SALT LAKE CITY — If you have small cuts on your hands as you're reading this, chances are you either have an ornery cat or just had the misfortune of having to open Christmas gifts that were wrapped — no, encased — in that horrid plastic blister or clamshell packaging.

You know the stuff: heavy, clear plastic that is welded shut around the edges that really cannot be opened with your bare hands.

I've been asking friends and co-workers for the past several weeks if they share my contempt for this stuff, and the response has been unanimous: Every single person had a story to tell that involved personal injury, damaged or unreturnable merchandise or just that sense they were being mocked by merchandise they could see but couldn't get to.

My brother's story was typical: He bought a pocket knife, packaged in the aforementioned plastic armor, and found himself wishing he had a second knife just to get the package open.

Searching "How to open clamshell packaging" on YouTube reveals a number of clever, sometimes cheeky, techniques for getting into the dreaded clamshells and sealed blister packs. My own thoughts have gone to the extreme — a chain saw, cutting torch or a shotgun — are more focused on my angst than any practical method of opening a package.

My wife brought home a fancy box-cutter type knife called the "Insta Slit Package Opener" so I'd have an easier time helping open gifts around our own Christmas tree this year. Last year my oldest daughter gave me a sleek little ceramic cutter from Williams-Sonoma designed specifically to open clamshells. Sadly, two packages and it was done for.

Insta Slit? That's this kind of reactive product marketing that screams, "Something is wrong with this picture."

All this plays into a phenomenon called "wrap rage" that led Consumer Reports to create the Oyster Awards in 2006 for the products with most stubborn packaging.

Holiday shoppers may start encountering less of the annoying plastic now that retailers are joining in the wrap rage revolt. Walmart says it plans to reduce packaging by 5 percent by 2012. kicked off its "Frustration-Free Packaging" initiative in 2008 with 19 items. This year — 80,000 products are on that list.


Twitter: SteveFidel