Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hefty OneZip: A Usability Puzzle

Hefty OneZip bags are plastic zip-lock-style freezer bags. When you take one out of the container, you’ll find it closed.

As the default state for a product, it’s hard to picture something more backward. If you are going to use the bag, you need to open it. Why not just provide the bag already open?

A few possible answers:

  • Manufacturing the bags already opened might cost more than manufacturing them closed.
  • Consumers might perceive a closed bag as more sanitary. However, the bags come flattened and wrapped within a sealed cardboard box, which would seem to minimize the contamination threat.
  • The product designers might not have considered the issue, randomly ending up with closed bags.

Whatever the reason, it’s not a big deal, just a small usability puzzle.

[Update, 8/1/2007: The third comment below, by “Anon,” provides what seems like a highly credible answer to this puzzle. In short: (1) manufacturing in the closed position enables a tighter seal, and (2) the FDA requires it for sanitary reasons.]


  1. or, shipping a sealed bag prevents air bubbles from forming during the shipping process and malforming the cardboard boxing container?

  2. It's a big deal to me, enough that it made me think what an annoying waste, the zip thing is supposed to make it easier to close, but I end up screwing around with it to open the thing... and decided it wasn't worth the hassle plus the extra expense so I probably wouldn't buy them anymore.

  3. The reason that the bags are sold in the closed position is a matter of quality and not cost reduction. The bags are placed in their boxes when they are literally "hot of the presses." The plastic is very malleable at that time and allowing it to cool down in the "closed" position creates a tighter seal. Also the FDA demands that bags which are sold to contact food must have never been opened before. So, when you buy a OneZip, you are the first thing to EVER touch the inside of the bag. You will see that Ziploc also sells their slider bags in the closed position.

  4. Well there you have it, folks. That sounds like a highly credible answer to the puzzle. Thanks for taking the time to comment, "Anon"!