging are honest consumers and possibly teenage thieves. But teenagers typically would break the product when trying to remove it and toss it back, pretty much rendering the intent of the packaging useless as you can't sell broken merchandise. It's truly unbelievable how fast a heroin addict can circumvent anti-theft packaging.

      • I gave up buying a keyboard because he came within one of these sealed plastic clamshell. Making it impossible to test the keyboard before deciding whether I should buy or not.
    • They will want to balance ease of opening with tamper resistance and tamper evidence. The press locks are very easy to open, but make shoplifting and 'spare parts' lifting trivial to do in the store, all the more so because it isn't obvious that the package has been opened. More likely, they will move toward the perforated back panels, so at least you'll be able to see if someone opened it before you bought it.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:59PM (#40182577) Homepage Journal

      I think everyone hates those offal things; I know I do. But the worst design? Hardly. Clamshell packaging never killed anybody.

      Ever drive a car from the late '80s-early '90s? Rather than a knob, the volume control was buttons! Unlike earlier and modern car radios, you couldn't change the volume without taking your eyes off the road!

      Worse, your ac/heat controls used to have knobs, too. You could change the temp without taking your eyes off the road. Now they have BUTTONS! God damn it, listen up, idiot designers, buttons don't belong on a car's dash! If you need buttons, put them on the steering wheel like the radio controls on my car. That has the added benefit of not letting the fatassed passenger turn the AC all the way up and freezing me out.

      Similarly, what idiot decided to put the winshield wiper on the turn signal? Probably one of the many idiots that never use their turn signals. Not as bad as clamshell packaging or buttons on a car's dash, but still frustrating and stupid.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:05PM (#40182691)

        That's nothing.

        Since everyone's caught up in the touchscreen crazy, it's moving towards being controlled via tocuhscreen -- where you can't even feel if there's a button being pressed!

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        Dude, you're a few years late with this complaint. (As another poster noted here) many car manufacturers are switching to all-touchscreen controls, so you have to navigate menus on a touchscreen just to set the temperature, adjust fan speed, or adjust the radio volume. The worst offenders are Ford/Lincoln and BMW.

        Most of the new cars I've driven lately do use knobs for HVAC: they typically have a knob for temperature, another for vent selection, and one for fan speed. There's frequently a few buttons (in

      • by Tridus (79566)

        So you must love the new touchscreen Fords then!

    • Why they insist on hermetically sealing them, though, that is baffling to me.

      The only reason I've ever heard that actually makes sense is that it cuts down on in-store returns.

      People often feel that if they return a product to the store that they're obligated to include all the original packaging: little plastic baggies and paper flyers, as well as the foam padding and the box itself.

      In reality, most stores are far more lenient, but when you have quite literally destroyed the package in the process of testing it out, it makes you far less likely to take that $10 light bulb back to t

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        I'll happily return something in a completely-destroyed package. If they're going to sell me something where I have to destroy the packaging just to open it, then they're just going get a big mess of torn-up packaging and loose bits when I decide I need to return it. These days, most stores will accept almost anything back, and the teenager at the counter certainly doesn't care one way or the other.

    • Arrrrr. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Steauengeglase (512315) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:14PM (#40182793)

      That is exactly what a filthy pirate who is smuggling counterfeit light bulbs would say!

    • by Matheus (586080)

      I've had all the usual troubles getting into these things (and I buy a LOT of toys so it's a regular activity) but frankly what's going through my head primarily (aside from the survival instinct trying not to cut off my fingers) is the complete waste.

      When we were younger growing up in an Earth Day world one of the biggest environmental issues we talked about was over-packaging. For all the talk it seems to me that not only has this not gotten any better but it has actually gotten worse! I've been replaci

  • by craznar (710808) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:48PM (#40182403) Homepage

    .. and you guessed it.

    Comes in a nice cardbox box : http://the-gadgeteer.com/2009/08/10/zipit-clamshell-package-opener-review/ [the-gadgeteer.com]

    • by steveg (55825) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:54PM (#40182493)

      I got a handy little tool from Think Geek called "The Plastic Surgeon [thinkgeek.com]" that works pretty well.

