How-To Geek

Plastic Clamshell Packaging Voted Worse Design Ever

We’ve all been there: frustrated and trying free a new purchase from it’s plastic clamshell jail. You’re not alone, the packaging design has been voted the worst in history.

In a poll at Quora, users voted on the absolute worst piece of design work they’d encountered. Overwhelmingly, they voted the annoying-to-open clamshell design to the top. The author of the top comment/entry, Anita Shillhorn writes:

“Design should help solve problems” — clamshells are supposed to make it harder to steal small products and easier for employees to arrange on display — but this packaging, she says, makes new ones, such as time wasted, frustration, and the little nicks and scrapes people incur as they just try to get their damn lightbulb out. This is a product designed for the manufacturers and the retailers, not the end users. There is even a Wikipedia page devoted to “wrap rage,” “the common name for heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open hard-to-remove packaging.”

Hit up the link below for more entries in their worst-design poll. Before you go, if you’ve got a great tip for getting goods out of the plastic shell they ship in, make sure to share it in the comments.

What Is The Worst Piece of Design Ever Done? [via The Atlantic]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/8/12

Comments (30)

  1. jcard21

    Yes, it is a very bad design, but it is not frustrating as described.

    Everyone I know carries a sharp pocket knife. I just slice a slit about two-thirds around the “hump”, and the clamshell will open like a book!

  2. Anonymous

    Let’s look at the bigger picture!

    You get what you deserve when you buy those Chinese products – or any terribly packaged product.

    As consumers, we Americans don’t seem to have any loyalty when there’s a cheaper product. Even if it were made in Nazi Germany we seem all too willing to put up with horrible packaging and even substandard designs just to save a few pennies. Never mind the ruined environment with wasteful plastic packaging of any kind. And never mind what foreign purchases like that do to the American economy either. Not one of us is really responsible for bad things like that. Right? (Think again if you said yes.)

    So again, I say we deserve what we get. Just be thankful that a torn cuticle or few mild skin cuts are all you have to endure when opening terrible packages like that.

  3. bobro

    big knife… dont go at the packaging from the side but instead cut the inside of the inner part (or just where it is soft) doesnt matter if you cut packaging just avoid the product, if you need to take it back for what ever reason they cant complain if the item is not packaged correctly by law!

    agreed this is the worst designed thing in the world

  4. bobro


    i dont know what its like in America but here in UK we dont really have a choice, there is nothing being made in UK worth buying, and if there is the quality would probably be on par or worse than the chinese and still cost more.

    yeay UK is crap!!! (dont worry this doesnt offend anyone, us british love people failing and more so if its ourselves)

  5. Don

    The packaging came about not as a cost cutting measure but to help prevent/thwart theft. If the product is easy to liberate from its package, it can be hidden more easily on a thief’s person and the package remains behind therefore it takes much longer to detect the theft. Additionally it becomes a problem when inevitably a customer buys an empty package because the product has already been removed by a theif.

    I’m not saying its the right solution to this problem but that’s why we have what we have.

  6. sevvie7

    It’s all good…only a matter of time before someone severs their arm and sues for millions…then companies will reconsider packaging choices. Whatever happened to a cardboard box and tamperproof tape? Gawd, I’ve seen $2.99 headphones and $5 flash drives come in these kinds of packages.

  7. Joe

    Were people really stealing light bulbs in cardboard boxes? It seems as though they would stack easier/better than the odd shaped clamshell? I can see using them for some items, but it has gotten ridiculous. The worst is when you buy a pair of scissors or knife in the packaging. You need a sharp object just to open your sharp object!

    The reason they are so popular over cardboard boxes is because you can easily see exactly what you are buying. The product gets shown off more than if you had to look through a small clear window like you used to have to.

  8. keltari

    I never understood why people had a problem with this packaging. Just cut the sealed edges off with scissors and its open. The clear plastic packaging is good, since you can see the product inside. I have bought many “boxed” items and opened them up to find the product is different than what is pictured on the box. Not to mention boxed items contain so much waste, i.e. cardboard, plastic, packing materials, etc.

  9. UltimatePSV

    I use one of those retractable utility knives to cut in the corner between the seal and the flat part so it just opens perfectly.

