Does Amazon.com's "Frustration-Free Packaging" live up to its name?

by Torley Wong on 31 January 2009 9 comments

In early November, Internet ultrastore Amazon.com announced their "Frustration-Free Packaging" initiative, aimed squarely at reducing the jagged tears and nasty lacerations that are an unfortunate occurrence of wrestling with clamshell and other hard-to-open packaging. One of the key points is: you've already bought an item and it's been shipped in a box, so enforcing plastic armor as an anti-theft deterrent is absolutely stupid.

I'm sad to announce that as of this writing, only 19 products are certified "frustration-free". Granted, Amazon has declared FFP to be a multi-year project, but the current list basically boils down to 8 kinds of toys, 7 of the same Microsoft mouse in different colors, and 3 SDHC memory cards. I love keeping you apprised of continuity, so you may remember that in "How to find the sweet spot when buying electronics", I cited the 16GB SDHC from Transcend as a sweet spot. Shortly after writing the article, I purchased 2 of them, and thanks to Amazon Prime, they arrived a couple days later.

Both cards came in a bigger cardboard box, not much deeper than the plastic cases needed to hold the cards. Inside were two smaller flatpacks, each containing a card and labeled as you see:

There was a tear strip that didn't even need scissors.

Seconds later, I had opened the contents.

Also good for the environment: "Contains 30% recycled fiber".

 

So does Amazon.com's "Frustration-Free Packaging" live up to its name? Simply put: while I haven't tried the other products offered under this option, in this case and without a doubt, yes.

If I had a suggestion for improvement, it'd be that the overall packaging for these tiny cards was still too big.

With an increasing amount of business done online, and quite some time before consumer 3D printers to manufacture our own goods are commonplace, FFP is one of the stepping stones in the bridge of progress. While nascent, it makes sense that when things still need to be shipped as opposed to downloaded (like movies & music), that we'll see this trend continue to rise — and accelerate, especially if more consumers are vocal about their displeasure with clamshell hell.

As with a number of other non-legally-protected advances, more e-merchants should take a page from Amazon's book and provide better packaging which is environmentally-friendly and a joy to unwrap.

Have you experienced Frustration-Free Packaging?

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Guest's picture
Dan

I may be wrong, but the packaging looks like a standard CD mailer. Amazon may have chosen that envelope due to advantages in shipping costs or because of preexisting handling procedures at the post office.

Guest's picture
Dwight

I wish they would quit using bubble wrap. If you happen to live at a high altitude, the air in the bubble wrap expands and makes the box break open before it gets to you.

Guest's picture

I have ordered a few items from amazon and anything that is a book comes in this casing. Its great but for some reason or another they like to shrink wrap their packages for international orders. The plastic is also quite thick which makes opening the packages still rather hard.

Guest's picture
Michelle

Maybe we could get them to switch to Geami paper (www.geami.com), and then there'd be less plastic to deal with, too!

Torley Wong's picture

@Dan: It was larger than previous CD mailers I've received before. It's (1) been a long time since I download my music (incl. through Amazon) now, and (2) I wasn't aware there was a "standard", too.

@Dwight: Wasn't any bubble wrap in this package.

@Michelle: New name to me! *checks it out*

Guest's picture
Spaced Out Looney

I got myself a little 2 inch diameter mortar and pestle from Amazon for Christmas and was curious as to whether it would arrive in "frustration free packaging." It came in a cubic foot box, filled with bubble wrap and inside that was a slightly smaller box also filled with bubble wrap. Inside that was the teeny tiny mortar and pestle. It didn't give me wrap rage, but it was still far more packaging than needed.

Guest's picture
Rene

Christmas morning with 6 kids and a chorus of 'Can you help me open this" is agony! Wire ties, screws, plastic -horrible! And all the packaging goes into the trash.

One toy this year, a Polly Pocket playset, arrived packaged in a thin cardboard box. It was not a attractive, but it was out of the box and being enjoyed in about two seconds. The box went into the woodstove.

We'd love to see much more of that next year.

Michelle= that Geami paper is beautiful stuff! As a collage artist I'll now be on the lookout for it. Great texture!

Guest's picture
Courtney

I ordered a video game and it came in an easy-to-open package, but the cardboard carried had a window gap on it about 1 inch by 3 inches. Everyone could see what was inside and this definitely would make stealing my $50 video game much more tempting.

Guest's picture
Marc

If Amazon is changing their packaging, it's not to help the consumer, it's because it's cheaper to ship that way. There was a time when every book order from Amazon came in a box.

I ordered three books in the last few weeks. The first was a paperback that is the size of a magazine, only thicker. It was shipped in padded bag, without any kind of cardboard. It arrived destroyed.

Next, they sent me a paperback book in a sort of light cardboard wrapper with rubber cement inside. It arrived destroyed.

Today, they shipped me a heavy hardcover book in a padded envelope. It made it here in one piece, but as an Amazon seller myself, I would never even consider sending a big heavy hardcover book in a padded envelope.

They're obviously trying to save money on shipping, but if enough people start to receive damaged merchandise, they are going to have to rethink what they are doing.