    • I use a pair of scissors (or a utility knife in a pinch). The advantage is i can use them for other things and they don't require batteries. I hate those packages as much as the next person, but they really don't require a custom designed opening tool.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      http://boaty.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/bare.jpg [blueyonder.co.uk]

      a knife works too. the problem is that you don't have one while at the office, bus-stop or wherever.

      theft prevention and being cheap as fuck to put together are the reasons for these horrible packages though.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Who leaves the house without at least one knife?

        I went to Golden Coral with my family on mothers day and was unable to cut the steak with the butter knife they provide at the table. I wouldn't have been able to find the edible half of that slab of gristle without my razor sharp folding pocket knife.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Why don't you have one at the office or bus-stop?

        I always have my skeletool in my pocket. Pocket knives are cheap and extremely useful tools. I suggest keeping one in your towel.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        I think the "cheap as fuck" bit is probably the most important, since many clamshells still use press-locks instead of hermetic sealing (and press-locks are obviously useless at theft prevention). These things are probably very easy to set up a fully-automated assembly line to put together, whereas cardboard boxes usually require humans to pack products in.

  • by kthreadd (1558445) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:49PM (#40182417)

    For every iPhone sold there is at least one package. Absolutely THEIR fault.

    • by ddd0004 (1984672)

      It can't be Apple's fault. The plastic clamshell is only difficult to open. If Apple designed it is wouldn't be able to be opened by the end-user. Apple would require you to visit a nearby Apple store, pay a service charge and have a "genius" retrieve the contents.

  • by jonnythan (79727) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:51PM (#40182429) Homepage

    The nice thing about clamshell packaging is that it clearly displays the product itself, and usually so you can see most or all the sides of the product. This is in many ways better than a cardboard box with a couple of printed pictures on the outside.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who has pried open a cardboard box in a store to get to the product inside to see what it actually looked like. Clamshell designs largely prevent that.

    The fix is to make them possible to open by hand. Many clamshell packages have a perforated panel on the back you can simply pull open. That's a pretty good design.

    • This is almost exactly what the Wikipedia article linked in TFA said. Just, y'know, FYI.

    • I agree only on your point that the product is almost completely visible. No need to unpack.
      What I do not agree on is the easy to open idea of perforation in the back. That never works.
      Either the perforation is to rigid and wont tear without excessive force, I usually get a scissor to open.

      A well made clam shell packaging can be opened and closed with press locks and a piece of tape.
      If you need to return an item, you can do so in decent shape, if the product came in a completely sealed clam shell (with or w

      • If you need to return an item, you can do so in decent shape, if the product came in a completely sealed clam shell (with or without perforation) and I need to return it, expect it to be returned in a plastic bag as the packaging will never go back to its original shape.

        That's a feature, not a bug. When you get a product in a sealed clamshell in a store you know it wasn't tampered with, and it isn't a return.

    • by smagruder (207953) <stevem@webcommons.biz> on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:10PM (#40182753) Homepage

      On the other hand, they're usually made from a kind of plastic that recyclers don't take. If we have to continue to put up with clamshells, at least they should use a #1-#6 plastic.

    • If all you want to do is display the product, there are better ways, as you point out. For instance, I'm reminded of the packaging used for action figures [amazon.com]. They have a thin cardboard backing with clear plastic adhered to the front, and the plastic had a section where the product could be displayed. It was simple to open by either peeling the plastic away from the cardboard or by tearing through the cardboard. Even as a child, I could do it without the need for any tools or long fingernails.

      Granted, the exam

    • by fermion (181285)
      Which is why it is clear that the writer understands nothing of design. Design is there to solve a set of problems in an elegant manner. Now it is true that a good design will minimize secondary problems, but the reality is that secondary problems are secondary, and cannot overly impact the primary design. For instance, it would be wonderful if a laptop computer had a big keyboard or a big battery, but since the primary function of a laptop is to be small, these factors are significantly sacrificed.

      As

    • The nice thing about clamshell packaging is that it clearly displays the product itself, and usually so you can see most or all the sides of the product.

      Oh, if that would just be so..... Most clear clamshells contain cardboard INSIDE the clamshell that does one hell of a job of obscuring the actual product. This is especially a problem for headsets, where the connections, connectors and various fiddly bits are key indicators of quality.... except that they are hidden behind cardboard props. Makes the entire thing useless for figuring out what is actually inside.

  • by Jeng (926980) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:51PM (#40182437)

    Clamshells have been on their way out for a while now.

