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Clamshells not welcome at Feast of Seven Fishes

Consumer Reports News: December 21, 2009 04:01 PM

Picture this idyllic scene. It's Christmas morning and the children are gathered around the tree opening their gifts. The wrapping paper and ribbon come off easily. Then comes the joyful task of liberating the toy from the plastic that encases it. As your child's impatience and your frustration grow, you may be tempted to stab the package with a sharp object. Don't do it!

Each year 6,000 people end up in the emergency room with packaging-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Many more suffer less serious wounds, often from using sharp tools such as knives, ice picks or box cutters to free products from the hard plastic bubbles called “clamshells.”

A recently-released survey  conducted by the Institute for Good Medicine at the Pennsylvania Medical Society asked adults from that state if they had been injured while opening a package or knew someone who had. More than 6 percent said they knew of at least one such incident, and 11 percent said they knew of more than one.
A few years ago Consumer Reports awarded the “ Oyster Awards” to packaging found to be especially vexing. Although some of the "winners" have changed their packaging, the findings are still apropos—as this description of one of  the tests shows:

“A tight fit between the plastic skin and cardboard thwarted scissors. Our tester grabbed a box cutter but hacked up the box as an unavoidable result. After removing the clamshell and opening the box, she had to dislodge parts from a foam case, yank off one plastic bag covering the power cord and another protecting additional components, then pop perforations on smaller clamshells. ... Her work table was littered with sharp plastic shards.”
Tools for opening resistant packages are now on the market and some retailers, like Amazon, are promoting "frustration-free" packaging. But until that movement catches on, here are some tips for keeping Christmas an injury-free holiday.
  • If you must use a knife or another type of sharp object, cut away from your body.
  • If you must use scissors, use ones with blunt tips.
  • Wear protective gloves.
  • Avoid opening tough-to-open packages in a crowded area.
  • Don’t hold the product between your legs to keep it stable.

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