What are the Benefits – and Drawbacks – of Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging?

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by Nindo Mom on December 18, 2010

If you buy items from Amazon.com–which I do all the time–you may have noticed that some items are marked “frustration-free packaging” in Amazon’s listing.

Here is what Amazon says about their frustration-free packaging on their website:

Frustration-Free Certified Packages are easy-to-open and come without hard plastic “clamshell” casings, plastic bindings, and wire ties. Frustration-Free Packaging will protect your product just as well as traditional packaging, and what’s inside is exactly the same. Products with Frustration-Free Packaging can frequently be shipped in their own boxes, without the need for an additional shipping box.

Here’s my Nindo-take on it:

Retail packaging can certainly be a pain, at times–I can’t deny it–and some packaging is definitely worse than others. The worst kind of packaging is the kind that must be virtually destroyed to get it open. And heaven help you if the item needs to be returned after what you’ve done to the packaging.

Another terrible aspect to some retail packaging is that you can actually HURT YOURSELF trying to get it opened. We’re talking about BLOOD, here! This can be especially scary with some of the packaging for action figures I’ve seen–you know, the kind where you have to take a pair of sharp scissors and cut all around the entire outside edge of a thick, sealed plastic “bubble” to get the darn figure out? And if you’re not careful, it’ll give you a NASTY gash.

If you feel the way I do about some retail packaging, you may LOVE Amazon’s new frustration-free packaging. It’s certainly a lot easier to get the product out, and it’s more environmentally friendly because it uses significantly less plastic in favor of more recyclable materials. However,  so-called frustration-free packaging definitely has it’s down-sides.

Drawbacks of Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging

  1. The name of the product, or at least the brand of the product, are frequently printed on the outside of the packaging. So anyone walking down the street or sidewalk in front of your house will know exactly what’s in that little package sitting on your porch. This may be asking for trouble, depending on the people who might be walking down the street in your neighborhood. Another problem with printing on the outside of the packaging arises if the item is a gift for someone living in your household–because they will know what’s in the box if they see the delivery before you do.
  2. The packing slip is fastened to the exterior of the box, where anyone can access it, causing similar problems to #1 above.
  3. No exterior box is used, so the product box can be pretty messed up by the time it reaches you, due to rough handling or dirty conditions during transit.
  4. Because your product is not sealed in the “plastic bubble” frequently employed by retail packaging, your item will be more susceptible to moisture–especially from rain or snow as it’s sitting on your front porch.
  5. Frustration-free packaging doesn’t give the receiver absolute confidence that the product is brand new–honestly, it looks like the kind of packaging a refurbished product might have. This is especially going to be a problem if you’re giving the item as a gift. (From what I’ve seen so far, Amazon either offers items WITH frustration-free packaging, or without–you can’t take your pick.) Who wants to give a gift that looks like it might be used or refurbished, when it’s not?
  6. If you end up not using the item and decide to resell it on Amazon or Ebay, it’s going to be a tough sell convincing buyers that the item is new, due to the oddness of the packaging. This will almost definitely lower the amount for which you’ll be able to re-sell the item.

Considering the benefits and drawbacks of this new packaging of Amazon’s, I think I’d rather have the standard retail packaging.  I’ve already run into the gift-giving problem. Compared to the many substantive drawbacks, I would much prefer the “inconvenience” of opening the traditional retail packaging.

What is Amazon’s motivation for using frustration-free packaging?

I’m hypothesizing about this, based on what I know of business.

First: Amazon is probably able to get better pricing from the manufacturers of products for which they provide packaging. It makes sense the the manufacturers would give them a better price, because the manufacturers won’t have to go through the time or expense of packaging up their own products–they just produce them in mass batches, and send them off to Amazon to worry about the rest.

Second: Amazon may be attempting to reduce the incidence of businesses (or individuals) purchasing products off their website, then reselling them for profit. Amazon would most likely prefer to be the source buyers come to, in the first place, avoiding any unnecessary middle-men. With Amazon providing packaging that looks unlike standard retail packaging, items packed in this way will likely be much harder for middle-man vendors to resell. If a vendor IS able to resell the product (on a venue such as Ebay, for example), the product packaging will have stickers identifying itself to buyers on the outside of the packaging–so free advertising for Amazon, unless the middle-man vendor can manage to remove the stickers.

Third: Amazon may be genuinely be trying to improve customers experience.

I suspect that Amazon’s motivations are a combination of these reasons. Ultimately, even providing great customer service is, for many businesses, a big part of the equation of increasing profit. That’s not to say it’s a negative. Amazon is a business–and as such, it exists to make money. Fortunately, they also provide things to customers that customers want–which is why they keep coming back.

How can you provide Amazon with feedback on your order packaging?

If you’ve already received an item from Amazon that’s making use of this new packaging, you can go to Amazon’s website and rate the packaging
of any items you’ve bought.

If you haven’t purchased an item with frustration-free packaging yet, you might be able to send Amazon a general email about it–but I wouldn’t think they’d take it as seriously. There are benefits and drawbacks to the frustration-free packaging–and depending on your priorities and situation, you may prefer one method of packaging over another.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Georgea_9 November 10, 2012 at 11:49 PM

I recently received a used item from Amazon when I selected frustration-free packaging. Going forward, I will only use retail package option.

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