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When choosing the right cardboard box for your product, you have a huge list of options from which to choose. For every product, there is a box that is just right, but companies aren’t always able to figure out which kind it might be. The decision can have bigger repercussions than you might think.

Instead of trying to cover all the different types of boxes (which would not be possible), let’s consider two of the most popular options. From the title, you can probably guess that we are talking about REFT (roll-end front-tuck) boxes and RETT (roll-end tuck-top) boxes. They might look very similar, but there are some important differences as well.

REFT Boxes

These boxes tend to be rectangular and have four low walls. The lid folds over the top and is secured in place with two or more cardboard tabs. The most important tabs are the two in the front, for which this box style is named. The two front tabs tuck into two front slots. These slots are formed by the folding of the cardboard, making them relatively easy to manufacture. The two tabs that slip into these side slots are usually referred to as “cherry tabs.”

Apart from the two small tabs in the front, many REFT boxes will have additional cardboard tabs on either side. These are larger and look almost like wings. They tuck into the sides of the box, eliminating the gap between the lid and the walls. Obviously, the different models of REFT boxes are designed for different levels of security.

Pros:

These boxes are often preferred for the higher level of security that they offer. Even if you don’t use any tape, you won’t have to worry too much about these boxes coming open during transit. In most cases, those two front tabs are made so that they will “catch” on the cardboard inside the slot. This makes it far less likely that the tabs will slip out of place. If you go for the kind of box with side flaps as well, you’ve got one of the most secure packages around.

These boxes are also visually attractive and provide an opportunity for branding. Customers know that boxes like this are normally used for high-end items, and that works to your advantage. When the customer sees a well-secured box, they know that someone took the trouble and expense to protect this package properly. That will impress people on a subconscious level. Besides, people really like to re-use these kinds of boxes, as they are ideal for many storage purposes.

Branding also plays a role here. With a large, flat surface on the top, this box has enough space for any logos or graphics that you might wish to use. You want your customers to associate certain imagery with your brand, and this box gives you another opportunity to make that association. Besides, if the customer re-uses this box, you are getting even more free advertising from all who might see and become interested.

This box design is also quite versatile, so it isn’t too hard to find one that suits your needs. While most REFT boxes don’t tend to be all that tall, they can be gotten in a wide variety of sizes and with a number of different security options. We already mentioned the extra flaps that some of them have, while some others can be bought with locking devices and anti-tampering mechanisms.

Cons:

The only real con that we see here is the fact that these boxes are a little more expensive than most. Since we are talking about cardboard boxes here, we aren’t talking about a whole lot of money. Still, small expenses can add up quickly where bulk purchases are concerned. Since most cardboard box purchases will be bulk purchases, that small difference in price can add up to a lot of extra costs.

For instance, let’s say your REFT boxes cost $0.10 more than the next cheapest alternative. By the time you buy 750 of those boxes, that ten cents will become $75. When you reach 1000, the cost jumps up to $100. Because large companies will often order boxes in lots of hundreds or thousands, we see that a small difference in cost becomes multiplied by every unit, making a large difference in the price.

As a small downside, these boxes are also a little more difficult to open. If you want to maximize their security advantages, you need to use a little bit of tape. Since those two front tabs are the main anchor points, that is where the tape needs to go. If the REFT box doesn’t have dust flaps, you might also feel the need to add some tape along the top edge of the lid.

Because of this, you can bet that the customer will have to get a knife or some other sharp implement when opening this package. They could just pick the tape loose with their fingernails, but most people won’t go to that much trouble. Some customers might get irritated with this extra level of security, so make sure that it’s necessary before using a REFT box. High security without a good reason just amounts to a pain in the backside.

RETT Boxes

RETT boxes are very similar to REFT boxes, but there are several key differences. The main difference is the way in which the lid is secured in place. Instead of having tabs that fold into side slots, these boxes just have a single tongue-like tab on the front of the lid. Like the REFT boxes, these usually tend to be low-walled and rectangular.

Although these boxes don’t offer the same level of security as a REFT box, RETT boxes are far more convenient for some uses. These boxes will never have the side flaps, as they are meant for light-duty usage and low cost. These boxes are very popular as mailers since their shape is often quite easy to fit into a mailbox.

Pros:

You might be surprised at how much of an advantage ease-of-use can be. When a package is easier to open, it naturally follows that it is easier to pack. So, when you use a RETT box, you can bet that your packaging process will be a little smoother and easier. REFT boxes would not be very good for high-volume packaging because each box would take too long to close. A RETT box, on the other hand, is folded and taped in a simple process that takes less than a minute.

Let’s think about how much difference this extra efficiency can make. Let’s say it takes you 30 seconds to package a product in a RETT box. Let’s also assume that the alternative box style will take you one minute per box. Considering the differences between the REFT and RETT styles in terms of complexity, these times are not unrealistic. It might only be 30 extra seconds, but you need to remember that we are talking 30 seconds per box, not 30 seconds overall.

Let’s say your employees are packaging 750 boxes. This is the number we used before, and so we will stick with that. Thirty seconds times 750 boxes add up to a little more than six hours of wasted time! This is yet another example of how quantity can throw off your calculations and create unforeseen problems. Either way, the RETT box clearly has an advantage in this department.

On this same subject, we should also mention that this box is easier for the customer to open. As we said, these boxes are most commonly used for mail-order products, and no one wants to spend a half-hour trying to rip their way through an uncooperative box. With a RETT box, there is no real danger of inconveniencing your customers. All it takes is one quick cut with a sharp instrument, and the box is open with little issue.

Finally, we should mention the fact that these boxes usually come with a reinforced bottom. Although the walls and lid are not usually double-layered, the bottom is made to withstand the worst of abuse. Because of this extra padding on the bottom, these boxes can deal with drops and bumps a little more easily. Rather than damaging the package within, they are more likely to dent the cardboard (which isn’t a big problem, of course).

Cons:

The RETT box does have a few problems as well. For one thing, these boxes do not offer the highest level of security. If you are shipping an item that is fragile or one that is vulnerable to contamination, you should probably go for some other kind of box. The padded bottoms will help quite a bit, but this is still a poor choice for high-risk items.

These boxes also require a little more taping than a REFT box, which can actually make them less efficient if you don’t know what you’re doing. We said earlier that these boxes are quicker and easier to process, and that was true. At the same time, you will only see that extra time-efficiency if you are working quickly.

The first few times you use a box like this, it will actually be slower than using a REFT box. However, this little con will go away once you get used to the process and establish a solid routine. So, we can see that the speed advantages of this box type will only manifest if a person uses them properly and gets a little practice beforehand.

These boxes are not a whole lot cheaper than REFT boxes, so you will have to decide if the cost savings are worth the trouble in the long run. When we talk about trouble, we come to the single biggest problem with this box type. These boxes are much more vulnerable to top-crush damage. That simple flap on the top will not be braced against the sides of the box and will be weaker as a result. At that point, the tape will be the only thing preventing the item inside from suffering crush damage.

Conclusion

While these two box types might appear to be the same thing, a closer look shows that they are not that alike after all. In spite of their similar sizes and dimensions, their closing methods are very different. Indeed, most of the differences between REFT and RETT boxes can be traced back to the different ways in which they fasten in place. And so we come to the most important question: Which one of these boxes is the best choice for your product?

The honest answer is that it will depend on both the product and your budget. If you can afford to use REFT boxes, and if the extra level of security is warranted, that is obviously the superior choice. However, those who are dealing in high-durability items (such as those made entirely from metal) won’t really need the extra protection. We hope that we have answered your question as completely as possible and that you will fill out the contact form below.