    Here is an example of what is replacing it.

    http://www.hpcorporategroup.com/the-benefits-of-natralockr-paperboard-packaging.html [hpcorporategroup.com]

    • by hiryuu (125210) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:11PM (#40182757)

      I've worked with companies that are trying to drive a paper-based alternative to plastic clamshells, and while there's a modicum of market activity there, none of these packagers has yet to see the take-off they'd like. One of the challenges is that a paper-based package is going to require an adhesive system of some sort that provides the package as a ready-to-seal unit into which the widget-maker can drop his widget, without buying a lot of additional materials and equipment (such as adhesive and an application system).

      Want to make a self-sealing cardboard package? You could use a pressure-sensitive adhesive that would stick two flaps of cardboard together when the package is folded shut, but then you've got to have release liner covering the adhesive, or the adhesive film will end up bonded to whatever else it touches and/or pick up dirt and become useless in the shipping and handling portions of its pre-packaging life. (Think of the types of closure you see on a UPS "Red" overnight shipping box or envelope.)

      Another option is using a cohesive-type of product, where both sides are coated with an adhesive that sticks to itself but not to much else. These are great, except the bulk of them are made of natural rubber and have a very limited shelf-life before they "deaden" up and simply won't seal any longer. That makes it a definite possibility that your 10,000 purchased packaging units will really only allow you to use 3,000 of them to package your widgets before the packages stop sealing, within literally a month or two after they were created and sold to you.

      I'm not saying it can't be done - just that I've been watching the attempts to replace clamshells go on for years, and I've had a front-row seat to watch some of the limitations of the potential replacements.

      • by jittles (1613415)
        HTC is starting to use adhesive free boxes that are very cleverly folded by a machine. They even come with a tab that you pull inside the box that allows you to easily break it down without fuss. I am rather a big fan.
      • by DavidTC (10147)

        The real problem with cardboard containers is that you can't stick them in a poorly-seal shipping container from China. They will get damp.

        Seriously, folks, they're selling us hermetically sealed containers. Think about it. Why would they do that? Look at the top of the clamshell...they seal up the fricking hole they punched in it to hang it with!

        They aren't doing that just for fun, they're doing that so they can have it in environments like a dusty road out of the village sweatshop, or in a mildew-filled

    • by Belial6 (794905) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:19PM (#40182853)
      It's being replaced by guys shaking hands in front of giant maps of the world?!?!?!?

      More seriously, while natralock is better, it still sucks.
    • by jimicus (737525) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:27PM (#40182973)

      You'd think they could put up a photograph of their packaging, rather than some cheesy stock "people shaking hands" photo.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      The Natralock opens easily with a pair of household scissors.

      Problem unsolved.

  • by johnb10001 (604626) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:51PM (#40182445)
    when trying to open those packages with scissors, knives, screwdrivers, laser cutters, C4 then finally a nuclear bomb and the package is still not open
  • by dtmos (447842) * on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:58PM (#40182561)

    My nominee would have been the user interface on substantially all computer projectors. At a typical meeting I attend -- the type of group doesn't seem to matter -- the first ten minutes is usually spent trying to figure out how to get the projector to work. "Is it on?" "Is it off?" "Is it plugged in?" "Is it warming up?" "Is it cooling down?" "Is the bulb bad?" "Is the cable bad?" "Is it receiving anything from the laptop?" etc. Not to mention the eleventeen connectors and plenty-two buttons, when all anyone ever uses -- at least in my experience -- is a PC laptop cable and the on/off switch.

    Whether it's a group of administrative assistants, football coaches, electrical technicians, farmers, or Ph.D. computer scientists, it's always the same. My kingdom for a projector that has a nice little LCD that tells me its present state, and what I need to do to either (a) see my presentation, or (b) turn it off, from there.

  • by sribe (304414) on Friday June 01, 2012 @01:58PM (#40182565)

    ...and the little nicks and scrapes people incur as they just try to get their damn lightbulb out.

    Not to mention the estimate 6,000 - 7,000 people a year who get cut badly enough to seek treatment in emergency rooms!

  • I remember a few years back an, only available on TV, ad for a special pair of scissors specifically designed to open these packages and yes it was sold in one of them.
  • It seems a bit unfair to call plastic clamshell packaging the 'worst design ever' just because the collateral damage don't like it very much...

