What in the World: The importance of packaging

It was time for lunch. Having just attended back-to-back classes in the morning, I was feverish with anticipation. My lunch was to be a chopped salad with a light covering of chipotle dressing and mozzarella pearls plopped thither and yon for a delightful combination of aesthetic appeal and masticatory interaction. But lo! The new container of mozzarella pearls recently purchased from Festival Foods on Northland Avenue had affixed to the top a hideous apparatus: a plastic seal.  

Why should I fear such a commonplace technology so useful for keeping food fresh? Because I knew there was duplicity afoot. No matter the angle one took, the physics calculated and the blunt trauma applied, that container of mozzarella pearls would foil me like all those before it. The tab, so clearly placed there to assist me in the opening, tore off limply, never coming close to breaking the seal. What extra plastic there was of the seal could not be grasped by my wretchedly crude phalanges.  

Now, in a rage, I paced back and forth, inspecting this 10 oz container for any sign of weakness. It sat there self-satisfied upon the countertop, mocking me as only a squat cylinder could. But, just as I was coming to terms with a mozzarella-less future, a brilliant thought pierced the wrathful storm clouds of my mind. I should call the people who made this product, for surely they would know precisely how to open it! Who knows the created more than its creator? So, I ring up Belgioso, smirking in the direction of the mozzarella like a teacher who rings up a particularly vile student’s parents to report upon his odiousness in class. The mozzarella returned my gaze stoically enough — as if thinking I must be bluffing.  

Turning my back upon the offending product, my call was answered by a Belgioso employee. After informing her of my dissatisfaction with a component of their otherwise worthy product, she transferred me to another employee who would take my oh-so-important feedback. After news of my call, they’d likely shut down the cheese presses until the plastic seal controversy, dubbed “FreshnessSealGate,” could be rectified. (No one has ever accused me of lacking imagination or being overly humble, let it be said.) 

The good woman picks up, and I pour out my tale of woe to her, leaving her in no doubt of both my affection for the mozzarella and my distaste for the means by which said cheese is transported. She then informs me that the tab I had presumed was for opening was not for such an obvious use but was only a by-product of the sealing process. The best way to open the packaging was to stab it with scissors and cut out the plastic from the inside. I was flabbergasted, flimflammed and quite possibly jim-jammed. The mozzarella pearls are suspended in water all the way to the brim. To stick a knife through the seal would displace the water all over your countertop AND introduce an unclean utensil into the virgin cheese. It’s a culinary war crime!  

After informing her of this seemingly obvious deficiency, I was offered coupons as a buy-off, which I found rather patronizing. However, I took the coupons because I was raised around Dutchmen, and no coupon is a bad coupon within the Dutch Mafia.  

Our call concluded, I returned with shoulders slumped to my still-sealed and smirking mozzarella and took scissors to it. After cleaning up the fount of water that burst forth upon the piercing of the seal, I applied a helping to my now minutes-old salad. I savored that salad and its pearls of mozzarella, and I steeled myself for the dark days ahead as I resolved to ne’er again purchase the product until the packaging was improved. My one-man resistance to Big Cheese and their anti-consumer packaging had begun …*dramatic fade to black.* 

“So what?” many might ask. This aforementioned tale of woe is hardly unique to mozzarella production; there are all sorts of ways that companies fail to understand consumers and the irritations that can accompany otherwise strong products or commercial experiences. To which I reply, “Why botch something so basic?”  

The lesson here for both individuals and companies is that one should avoid obvious and easily-rectified flaws. Pick ‘n Save should calibrate its automatic doors better, so you don’t run into them before they actuate. This casts the store as cheap and detail-ignorant because they screwed up the obvious: getting the customer into the store.  

Life Cereal should come up with a bag that doesn’t tear into ribbons. This defect means that every time you pour a bowl of cereal, the pieces go in every direction but the one you desire. A unit of cereal has three components: a box, a bag and the cereal itself. How does Life think 66 percent good is acceptable? I have to believe that if the CEO of Life actually ate the product over which they preside every day, there would be a much better adhesive for the bag, allowing for a smooth and tear-free opening experience.  

Ultimately, this is a lesson for me. Take care of the simple things so that when the aberrations come along in life, they can be handled without also having to deal with mundane errors (e.g. If I do my homework on time and well, I can afford to get a B on a test because my simple daily tasks will float any flaws from infrequent work). In an age where it can feel as if we have little control, it is best to excel in what we most certainly can impact positively.  

Agree? Disagree? Think this article was Belgioso-phobic? Let me know at abell@lawrence.edu.  

The opinions expressed in The Lawrentian are those of the students, faculty and community members who wrote them. All facts are as provided by the authors. The Lawrentian does not endorse any opinions piece except for the staff editorial, which represents a majority of the editorial board. The Lawrentian welcomes everyone to submit their own opinions using the parameters outlined in the masthead.