Congratulations! You’re An Idiot!

Shouldn't overestimate it either.
Shouldn't overestimate it either.
Ever since Wonko the Sane noticed that people needed written instructions on how to use toothpicks, people have wrung their hands and clucked their tongues at the impending fall of civilization. Unlike apocalyptic visions, they see a slower, if no less inevitable, decline into the final abyss. Some uses of instructions may not spell doom, but they are no less perplexing. For example, the next time you go to the Drive-Thru at your local bank, notice that there are instructions in braille. Why? Beats the heck out of me. Despite circumstantial evidence to the contrary, there aren’t that many blind drivers out there.

In Serbia there’s a sign as you head into Belgrade that says “Translating illegal.” In 3 languages.

But confusing isn’t stupid.

Well, it is, but not in the same way as we’re talking about here today.

Brett Nelson and Katy Finneran from MSNBC take a look at some of the most recent examples of product instructions that prove you’re an idiot. Or, at least the companies think so and that should count for something.

Our society doesn’t think much of the average consumer.

To wit: Only a moron would try to wash her daughter in a washing machine; or shake hands with the business end of a chainsaw; or light a match to check the contents of a gas tank.

And yet manufacturers still go to laughable lengths to protect their customers from harm, bombarding them with ridiculous warning labels or stunningly obvious explanations of how their products work. Why else would a carton of eggs actually say that the product may contain eggs?

The plaintiff’s bar has plenty to do with this silly — and costly — trend. Sham product-liability cases can rack up very real damages. In 2007 the median jury award in product liability cases was just north of $1.9 million, estimates Jury Verdict Research, which tracks results of personal-injury claims.

“America’s legal system is based on the fact that there are some things so obvious that you don’t need to warn about [them],” says Bob Dorigo Jones, senior fellow for the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the American legal system. Still, he adds, “it doesn’t stop people from suing because the legal system has become a litigation lottery.”

These cases basically boil down to two principles. First, companies must take care not to put customers in “unforeseen” danger, assuming that those customers act in a “reasonable” manner when using a product or service. (Repeatedly jabbing a bottle of Coca-Cola in your eye and suing for damages probably wouldn’t fly in court.) Second, companies have to provide sufficient warning of “foreseeable” danger.

Hence the proliferation of all those goofy warning labels on products and websites. Here are some of the most ridiculous we could find, some thanks to Dorigo Jones, author of “Remove Child Before Folding: The 101 Stupidest, Silliest and Wackiest Warning Labels Ever.” He also hosts, in concert with the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice, the annual Wacky Warning Label contest, which challenges Americans to find the most ridiculous warning labels in the country.

The 2010 winner: the Jabra Drive ‘N’ Talk, a Bluetooth speakerphone accessory for cell phones to be used in the car. The Drive ‘N’ Talk carries this contradictory warning label: “Never operate your speakerphone while driving.” (So should it just be called the “Talk”?)

The 2009 winner was far less confusing, if totally unnecessary: A small tractor, made by New Holland, bore the admonition “Avoid Death.”

Here are some other doozies we found over the last four years:

Label: May cause drowsiness.
Product: Nytol sleeping pills.

Label: This product may contain nuts.
Product: Peanut M&Ms.

Label: Do not use while sleeping.
Product: Vidal Sassoon hair dryer

Label: The Vanishing Fabric Marker should not be used as a writing instrument for signing checks or any legal documents.
Product: W.H. Collins’ Vanishing Fabric Markers

Label: This product is not intended for use as a dental drill
Product: DremelMultipro’s rotary tools

Label: This product moves when used.
Product: Razor scooter

Label (on website): Do not eat.
Product: Apple’s iPod shuffle

Oh, I can’t leave you with just those paltry archetypes, now, can I? Let’s take a look at some other shining examples.

“This product is not to be used in bathrooms.” — On a Holmes bathroom heater.
It’s actually a potted plant holder.

“May irritate eyes.” — On a can of self-defense pepper spray.

“Eating rocks may lead to broken teeth.” — On a novelty rock garden set called “Popcorn Rock.”
And yet, you know some tool has done it.

“Caution! Contents hot!” — On a Domino’s Pizza box.
Who cares? The box still tastes better.

“Caution: Hot beverages are hot!” — On a coffee cup.
And cold beverages are cold. You’re welcome.

“Caution: Shoots rubber bands.” — On a product called “Rubber Band Shooter.
Line those rubber bands up against the wall and kill ’em all!

“Warning: May contain small parts.” — On a Frisbee.
Quick! Name the second part of any Frisbee!

“Do not use orally.” — On a toilet bowl cleaning brush.
On the other hand, if a girl had a mouth that big, what man could satisfy her?

“Please keep out of children.” — On a butcher knife.
Obviously not written by a parent.

“Not suitable for children aged 36 months or less.” — On a birthday card for a 1 year old.
I got nothing.

“Do not recharge, put in backwards, or use.” — On a battery.
Well, that keeps our options easy.

“Do not look into laser with remaining eye.” — On a laser pointer.
Because no one reads the instructions until they’ve had a problem.

“Do not use for drying pets.” — In the manual for a microwave oven.
Another helpful hint for poor gerbils the world over.

“For use on animals only.” — On an electric cattle prod.

Also, try not to read Nude Hippo’s World News Center while driving mauve colored farm machinery and washing small lavender dogs.

If Charlie Sheen is your role model you may wish to seek counselling from your local meth dealer.

Click on links at your own risk. Risk on clicks at your own link. However, you are not allowed to link on risks no matter the click.

If you suffer uncontrolled erotic arousal for more than four hours, please consult a physician. Unless you’re an incredibly hot, single, female with no morals. Then feel free to contact me for a cure.

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