    It can be inexpensively vacuum formed from plastic sheet stock, easily machine cut and sealed, allows items to be presented for display in a retail environment, and makes it harder for the small-but-valuable stuff to wander away. From the perspective of the actual customer(ie. the one who buys clamshell packaging, not you, you peon) it's actually quite a successful design.

    Obviously, it is out of place in mail-order environments, and now that a large amount of merchandise gets moved that way, I assume we'll see dedicated 'warehouse-only' packaging come to the fore; but clamshell has been phenomenally successful on the shop floor.

    In other news, shell-shocked civilians describe high-explosives as 'pretty lame' and 'about the worst ever'...
  • by hiryuu (125210) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:02PM (#40182635)

    Plastic clamshell packaging has always been a nightmare from an end-consumer's perspective, and yes, there's lip-service paid to changing things in the words of major retailers and consumer goods distributors, but it's not likely to change because of "wrap rage." Clamshell packaging is adored by the retail industry for a handful of reasons:

    A.) Product visibility: transparent plastic packaging that hugs the product, displays it prominently, and can showcase it visibly with flashy liners and inserts is just loved by marketing departments. Using corrugated boxes, trays, or cartons just isn't sexy if you're pushing a mostly-commoditized consumer good.

    B.) Tamper evidence and loss prevention: opening boxes is easy. Opening a clamshell is difficult and noticeable, particularly if you're an unscrupulous retail employee trying to get the widget out of the package and into your pockets without the embedded loss-prevention device (RFID, etc.) coming with it.

    C.) Cost of packaging: getting something into paper or corrugated boxes and cartons is a slow and expensive process, in terms of unit throughput, materials, and equipment/process complexity. Mechanical fastening (staples, etc.) is slow, adhesive application systems aren't cheap and aren't much faster, and self-seal packaging comes with a host of other issues that contribute to waste and cost. By comparison, a clamshell packaging process can be quick, with a minimum of material and significantly less scrap.

    Until boxes are cheaper and faster - until the cost per unit in time, money, materials, and processing is lower using paper packaging than clamshells - those nasty, finger-slicing hunks of PVC, PET, and polycarbonate aren't going anywhere.

    • You keep saying stuff like this. It's not going to be well received on this thread. You're just lucky we're on the Internet or we might be tempted to stuff YOU into one of those nifty little shells.

      Just sayin'.

  • But what part of this news makes it nerdy ?? I am little confused.
  • by Bogtha (906264) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:08PM (#40182727)

    Use a can opener.

  • One word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cyberzephyr (705742) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:09PM (#40182737) Journal

    Scissors

  • We've gotten e-mails from customers who've purchased scissors in a clamshell, which would require another pair of scissors to open the package

    I wonder how many people ran into this problem, and went to the store to buy another pair of scissors, only to get home and realize they still have the same problem :P

  • It's called a KNIFE!
  • It was designed by the space devil.

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2002/09/30 [penny-arcade.com]

  • by beegle (9689) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:27PM (#40182971) Homepage

    I'd like to see a law that stipulates that any store that offers products in plastic clamshell packaging MUST be willing to open all of the packages in the checkout line (no "go wait in a separate customer service line after paying") at no extra charge. Those packages would be gone within a year.

    Right now, clamshell packaging is a huge win for the store, but all of the customer frustration is an externality. By forcing the stores to deal with the externality, we align store interests with consumer interests.

  • by asylumx (881307) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:40PM (#40183151)
    These clam-shell packages are useful for brick-and-mortar stores trying to prevent theft, however these same packages offer no benefit for online retailers. I understand that it's difficult for a company to set up different packaging lines based on whether their product is going to an online retailer or a brick-and-mortar retailer, but that's what I'd like to see happen nonetheless.
  • by joeflies (529536) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:53PM (#40183353)
    Ever try to scan to email lately? Try using the touch panel on a multifunction copier? It's an exercise in frustration and aggravation. Even machines that don't have scan set up seem to go happily along pretending to do something and actually doing nothing. It's an area that's ripe for innovation for any company that can investigate how to build a better UI.
  • by rock_climbing_guy (630276) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:06PM (#40183545) Journal
    I have always heard of these packages referred to as "blister-packs"
    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Blister packs are plastic on one side and cardboard or foil on the other, e.g. what batteries or pills tend to come in. They're much easier to open. Clamshells are plastic on both sides, and feed on human suffering. A minor, but important difference.

