Bits ‘n Bites: Package this!

At my last visit to the dentist the hygienist suggested I consider buying an electric toothbrush. “The rotary motion gets your teeth a lot cleaner,” she said. “You can see quite a few different ones at any drugstore.” Indeed, my neighbourhood drugstore aisle was awash with them. I picked one: The Super Stylistic Rotating Oral Fusion Flushing Sonic Electric Toothbrush. Wow! I thought, can probably get away with brushing once a week with this dude.

The next morning, I was eagerly looking forward to my first brushing—until I tried getting the toothbrush out of its package. I flipped it over several times looking for a tab that might lift or a door that would open—nothing. Now, it makes perfect sense that drug companies don’t want people leaving their fingerprints all over unprotected toothbrushes on drugstore shelves. But after trying to get into my toothbrush’s half-inch thick blister pack resulted in a visit to the emergency ward with a cut finger, a sprained wrist, bruises, and a twisted shoulder muscle, I was in full wrap rage. And I’m not alone. A recent medical statistic estimates that there have been no less than 6,000 visits to emergency wards due to attempted package-opening accidents. I began to wonder if package designers stayed up at night thinking of ways to design packages no one can open.

Back home my toothbrush remained snugly wrapped in its concrete blanket. I began to consider options: how about my old hand-held hedge clippers? Or a carpet knife? Failing those, I know my neighbour has a chain saw and a blow torch. Probably too aggressive—might result in a full-fledged hospital stay. After further consideration, I finally settled on a pair of tin snips. I clamped the package securely into my workbench vice, donned a pair of puncture-resistant leather gloves, and started cutting. Several minutes later, success! Out came my new super rotating electric toothbrush. Unfortunately, my tin snips had also made short work of the enclosed instruction card.

My experience with the toothbrush blister pack brought to mind other packaging adventures I’ve encountered: a jar of olives with a lid twisted on by The Hulk; A block of cheese with shrink wrapping imbedded into its great taste; a tin of tuna with a pull tab that created a lid sharp enough for surgery; and an entire evening trying to undo the several dozen 10-gauge wire twist ties used to secure my grandson’s train set to its backboard. Oh! My aching arthritic fingers!

The good news is that a number of companies are now designing alternate packaging strategies. Not only are products easier to open, they are environmentally friendly, two advances that consumers, particularly we seniors, are eagerly embracing. As far as the products that still remain in unyielding clam shells and blister packs, there’s a new tool designed to open them. I ordered one and, you guessed it, it came in a blister pack.