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After realizing UX includes the wonderfully apropos tag "physical" I am hoping to get some insight into something that has long been a conundrum for me: when the packaging around a ream of paper switched from paper (where an experienced hand could open a ream with a single snap and unwrap it in a couple seconds) to plastic (which now requires scissor or knife to open).

I suspect it likely cuts down on spoilage due to mishandling, moisture, etc., but was that really the motivation? What about the cost of good will? This seems like a tremendous step backwards in terms of convenience to the customer in favor of some (?minor) cost savings for the manufacturer.

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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think this FAQ on printing paper might answer your question.

Why are ream wrappers plastic coated? When copy paper goes though a copier or laser printer, it is heated on one side, to fuse the powdered toner into the surface of the paper. Heating one side of the paper dries it and causes it to shrink, and this in turn introduces a tendency to curl. Too much curl may cause paper jams, so to minimise this effect the paper is made with low moisture content. In order to maintain the low moisture content, the paper must be wrapped in a moisture-proof wrapper.

Typically, the moisture-proof wrapper consists of paper with a thin layer of plastic on the inside or on the outside.

That said, there are some companies which prefer to go for a paper based wrapper which also has a moisture wet-strength associated with it to prevent moisture entry and that's perhaps the variety you are missing nowadays.

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I have never seen a paper pack wrapped in plastic. In my country, paper packs are wrapped in… paper.

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"In the good old days, an experienced hand could open a ream of paper with a single snap and unwrap it in a couple seconds."

Today, with plastic wrapping, an experienced hand can still open it with a single snap and unwrap it in a couple of seconds. Ask you favorite secretary for a demonstration of the amazing powers to unpack certain things using nothing but her experienced hands (sometimes the mouth, or the teeth to be more precise, is also involved).

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Uh..."Ask you favorite secretary for a demonstration of the amazing powers to unpack certain things using nothing but her experienced hands (sometimes the mouth, or the teeth to be more precise, is also involved)" I think we need to add an R rating to this post!? –  CaffGeek Mar 14 '12 at 16:25
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There's probably no trick to it. The casing is manufactured in the cheapest possible and most durable way. One could wish for that plastic stripe that are on e.g. cigarette packages to efficiently slice a casing open in one swift move.

enter image description here

That however would probably raise manufacturing costs considerably, or they just haven't thought of it. The vendor probably relies on the buyer either use a knife or scissors when opening the casing.

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I've not seen that brand of paper - and why has it got a skeleton on it - whaa - a warning - ohhhh, it's not a ream of paper. –  Roger Attrill Mar 13 '12 at 14:31
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@RogerAttrill still, if it was a ream of paper, you would buy it, because it would make you look cool and dangerous in your work place. =) –  AndroidHustle Mar 13 '12 at 14:38
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