  • What about lamps? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quirkz (1206400) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:27PM (#40183943) Homepage
    Lamps have infuriating and nonsensical design problems.

    1. The switch is almost always put in the most inaccessible of places: behind the lamp shade where you can't see it, can't peek around the shade if the light is on because it's too bright, can't peek around the shade if the light is off because it's too dark, and if you feel around with your fingers you risk being burned by the bulb. Also, most table lamps are set in a position where you really need a second elbow to be able to reach under, across, and back up to reach the switch. A sensible lamp switch should always be visible.

    2. Inconsistent activation methods: you've got knobs, pull strings, little pins to push, sometimes levers. Your own lamps you get used to often enough, but any new lamp is always a mystery and takes far too much investigation just to figure out how it works. Particularly when the lever is entirely hidden (see #1 above). A sensible switch mechanism should be obvious at a glance.

    3. Poor durability. Despite the fact that every lamp has basically exactly one moving part, that part breaks or jams far too often. I can't tell you how many lamps I've thrown away because the activator either bound up so tightly you can't turn it anymore, or became so loose turning it didn't work the mechanism. A device with a single moving part should have a well-designed part that continues to move appropriately for decades without problem.

    4. Poor usability. The activator device is almost always more complicated or less efficient than it needs to be. So many lamps have knobs that are tiny, thin little sticks, which makes it almost impossible to rotate them. (This is the type that invariably binds up, making the situation worse). You should have nice, big knobs or easy-to-grip dongles on the end to take advantage of applied force and angular rotation - it's much easier to turn a screwdriver than a screw, and easier still to turn a wrench than a screwdriver. Most knobs also only rotate one direction, which means if the knob is positioned on the left side of the lamp for righties or the right side of the lamp for lefties, you either need an awkward reach around or to reposition the lamp to rotate the darn thing - not terrible if you only ever reach in from one position, but difficult if you approach the lamp from different angles (both sides of a desk, say, or if one person in the house is a righty and the other a lefty). The push pins are just as bad: you need your hand on one side of the lamp to turn it on, but your hand has to to to the other side of the lamp to turn it off, and you have to fumble around to figure out which side has the pin sticking out. The beaded draw strings are really lousy about catching and jamming. Compared to another very popular on/off switch -- the common wall-mounted light switch -- all of these are badly inferior. I've never, ever had a light switch fail on me, but lamp switches break all the time. (Even the average power button - press once for on and press again for off - is vastly superior.)

    5. They're unnecessarily loud. Again, compare to a normal wall-mounted light switch which works silently, the average lamp is surprisingly noisy as it clicks or clacks. I've woken up my wife turning off the bedside lamp at night, and there are enough times that my baby -- in another room, behind two closed doors -- wakes up as I turn off the light that I suspect she can hear it. This is *not* an unusually loud lamp; just the normal sudden clacking is enough in a dark and quiet space to startle someone.

    6. Added to the noise is the fact that most lamp shades simply will NOT stay tightened, and also spin and rattle when they inevitably come loose. Being able to change a shade is a valuable option, but I'd say I change one shade a decade. With approximately ten lamps in the house, that means the average lamp shade life span is about a century. Even disregarding that loose math, the default behavior should clearly favor being fixed in place. Much better that it's hard to remove the shade th
  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:40PM (#40184191)

    Clamshell packaging sucks from the consumer perspective because most of it isn't designed with consumers in mind. It's designed with retailers in mind. Retailers don't care if you cut yourself opening the package, but they are highly paranoid about the possibility of shoplifting (even though a majority of retail theft is internal).

    What surprises me is that there haven't been any large-scale lawsuits over this junk. Fully-sealed clamshell packages deliberately put the end user at a greater risk of cuts (since you need a sharp instrument to open them) without providing any offsetting benefits to the end user. People have gotten themselves on the wrong end of multi-million dollar punitive judgments for much less. A good trial lawyer should have little trouble convincing a jury that a company which deliberately traded off product safety for less shoplifting should be responsible for the human costs of that decision. Especially when everyone on the jury remembers struggling with the damn things themselves.

    Alternatively, the CPSC should mandate that clamshell packages must be able to be opened without the use of a sharp implement.

"It's curtains for you, Mighty Mouse! This gun is so futuristic that even *I* don't know how it works!" -- from Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse

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