As the hours count down to election day, who wouldn't wish for four years of intact fingers, healthy teeth, and maybe even emptier landfills? A new "frustration-free packaging" initiative from web retailer Amazon.com could help produce just that.
On Monday the Seattle-based company announced a multi-year program that aims to eliminate some of the unnecessary and sometimes pain-inducing packaging that consumers of electronics, toys, and other tempting merchandise have grown to loathe.
"Blister packs" and "clamshells" may not sound like anything you'd want to use if you were trying to sell a product, but these packaging methods make it possible for brick and mortar retailers to display expensive products on store shelves with a reduced risk of theft or tampering. But anyone who's ever brought a product packed in one of these knows just how difficult getting it out can be. Consumer Reports even compiles the "Oyster Awards" for products they find the most difficult to open.
Web shopping replaces store shelves with digital photos of products, but until now the packaging has remained the same. Amazon's effort encourages companies to offer products for sale through their online store in packaging that does away with blister packs, plastic-wrapped wires, and other security features.
A side-by-side video comparison showed a 10-minute difference in unwrapping time for a toy packed in traditional versus "frustration-free" packaging.
Amazon's list of products available with the new leaner packaging stood at just 19 at this writing, but CEO Jeff Bezos was hopeful that other companies and products would join the program. "It will take many years, but our vision is to offer our entire catalog of products in Frustration-Free Packaging," he said.
But the manufacturer's packaging isn't the only wasteful part of some Amazon orders. Web posts occasionally call out the company for shipping small items in large boxes, or delivering multiple items from one order in individual boxes. Another common complaint – even with items purchased through "Amazon Green," the company's environmentally responsible storefront, is inefficient shipping. Perhaps the next step is to partner with green shipping companies.