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December 8, 2004 10:06 AM

Broken: Microwave pizza boxes

Matthew Baldwin tells why microwave pizza boxes are broken.


Actually, I would need an image to have an idea. We have just standard boxes with pizza in plastic wrapping inside. You just open the plastic wrapping and take out the pizza. Put it on a plate in a microwave an let it bake for a while. Even more crunchy and tasty when doen in gas oven.

Posted by: dusoft at December 8, 2004 11:55 AM

I've never seen this design... I've seen the ones where there's a little paper disc, silvered on one side, and the kind where there's a cardboard tray that you have to poke up perforated corners for. I recommend trying a different brand of pizza, it's certainly not *all* microwave pizza boxes...

Posted by: josh at December 8, 2004 12:55 PM

I too have only ever encountered simple, fairly straightforward microwavable pizza boxes. Although, my curiosity is certainly piqued to the point where I may have to go looking for this Transformer-style pizza packaging...

Posted by: scotfl at December 8, 2004 01:59 PM

This reminds me of the old Apple II manual, wherein the first instructions were for the unpacking of the box and how to remove the contents to avoid damage.

Towards the end of the instructions was the step "Remove white envelope from box and open. Inside you will find this manual."

Posted by: Erich at December 8, 2004 03:37 PM

I've used this style of box often -- Red Baron Deep Dish Pan Style. It's a mid-size microwave pizza (halfway between those two-to-a-box personal pizzas and the full-size "oven" variety).

I thought it was a decent solution to get the foil-backed, elevated cooking tray without having a second box that's virtually the size of the enclosing box included with the pizza.

Posted by: Rob at December 8, 2004 04:02 PM

I can't say I've had the displeasure of using a pizza product such as this. Others can do it better, this company should step up and help the customer out a little. You shouldn't need an instruction list for cooking pizza in a microwave.

1) Remove pizza from box

2) Microwave it

3) Watch the game on TV while enjoying pizza.

Posted by: Manni at December 8, 2004 06:29 PM

_@_v - i recommend the celesteā„¢ brand frozen pizza. they give you a little disc to put the pizza on in the nuker - and you only have to punch the 'minute plus' button 4 times to get some hot crispy 'za.

Posted by: she-snailie_@_v at December 8, 2004 07:28 PM

that reminds me of a laser printer, when you replace a part you have to go through complex tasks to open it, then at the end it says "do not expose to light for more than 15 seconds"

Posted by: james at December 8, 2004 07:56 PM

That reminds me, why don't they use the wattage for microwave strength instead of % or low/med/high? Then 4 minutes on one microwave would actually be roughly the same as 4 minutes on another. None of this "To avoid hideous screaming death by radioactive flu, cook exactly as instructed. Times are approximate and may need to be adjusted because every microwave is unique and special in its own way."

Posted by: josh at December 9, 2004 02:14 AM

Not broken. You can microwave the pizza any way you want, or eat it raw. The designers of the box have figured out a way to give you a built-in microwaving stand for optimal preparation. They have saved money by incorporating it into the box.

This is not even a post about something being broken, just a little more work than the person who bought it wants to handle. It might as well have said "attention car makers of america---please make your cars parallel park themselves!"

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at December 9, 2004 08:46 AM

... but Robby, if the extra work that the consumer has to go through drives the consumer away from the product and to competing brands, then the design is broken, isn't it?

(Personally, I think the whole concept of "microwave pizza" is broken. It takes me maybe 10 minutes to make a pizza *from scratch* once the dough has risen and the oven's hot. But I realize that's not necessarily practical for everyone!)

Posted by: E.T. at December 9, 2004 10:30 AM

E.T., not necessarily. Products are differentiated in many ways, and very few articles for sale are "all things to all people". The design isn't broken, it's just part of the market segementation.

I personally hate frequent flier programs. Give me the cheapest fares. Consquently, I avoid airlines with these programs. Does that mean frequent flier miles is a broken concept? Of course not, lots of people are crazy about it. Just because I have a preference does not mean it's broken.

I think what is really clear on this site is the difficulty of defining "what is broken". If you're annoyed by something, it's not necessarily broken. If there's a mistake in spelling, it's not necessarily broken. Bad experiences don't always come solely from broken systems---but broken systems always lead to some bad experiences. Finding and fixing things that are broken is only part of the overall solution.

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at December 9, 2004 12:27 PM

Dude. Why is Robby being such a bitch?

Posted by: S at December 9, 2004 06:00 PM

So, I just realized that, although I was joking, lots of people get offended by stuff like that. Sorry Robby. Didn't mean to offend...

Posted by: S at December 9, 2004 06:02 PM

Two quotes:

"Bad experiences don't always come solely from broken systems---but broken systems always lead to some bad experiences." - Robby Slaughter

"A project to make businesses more aware of their customer experience, and how to fix it. By Mark Hurst."

Ok, so why do people (RS, for example) keep pointing out that things aren't broken? So what? That's not necessarily the point of the site, at least not as documented in the tag line. The tag line says "make businesses more aware of their customer experience"

Posted by: anitsirK at December 9, 2004 11:42 PM

S., not offended, but I would prefer constructive comments to sarcastic remarks & jokes.

