Friday, April 18, 2008

Heavy Bondage on Aisle 3

Remember getting toys as a kid? Well, a kid in the 70s and early 80s? (you young whippersnappers who make me feel like a relic can read this as a history lesson of sorts)
If it came in a box, it was usually a cardboard box with snazzy rendering of the contents outside. If you could see the contents at all, it was usually through a smallish window in the box, and the poor plastic girl or horse or whatever was in some state of light bondage, tied to a piece of cardboard inside the box, held firmly, yet not permanently in place by some kind of extra long twist tie (the packaging equivalent of silk scarves). When it came time to take the toy out, open the box, untwist the tie and the new object was free. Granted, it was probably slathered in lead based paint, or filled with small parts that could pop free and choke you, or made from some kind of material that could shatter and put your eye out, but hell, you could get right to the death and destruction instead of nearly severing your finger on the heat sealed plastic pack only to reveal an inner plastic coffin encasing the harmful lead paint slathered toy.

Fast forward 20 years. The first and only time I bought Big Dog a "Little People" toy I was shocked at the level of heavy bondage these poor folks endured. Have packaging facilities been taken over by S&M types? Large box, inner plastic coffins, tiny farmer and his livestock smiling despite being strapped inside said coffins with dozens of unsnipable twist-ties (around their tiny necks no less!) covered in tape, with hardened plastic spacers making them nearly impossible to remove. I mean, I lived in SF for years and I was still pretty shocked by the extent of this toy "dungeon", and it isn't much different from brand to brand. Buy a new toy and you'd be hard pressed to open it without some pretty heavy-duty shears, and after shucking your toy free, you'll need a wheel barrow to take the packaging out to the curb.

I assume most of this new packaging is to make the display more appealing to consumers and prevent damage in shipping, but this has gone way overboard. Don't they realize these toys are going to be stomped on, thrown, dunked in water, carried off by large dogs (wait, that may just be my home) and otherwise abused as soon as they are freed? If they can't survive a trip from manufacturing to sales floor without a complex system of restraints, they won't survive long in my household.

Even more disturbing is the over-packaging of food items. Why must all gum now come in individually sealed airlocks? Is there some kind of "gum flu" being transferred from chicklet to chicklet that I should be aware of? Have cherry tomatoes become such rogues that they must be firmly sealed in a plastic prison for fear of them taking launching a bloody (or katsup-y) attack on the full sized tomatoes? Even the organic mixed baby greens have been sequestered to a plastic lidded "nursery" of sorts. Large mama jars of applesauce now sit next to their single serving off-spring on the grocery shelf. Cookies that used to float loose in a cardboard box are now neatly seated in their plastic cookie pews awaiting their departure to "a better life" in your tummy. Even the sachets of herbal tea, who seem so earthy and ready to mingle in a big tea bag orgy are now neatly sealed into individual packages inside their cardboard box commune all wrapped up in a layer of cellophane. Ok, I'll stop with this now, I think I'm getting a bit too into the personification of food object. It might get in the way of me enjoying my lunch, but I think you get the picture.

The sad thing is that for most people this trend toward over-packaging doesn't even enter their purchasing decisions. When so many families are working to stretch the budget or fit 26 hours of work into a 24 hour day, price and convenience is king and the landfill is an afterthought.

7 comments:

crunchycarpets said...

I had to return an adapter to Best Buy..i had to SHRED the container to open it to see if it worked...what a waste of a HUGE amount of hard non recyclable plastic..and you know..putting my life in danger with a knife

Molly said...

That's why we leave all our toys in the packaging over here, it's not because it's impossible to get out, oh no, just that all the toys look so nice in the package, all perfectly posed, mid-play. My daughter just lugs around the Little People-in-the-box. And dolls-in-the-box.

I kid, that come to think of it...

Food packaging is horrible (all the produce at Trader Joes comes on those trays with plastic over them) but I agree with crunchycarpets about the electronics plastic - insane amounts for no real reason.

Mrs. F said...

Can I just say that we broke a knife (a good kitchen knife) trying to open a small child's camera on Christmas morning. Horrible.

Always Smiling :) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smilinshell11 said...

I had "Little People" growing up and the ones these days have been eating too much fast food or something. I remember skinny little people not fat little people.

I would recommend a pair of these: Black & Decker Cordless Power Scissors. Once you have them, cutting through those annoying plastic packages will be like a knife going through butter at room temperature. Smoooooth. :)

Also you can delete my above comment. :) I was logged in under my old blog.

BoneFolder said...

Useta be you needed your toolbox Christmas Eve to assemble the big surprise. I haven't been able to get through Christmas day without diagonal wire cutters (imagine a 9-year-old Brontë asking me to "pass the dykes"), pliers, precision screwdrivers to install batteries, and various sharp and dangerous utility knives (one year I discovered that linoleum knives can be a little too effective). I now have a Christmasy red toolbox just for the occasion. Last year I even had to solder a poorly-made toy that was DOA.

Someday I'd like to hear the sequence of events (read: lawsuits) that lead to where we are now. Clearly, the legal system is an attempt to defeat natural selection.

Perhaps someday we'll realize the Grinch's dream of entombing all the toys in acrylic blocks.

Sarah said...

I totally feel ya on how they package the toys now-a-days. Oy! I have sliced my finger open more times than I would like to admit just trying to open the darn package.

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