There are a number of weird things about this video, in a which a guy with a thick Appalachian accent proclaims, “This is why you don’t buy an iPad from Wal-Mart.” He and another guy then toss what looks like an iPad box back and forth inside of a stockroom before dropping one on the floor, with a resounding clack. It’s the sole video uploaded by this anonymous account; it almost seems fake. But when I called the Wal-Mart in Pikeville, Kentucky (population 6,903 as of 2010), where the video was allegedly shot, and asked about it, a woman on the other end of the phone simply said, “That’s already been taken care of,” and promptly hung up before I could reply. (One of the commenters on the video, xreturnwthhonorx, said, at approximately 12:05 p.m., “All 3 men have been fired, and must pay for all damaged products.”)
Here’s the thing: Your iPad, your cell phone, your Xbox — your anything — has been treated almost this exact way, no matter where you bought it. Whether it was the UPS guy, or a reckless stockroom employee, your precious has probably been shaken, rattled, rolled, punted, slammed, or all of the above. And it’s fine. That’s precisely what the packaging has been designed to withstand.
For all of the increasingly precise manufacturing that goes into our electronics and the sophistication of the supply chain that delivers them in precise, targeted quantities to Best Buys and Wal-Marts and Amazon, humans are still a fundamental part of getting them into your hands. They get tired and drop things. Or careless, and throw things. That hasn’t changed — and it won’t — and the people designing the carefully molded plastic and recycled paper coffins for your iPad know that. It’s built into the design. It’s why your device is suspended in the middle of a box, comfortably cradled in a plastic tray. Which makes the shrinking packages over the last few years all the more remarkable achievements of engineering and design.
Amazon is perhaps the most functionally brilliant packaging designer around — no surprise, since it’s in the shipping business, and broken wares could cost it a ton of money (given that it just lost money for the quarter, that would be bad). The new Kindle Paperwhite box is a testament to just how good Amazon’s gotten at packaging. When this slim, black geometric shape arrives in the mail, there is no separate box inside, just your new Kindle. Amazon’s built a single box that holds the Kindle and withstands all the brutalities of the postal system.
So throw your iPad box down when you get it. Hurl it at your wall. Play the drums on it. Your iPad is fine, no matter where you bought it.