Ten Thousand Fingers: Little Things Count
December 6, 2006
When we were unpacking the delightful Nintendo Wii a few weeks ago, I was marvelling at how well-thought-out the process was. Beautiful, pleasant, and of course full of anticipation at the great machine we were about to be enjoying.
But the we had to open our extra controllers. They were entombed in those awful plastic clamshells, and I had to go find a utility knife, knowing there was roughly a fifty-fifty chance I was going to lose some blood in the process. If it's not the knife itself, it's the sharp plastic edges that are left.
But it's not just a matter of customer frustration. These packages pose real danger. Data on the topic is irregularly collected and vague; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's most recent accounting, in 2001, listed "unintentional cut/pierce" as the fifth most common cause of nonfatal unintentional injury, but that also includes the much more common assortments of knife accidents owing to normal kitchen work.
Anecdotally, though, emergency room doctors say they're slammed the week after Christmas with such injuries and see them regularly all year. Dr. Christian Arbelaez, a Boston-area ER physician, sees about a case a week, some as serious as tendon and nerve damage that require orthopedic surgeons to repair.
There aren't yet detailed statistics on wrap rage; The closest thing to research on the topic is Consumer Reports' Oyster Awards, where they give out awards to the packages that are most difficult to open.
And this got me thinking about the much-praised packaging for the Apple iPod. There's no shortage of (deserved) raves for the box that the iPod comes in, even though more recent ones have been less lavishly packaged as Apple tries to save money and lessen the environmental impact of their product.
The mere lack of a clamshell package for the iPod, though, probably has a measurable impact. Having sold tens of millions of the devices, its likely that just using the annoying packaging didn't just make people like the Wii and the iPod better. I'm guessing that not requiring people to struggle with a knife on Christmas morning the past few years has probably saved ten thousand fingers. Pretty freaking cool.