  10. Matt

    Carry a knife. Slice the sucker open. Avoid the product.

    I still hate the design, though.

  11. Superevil

    FYI: You can use one of the turn style can openers to open a clamshell package

  12. KB Prez

    I use heavy scissors, but it’s still a nightmare trying to open these pkgs. Don’t understand why anyone ever thought this was a good idea!!!!!

  13. LadyFitzgerald

    There is a reason this kind of packaging is called rage wrap. A good pair of scissors (sheet metal shears are even better) will get into them easily enough but it’s still a royal pain.

  14. r

    Nothing wrong with the packaging. It was never meant to be customer friendly for easy access to the product in the first place. The design successfully solves many problems of retail security, store display & clear product visibility to potential customers.
    The fact that customers repeatedly hurt themselves while trying to open this type of packaging only points to the fact that people need to educate themselves a little on how to safely & do things correctly. One way would be to just look carefully & use some common sense when cutting around the seam of the packaging in order to free the product. If not, then check the internet. there must be endless info on this stuff.

  15. fred

    I have simply stopped buying anything that comes in those crapages.

  16. Rick

    bobro, you are a funny guy… I like your honesty

  17. 5Strings

    I’m with UltimatePSV…I use a razor utility knife and cut around the end where it’s not too visible. Why? BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE STUPID THING BACK WHEN IT DON”T WORK!

  18. John753c

    I use a can opener. I got that tip in a forwarded email. Works fine.

  19. Lynda

    Its a major problem for older folks. Some simply do not have
    the strength of cut through the packaging with a scissors or
    knife. My neighbor cut herself trying to open one, she is on
    blood thinners and had to finally be taken to the hospital.
    I told her to call me next time. Why not a pull open tab
    so it would be easier to grasp with a needle nose pliers. Or
    have the stores give the customer the option to have the store
    open it after it is paid for.
    These packages are also dangerous for children who want their
    toy out.

  20. zurb

    I like how the girl is the picture looks so frustratingly confused about all this.
    It’s like she doesn’t seem to understand why plastic just doesn’t tear like cardboard.

  21. MoMo

    I’ve worked in retail, and believe me it doesn’t stop the thieves. They just carry pocket knives or small scissors. I’ve even found bloodied packages thrown in behind other items on the shelves. A new design is necessary to prevent thefts but to also make it easier on the customers! Anyone out there willing to take up the challenge?

  22. Bill M.

    I like the idea of the pull-tab!
    We now have a designer for new packaging!
    You are hired Lynda

  23. Ashiq

    I have never had any problem with opening a clamshell package. One thing i always follow is never use brute force, examine the package first and then open. This would take much less time than having a battle with the package. Most of the people in India will have a big fight with the package but all Indians are really very good at not damaging the product inside the package.

  24. Bill

    Once again, honest users are punished for the actions of a few. This craptastic packaging is the cousin of DRM, no?

  25. Anon

    Girl in pic has beautiful skin.

    Doesn’t look like she is trying to open a package either, well, maybe opening something but not a package.

    She’s fine.

    Should have used some fat dood to keep the view on the article. What’s the article about again? I’m just starring at her face.

  26. spike

    Partly, they are packaged this way because it’s the cheapest way to do it on an assembly line, when producing mass quantities of anything.

  27. woh!!


    Dude, what’s with the retarded punctuation & sentence structure?

  28. Willie

    Do I hate the design, yes. But really all it takes is a pair of scissors and cut the top edge off and you should be able to reach you hand in and get at it. After working in retail for 4 years during college, trust me theives will still anything. Even if it seems like it has no value.

  29. spike

    @woh!!: Have you ever been in a hurry?? Too bad if you can’t decipher it. What’s with the use of “Dude”?
    If you have ever been involved in managing the finances of a production facility, you would know why this kind of packaging is popular. A combination of cost and the needs of marketing.

  30. BobJ

    WHOA! Not ALL packaging is difficult to open! I have just designed(and registered in 41 countries) a compostable,easy to open,re-usable(if u want) recyclable(you can make a new one from the old one after the shelf life of the old one is gone) Hope there isn’t too many folks with a general biased view on blister packs when I manage to get this on the market.

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