Maybe I am being a bit pedantic, but I think the site is called "this is broken" and not "the customer experience here could be improved".

"Broken" is a powerful word with a very important meaning in the world of design. Understanding why customer experiences are poor---whether caused by mistakes, broken designs, individual preferences, or cultural perceptions---is key to improving them. Just lumping everything we don't like under the blanket term "broken" is not only bad semantics, it's poor practice.

Mark Hurst, can you chime in and tell me if I am missing the point entirely? I am not the only one interested in this topic but if it's not the point of the site (as I belive anitsirK claims) then I will shut up.

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at December 10, 2004 12:13 PM

I'm not really trying to claim that the point of the site is one thing or another, just that from my perspective, the goal is to improve customer experiences, by pointing out design flaws. This could be from designs that are completely broken, or simply designs that could be improved in some way. I'd agree that the shampoo thing isn't broken, just weird, but this pizza box is overly complicated, and as many have pointed out, there are *much* simpler designs for microwave pizza boxes that would presumably work just as well.

I'm not trying to speak for Mark Hurst, just saying that designs don't have to be completely broken in order to require some improvements, in order to improve the customer experience. Pointing out that a pizza box is overly complicated would, to me, be a part of "making businesses more aware of their customer experience".

Besides, as a URL, "" is much catchier and more appropriate than ""

Posted by: anitsirK at December 11, 2004 10:01 AM

Good points, antisirK. I guess to me understanding why the customer experience is poor is part of fixing it.

I defintely am interested in ALL KINDS of bad customer experiences---whether caused by excessive complexity (pizza box), individual preference (shampoo), cultural/geographic standards (pedestrian signs and parking meters), or actually broken designs (sugar packets and that !@# Rockerfeller city "map"). Why does the classification matter? Because it helps (at least, it helps me) understand how they can be improved, if at all.

Everything Mark Hurst has posted here could have an improved customer experience in some way or another. But most of the things lately have not lived up to the word "Broken" in bold before their title.

If other people agree with me (especially the site curator), then I'd like to see this site address the cause of bad experiences more thorougly than just mislabeling everything as broken and having us fight it out in the comments. I defintely want to see ALL the things that come through here, but talk about them more accurately. Anyone else agree or disagree?

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at December 12, 2004 08:26 AM

Robby, I think you've brought up some very good points, both about this specific issue (remember the pizza boxes?) and this site in general and for the most part, I do agree with you. But I think you might be ignoring a couple of points.

First of all, this site seems to be intended at least partly for entertainment. (Mark, please correct me if I'm wrong on this.) And I happened to think that Matthew Baldwin's description of his experience with the pizza box was pretty damn funny. There was also a user experience lesson to be learned, so all in all I think it was a valuable post, and I for one am glad it was on the site, even if the boxes are not, strictly speaking, broken.

Second, you say that "broken" is a strong term in user design, and you're right, but "not broken" is an equally strong term. And I do think that most of the recent "not broken" posts actually do belie a broken process somewhere. For example, these pizza boxes ...

If the company had done marketing studies that showed that for every Matthew Baldwin there were two or three origami enthusiasts who delighted in the idea of embarking on a minor construction project before cooking a convenience food, then yes, this would be an example of market differentiation. But I bet it didn't happen that way. I expect that the design team was given a task -- find some way to stop these pizzas from getting soggy when nuked -- which they accomplished, but without a thought for the actual consumer on the other end. I call that a broken process.

Posted by: E.T. at December 12, 2004 02:06 PM

E.T., excellent points. I agree that this site is mostly for entertainment, although there is the glimmer of hope that some companies might be made aware of these problems and improve them. (And it has happened a couple of times!) And as I said, I defintely do want to see all the posts, even the ones I or others think are not broken. Everything that comes through here could be improved.

Secondly, it's probably true that every time there is something that is less than optimal about a customer experience, something somewhere is broken. This may be a marketing study, or a lack of editorial review, or ignoring customer feedback, but often it's not the design that is broken. I don't know about the pizza box---we cannot see from it's design how the process of design was executed. The company may or may not have done marketing studies. There may or may not be a huge underground movement of origami enthusiasts! We can only speculate. But we CAN see the design, and while it could probably be better, it's not broken per se.

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at December 13, 2004 07:57 AM

you people need to get a life

Posted by: j c at December 15, 2004 07:54 PM

For all you searching for this transformer pizza box it is the lean cuisine french bread pizza . it is quite strange

Posted by: e at December 16, 2004 01:01 PM

While I realize the instructions are not ideal, I've been using pizza boxes with this design since I around 10. It doesn't take a rocket scientist. If we can't remember, "Microwave on high power for 3 minutes" or whatever the particular instructions are, then we are broken. It's almost as bad as including eat in the instructions.

Posted by: T at December 17, 2004 07:55 PM

Who the hell calls pizza "'za" ???

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Posted by: ali riza oner at May 29, 2005 11:10 AM

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