Retailers Cutting Out Hard-to-Open Packaging

6,000 people a year injured by hard plastic packaging

By Scott Gordon
|  Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009  |  Updated 1:01 PM CDT
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The Ouch in Clamshell Packaging

NBCDFW.com

About 6,000 people are injured every year trying to open the packages, according to government researchers.

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The Ouch in Clamshell Packaging

The plastic packaging that encases many electronics is more dangerous than you may think.
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Consumers have long complained about "oyster" or "clamshell" packaging -- the heavy plastic encasing many electronic items that is impossible to open easily.

Now more retailers are moving away from the rigid packages as word spreads they're not only frustrating, but dangerous.

About 6,000 people are injured every year trying to open the packages, according to government researchers.

Andrew Tyner, a computer technician at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, recently hurt his hand while trying to get out a flash drive wrapped in the hard plastic.

"When I tried to open the package, the scissors weren't strong enough to cut through it," he said. "So I looked around, and the closest thing I found was a carpenter's knife."

He used the knife, but ended up cutting more than just the package.

"And then all of the sudden, it slid right on through, came through and slashed my hand," he said.

"You can still see a little bit of the scar there," he added, pointing to his palm.

Doctors across the country say they often see similar injuries from people trying to open the packages.

"They can be dangerous," said Dr. James d'Etienne, an emergency room physician at Baylor. "When you open them up, you've got to be careful."

Many of the injuries are from scissors or knives that slip and hit people's hands, he said. Other people are injured by the sharp edges of the plastic itself.

"If you notice, it is very sharp," d'Etienne said. "So you can easily puncture yourself or have a small cut, a laceration. And it gets worse if you get frustrated. If you get really mad at the package and you start ripping at it, you're more likely to hurt yourself."

Some leading retailers, including Best Buy, say they are phasing out clamshell packages in favor of easier, friendlier ones.

Amazon.com is promoting "frustration-free" packaging and is shipping more items in cardboard.

Tyner, for one, said he now buys products in easier-to-open packages -- even if they cost a little more.

"I was thinking it wasn't worth the price I paid," he said.

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