Wasteful Packaging

Yesterday, I was looking for a new USB, and I noticed that, no matter the brand, the packaging for each one was absolutely massive. They could probably package 10-15 USB’s for the amount of material that has been used on this one:

I know that they need to be noticeable, as they are small, and need to stand out, as there are 30 or so different brands all on a rack together, but surely a USB could use a much smaller amount of material to the same effect. I can’t think of a time where I’ve ever even glanced at them unless I was intending to buy one, in which case it depends on the storage, speed and price, rather than a big piece of cardboard with some numbers on it. It seems very wasteful, both in terms of materials and excess cargo size when you consider just how many of these get produced and shipped every year.

Have I just overlooked something, and there is an actual need/benefit to this over a smaller package?

Theft prevention.

Thanks for pointing that out, I hadn’t even considered theft. Even so, you could use half of this particular package and it still wouldn’t fit into a pocket, but then I guess that you would be much more obvious in trying to conceal the larger one.

We should clarify…those big flat packaging solutions are the lazy, wasteful way of providing theft prevention. Lately I’ve been seeing better retailers using the small clear boxes with twist-locks and the device (USB, etc) rattles around inside with a security strip inside the box as well. The product is taken out at the register and the box is reused.

I’m curious what everyones experience with “theft prevention” is… Based on factual numbers - is it a real issue or an armchair-quaterback one?

To clarify - does so much product get stolen that it makes it worthwhile with the added product cost? (an extra $1 on shipping and packaging = an extra $5 to the customer at retail).

In my experience someone always brings up theft protection when we are discussing packing design. But if you show them solutions that make it easier to understand product features and reduce product cost, but sacrifice the risk of theft - the sales person to bring it up still prefers the former in the end.

A locked, re-uable and trackable box is what I expected retailers to be using, and is a much better idea. I’m surprised that it isn’t already a standard thing to do for small products. I’d suggest that the big retailers don’t want their workers to be tasked with opening and refilling security boxes, but they already use the same thing for clothing, where the electronic tag is removed and reused at the checkout, so this isn’t a valid excuse.

If I was really intent on stealing something, the large package (within reason) wouldn’t stop me, I would just shove it inside my shirt/pants/jacket/bag rather than into a pocket.

I wonder how many products are out there with packaging that is completely limited in design by ‘theft prevention’. I’m sure that in some cases that it is a valid concern, but as engio questioned, do so many goods really get stolen to make it a realistic issue?

Engio wondered above about actual theft percentages - it’s all about preventative measures in retail. ‘Acceptable losses’ are baked in (a well buttoned up operation expects 2-3% loss and the bulk of that is employee theft, not consumer theft). For instance, if AndyMc shoves that large, flat USB package down his pants, the security reader that the receivers at the doors can identify is effectively ‘on his person’ and he’ll get the alarm at the door - then it’s a matter of employee training and security presence to intercept and detain before he reaches the parking lot. AndyMc would do better to slice the bottom of the blister portion of the package, squeeze out the USB and quickly vacate - because in that scenario it’s all about security presence, either in person or on camera and now the race to the parking lot ‘is on’. For these reasons, that big bulky clear lockable box is the best approach to preventing theft…while also minimizing wasteful packaging.

Yes, a long time ago in a previous life I a loss prevention manager! :stuck_out_tongue:

It is pretty disturbing, and I get the “don’t walk out with it” - but my wife came home from BJ’s yesterday with a pack of electric toothbrush refills (which are tiny) in a package that was literally 18"x12" of cardboard and blister pack.

I can’t help but think an RFID tag wouldn’t be a cheaper method of anti-theft but it doesn’t solve the shelf appeal issue. But the hippie tree hugger side of me cringes a bit.

Worst culprit I’ve seen of wasteful packaging is printer ink. I buy canon ink and they sell a 2 pack of in in a box that would fit 20. Box is something like 8x4x4". Cartridge is maybe 3x2x0.5".

Even worse is they used to have some Eco green bs label on the box. Made me want to punch someone every time I opened a box.

I always wondered why not just make packages small but awkward. Like a USB package that is same width and thickness of the USB key but 4’ long. Difficult to walk with that down your pants but probably less space in shipping.

Theft prevention over consumer friendly packaging drives me crazy. I often want to see the box better or take a look at the instructions, checkout the actual product finish, etc. within reason of course, open boxes I know are a pain for the retailer, but some things need to be felt. On that topic, I never understood why most cell phone shops either have a plastic dummy or lock it yo a giant metal cage so you have no way to see how thin it is or how it feels in the hand. I’d be surprised if apple’s consumer friendly approach to shopping interaction wasn’t a big contributor to their growth while all others used fake boxes.


Not just for theft, but marketing also. Take the USB example. Does anyone know the difference between a Verbatim USB key and a SanDisk? I sure don’t and they don’t blow money on TV and radio adverts. Many of these retailers don’t allow or limit the POP displays too. The only thing driving the consumer is what they see in the store: price, availability, design of the key and whatever marketing they can stick on the package.

Awkward, but still attractive and usable, packaging could be quite a lot of fun to design. Printer cartridge packaging is something that I’ve wondering about before. Everytime that I’ve purchased ink, the box always seems to be a maze of folds to get through, and I end up just tearing it apart to get inside. Im not sure about the USA, but in Australia there are quite a number of businesses that refill printer cartridges and give them back as is (it works out much much cheaper than buying them new, perhaps half). I remember once that I worked out it was cheaper for me to go and buy an entire new printer, than to replace the 4 cartridges that were empty with new ones.

On a side note, I’m in China at the moment, and the amount of packaging used/thrown away everywhere is on a crazy scale. It seems to be packets within packets, with literally everything having an individual wrapper.

USB data storage sure has been shrinking over the years. I saw a USB data storage unit that was 8GB the other day that was barely bigger than my fingernails! Seems a little silly, although it saves on material - something that small could really get lost if you don’t keep track of it and keep the thing properly. A bigger package Ahem would be a little bit more sensible if what you’re keeping on the disk drive is important, I’d hardly think you want to spend more time looking for your data than actually using it.