I have several large and glorious ideas for future column topics. And one idea that's small and exasperating. I intend to start there. I will try to relate this without bias — but you will sense my frustration immediately, I suspect.
Like many of you, I buy packaged items. I'm not thinking about food items, I'm thinking about other basic stuff we need to live our lives. Last week, I bought a much-needed kitchen scissors encased in hard plastic and heavy-duty cardboard. Today I bought batteries. There it was again — that sharp plastic and tougher-than-nails cardboard packaging that was nearly impossible to open.
I'm not inclined to use profanity, but I may have used some with the scissors. That would be after I poked myself — not with the scissors, but with the hard-edged plastic on the package. It's a good thing I finally got those scissors out of the package, because I needed to slit open a hard-to-tear Band-Aid to put on my injured finger. And so it goes.
A 2011 New York Times article argued that one person "needed the Jaws of Life to open packaged electronic items," and a grandmother indicated she had an anxiety attack "after trying to unwrap a Barbie doll that was in a plastic shell with wire twist ties pining down her neck and ankles."
I don't like the vision of my old friend Barbie in that circumstance, let alone understand the reason for "child-proof packaging" on a Barbie.
I think industry should be paying more attention to this issue. Have they not heard about the exploding demographic of older adults with arthritic thumbs and lessening upper-body strength? Do they not know that these people have substantial disposable income and are active consumers?
These frustrated elders could rise up in "wrap rage," as it's referred to in Britain. If aging adults start to get collectively exasperated — watch out. I'm right behind you.
Defenders of these packaging tactics will argue that "blister packs" have been around for decades, and if you know how to slide them open at the end and flip up the corner, they will release easily.
Pshaw. I want those people to come to my house next time I have a package to open.
Consumer Reports publishes an annual "worst of the worst" award given to particularly hard-to-open packaging. Items in hard-plastic clamshells often rank right at the top. The criteria include: "Is your package so difficult to open that expletives are uttered in the process?" "Can the customer get cut by the packaging material while opening it?" "Will customers hate you after the package is open?" Bingo.
I like to be the purveyor of solutions to problems, but this issue has me stymied. That said, I now have a large supply of easy-access Band-Aids — if you should need one.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com.