Betty and Sue got me thinking.
They’re two loyal readers of this column who live in snowy central New York, and every once in a while they drop a line for me. Recently they sent an email suggesting that I look into the topic of things not being easy to open anymore. I was unsure at first, thinking maybe this could come across as another rant associated with aging, arthritis in the hands and/or fingers, etc. But then I checked a bit. I spoke to friends of all ages and backgrounds and found that Betty and Sue were indeed onto something. Manufacturers and packaging no longer make it easy to open things up for any user of any demographic.
My friend, Ken, and I volunteered for many years to park cars for the Wickford Art Festival in North Kingstown. We didn’t get into the cars, but we commandeered the Wilson Park parking lots. When people arrived by car, we collected their “requested contribution” for the benefit of North Kingstown Rotary, then advised them where they could park, when the shuttle could arrive to take them to the show if they did not wish walk, where the toilets were, etc. We were always provided with a tent where we could hang out when the sun was beating down (and it was still hotter than hell this weekend!) or when business was down. The only problem was that the powers that be delivered the tent dismantled early in the morning and dropped it unceremoniously on the ground for us. Now, you might have seen this adorable contraption before. I see them all over town, in Wilcox Park for events and at various outdoor bazaars and fairs. The brand name is EASY UP, which is one of the biggest lies in life. Getting this thing is the hardest thing to do. Three URI basketball players “might” be able to handle it if they send in a center and two guards. But Ken is much taller than me, so our abilities and weight aren’t balanced. It’s supposed to be “the instant shade” according to the ad, but you know how it rolls. It’s an instant “angina pectoris”. I tried to hold down one of the legs while Ken tried to push on the wires that would lift and open the canopy. It never took long before my feet hit the ground and I was in the air. We also tried it with me standing in the middle pushing against the canopy with my head, but it just hurt. We always had to wait for a third fat person to pass and enlist them to help us. Ken and I still laugh every time we see a group of grown men struggling with an Easy Up at an event somewhere.
But Betty and Sue are right. Many products are now equipped with tabs for “easy opening”. The problem with many of them is that they are ridiculously hard to pull, or when you do manage to pull it, you just have to hold the tab in your fingers and the box or bag is still tightly closed. They have now started putting these little tabs on bottles of Prosecco. I pull the end, it comes out right away, yet the wine is still well wedged in aluminum foil!
Consumer Reports even did an entire article on packaging issues titled “How do you open that thing?” They call many forms of difficult packaging “oysters” for those that are so difficult to open that consumers have had to resort to box cutters, razor blades and scissors just to retrieve what they bought.
Amazon touts “frustration-free packaging” that comes without hard clamshell cases, plastic bindings and metal clips, but consumers have reported that frustration-free packaging doesn’t protect well enough and often arrives damaged. And… here’s the obvious: Frustration-free packaging costs more! What a surprise.
I guess Betty and Sue and the rest of us are therefore relegated to chopping, chopping, drilling and swearing as we open our packages without frustration so if you go to the Wickford Art Show next July and drive by Wilson Park and see a pair of lean long legs dangling under the awning of an Easy Up tent, just roll down your window and shout, “Hi, Rona!” Hi Ken!”
Or maybe you could just come and help us out. It won’t take long. After all, it’s called Easy Up.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” articles. She can be reached at [email protected] or 401-539-7762.