The never-ending war against easy-open packaging

Robert Rufa

The other day I was again confronted by my old nemesis, the easy-open package. It was either a bag of frozen salad shrimp or frozen whole strawberries, I forget which.

Robert Rufa

The bag featured a notch on either side at the top above a Ziploc-type thingie that is supposedly intended to make clothes pins obsolete. The words “Reclosable Bag” will confirm anyone’s suspicions. The notches were accompanied by instructions.

Except the best laid plans, etc. Even though the words “Tear Notch” were printed on only one side of the bag, I correctly assumed (I think) that I could tear from either side. However, I incorrectly assumed that I would tear the top straight across and the bag would be open. What actually happened was, I tore about a third of the top off. That explains the notch on the other side. So I tore from there and tore off another third. That left — you guessed it — a third in the middle still untorn.

Enter the scissors, which are always nearby when I am opening an easy-open package. I learned my lesson about that years ago when my toast went cold as I struggled to open an easy-open package of cheese. Have scissors handy.

So with scissors the easy-open package was finally opened, and after some of the contents were removed I reclosed the bag with the Ziploc-type thingie — which, I discovered next time I removed the bag from the freezer and went to open it, hadn’t actually reclosed it. This, it turns out, isn’t a foolproof clothespin-saving feature.

Something else I discovered about the Ziploc-type thingie: they’re not all the same. On the aforementioned bag of either shrimp or strawberries (I forget which), the thingie was unzipped when I cut the top. Not so with the bag of strawberries or shrimp (I forget which) I opened the next day. I found that bag’s thingie zipped closed after cutting away the top — and I couldn’t get it open because I couldn’t find enough bag to grip.

I sympathize with product packaging engineers, who are under constant pressure to make life easy for those of us who eat. I know, for example, that the task of designing tamper-proof packaging that’s easy to open must be daunting — a shrink-wrapped plastic rim around a jar lid that can be removed without a razor blade, an inner safety seal that can be peeled off in one piece. They don’t mean to drive us crazy. Well, I don’t think they do.

Before I close, let me assure you that I really know the difference between strawberries and shrimp. I was just joshin’ — after all, joshin’ is part of my job description. Ripe strawberries are red, and ripe shrimp are pink. Plus strawberries with cocktail sauce is not a very appetizing appetizer, and no one I know likes shrimp shortcake. Eww.

Contact Robert Rufa at rrufa59@hotmail.com