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2007 Oyster awards: Consumer Reports adds inductees to their hard-to-open packaging hall of shame

Posted Saturday, February 24, 2007

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Oral-B Sonic Complete Toothbrush Kit and Bratz Sisterz dolls take CR’s top honors

Yonkers, NY — Consumer Reports has bestowed its second annual Oyster Awards upon two worthy recipients-the Oral-B Sonic Complete Toothbrush Kit and the Bratz Sisterz doll. The full results of the Oyster Awards are reported in the March 2007 issue.

Consumer Reports created the Oyster Awards, named after the tight-jawed mollusk, to call out packaging that is generally known and talked of as difficult and frustrating to deal with. This year, as last, CR heard from consumers about cut and bloodied fingers, hands, and arms suffered in the quest to open packages. Consumers shared that they have used almost any implement at hand—pliers, kitchen shears, bolt cutters, military-issue can openers, hacksaws, files, teeth, and fingernails—to get the job done.

“Consumers are increasingly frustrated with difficult-to-open packaging,” said Tod Marks, a Senior Editor at Consumer Reports. “As manufacturers create packaging that more aggressively discourages theft and tampering they are concurrently creating a package opening nightmare for many consumers.”

The Oral-B Sonic Complete Toothbrush Kit took CR testers three minutes and fifteen seconds to open. It takes top honors because of the tools, strength, time, and finesse required to extract the contents. The toothbrush is housed in a sealed, hard-plastic clamshell package and has such a tight fit between the plastic skin and cardboard that it was all but impossible to open with scissors. When the tester finally succeeded in opening the packaging her work table was littered with sharp plastic shards.

The Bratz Sisterz dolls were nearly as bad, but posed problems of a different nature. The dolls come with about fifty restraints, including a cardboard and plastic box, tape, tabs, cardboard banner, plastic bags, and rubber bands among others. It took an adult tester eight minutes and fifty seconds to free the dolls. CR’s seven-year-old tester attempted to open the package and had to resort to ripping the dolls from the package after her safety scissors couldn’t handle the job. The Sisterz were missing clumps of hair and packaging debris was everywhere by the time she finally got the package open.

Despite the wealth of bad examples, Consumer Reports has found there are companies building better packaging. The Logitech mouse, Arnold croutons, Zicam Cold and Flu Single Dose, Oral-B Cross Action toothbrush, and the Polly Pocket Trendy Pets Paw Spa are shining examples of products that put consumer interests first.

To determine the winners, Consumer Reports asked its staffers and visitors to, for nominees. It then sent two reporters and a technical expert to look at the nominated products as well as other potential candidates. The trio identified 26 contenders. Three volunteers of different ages and strengths tried to open the packages with their hands, then scissors, box cutters, and if all else failed, wire cutters. In the final step of testing a volunteer unfamiliar with the products tried to open the worst of the bunch as one of CR’s technical expert watched.The full listing of Oyster Awards winners and honorable mentions can be found in the March 2007 issue of Consumer Reports on sale at newsstands February 6th or online at

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2007 Oyster awards: Consumer Reports adds inductees to their hard-to-open packaging hall of shame
The Oral-B Sonic Complete Toothbrush Kit took CR testers three minutes and fifteen seconds to open.