Are warning labels impeding the natural selection process?

Folding child stroller copyThere was a time when manufacturers included warnings on their products as a way to provide useful information that could potentially save our lives.

Or, at the very least, our eyebrows and/or stomach lining.

However, at some point, that all changed. As far I can tell, it happened about the same time McDonald’s had to cough-up a McMillion dollars to the lady who didn’t realize that spilling hot coffee on yourself while behind the wheel of a car can lead to a condition commonly known as “The Open-Road Lap Dance.”

Taking a deeper look, that condition is really just an extension of the more common rule known as “cause and effect,” which states:

‘Cause I’m dumb enough to place hot coffee next to the most vulnerable spot on my entire body, I am, in effect, going to do something even dumber by spilling it there. Probably before I leave the drive-thru.

Though the woman claimed to be unfamiliar with either of these two concepts, she WAS familiar with the judicial system, and how her coffee mishap could lead to litigation and a new home in the Hamptons. That landmark decision opened the floodgates to a barrage of wrongful injury cases aimed at sending a clear message to American businesses:

We will buy your products.
We will use your products.
And, God willing, we will hurt ourselves with your products and retire early.

Because of this, manufacturers have been forced to hire consultants who do nothing but sit around trying to think up ways stupid people could hurt themselves. Recently, I was able to gain limited access to one of these brain-storming sessions (limited, of course, out of fear that I might hurt myself), and while I’m not at liberty to divulge the company’s identity, I can tell you that there are at least five ways a stupid person could fatally injure themselves with a bar of Irish Spring.

This reason for this post stems from an actual warning label my friend discovered yesterday on the handle of his son’s stroller:

Always remove child before folding.

First of all, I’d like to point out that this time-saving tip was NOT included anywhere in the instruction manual when my kids were in strollers. Had I known how much easier this makes things, I probably would’ve used it a lot more. Instead, after spending nearly an hour trying to pry my son loose from the grip of his $200 stroller, I simply stopped using it.

I’m kidding of course! I never, at any time, actually folded any of my children up in their stroller! Hahaha! Ok, just once, but not before obtaining their written consent (which, by the way, my attorney keeps on file.)

Driven by the spirit of investigative journalism, and while on our way to the kitchen for more beer, we discovered more examples of warning labels aimed at those who would otherwise be eliminated through the process of “natural selection.”

This first warning appeared on the bottom of a Band-Aids box:

For serious injuries please seek medical attention.

Good to know, at least until Band-Aid comes out with a super-absorbent “severed limb” selection, preferably in the less obvious “skin-color” tone that I can wear to work.

This next helpful tip was on a box of nails:

Warning: Do not swallow nails: May cause irritation

And that’s just on the way down. Imagine how irritable you’ll be during next morning’s bowel movement.

This final warning was on a can of primer:

Do not spray contents into face.

That’s right. If you seem to be going through a lot more paint than you expected, and your retinas are primer gray, try flipping the nozzle the opposite direction.

I hope this has been helpful.

If not, you can’t say you haven’t been warned.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

47 thoughts on “Are warning labels impeding the natural selection process?”

  1. hi Ned; i just posted something similar on my blog a few minutes ago. mine was related to some of the so-called side effects of medicines.
    humans are not always the most intelligent creatures on this planet. and these types of warning labels and such prove it every day.

    1. I know what you mean. I see commercials on TV at night and think to myself, “Vomiting, rectal bleeding, increased chances of heart attack or stroke?! The side effects are worse then the ailment!” I will definitely be over to check out your post 🙂

  2. Well, for once I have read a blog post of yours WITHOUT snorting Earl Grey all over my keyboard. Yep. This time, I was drinking Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice, and now my keyboard smells delightfully yummy for sure, but the letter “L” simply refuses to move any more! THAT’S TWO KEYBOARDS YOU OWE ME TO DATE, NED!!!
    Ooops. Was i yelling? Sorry.

    I have to say, in all seriousness…well, not in ALL seriousness, of course, but in SOME seriousness…you are one funny man. If you weren’t a happily married father, and I were at least forty years younger, well. You’d be in my sights, young Ned!! I do love a man who can make me laugh that hard.

    Truly…serious this time for sure…you have just described a major frustration (and source of much laughter and/or consternation) that I have with these kinds of labels, and the thought of how many folk are out there who NEED them. It’s frightening to think that someone might actually have been planning to do some of these things before reading the helpful warning labels. And personally, some of those folks might…just MIGHT, mind you…need to be weeded out of the gene pool for the safety of the rest of us. Natural selection, indeed.

    Your description of the McDonald’s fiasco is dead on, and hilarious. Or it would be, if it weren’t so stupid and so sad. GAH.

    Going off now to see what kind of solvent will remove Hot Cinnamon Spice tea from computer keyboards. Here’s one: Let’s see…Hmmm…”Do Not Swallow Contents.” Darn. There goes my Nose Snort Delivery System. Now how am I going to get it down into the keyboard where the TEA is???

    1. I better get a higher-paying job to start saving up for keyboard replacements! Thanks for the kind words, Marcia — especially for calling me “young!” 😉 And I agree with you: If warning labels are any indication of the direction our society’s intelligence is heading, I fear “JackAss the Movie” will eventually be revered as the next “Citizen Kane.”

      1. “Thanks for the kind words, Marcia — especially for calling me “young!”

        Everything is relative, you know.

        And I fear you may be right about “JackAss The Movie!”

    1. WWWWWWow!!! (Or is that Owwwwww?) Can you imagine sitting around that brainstorming session trying to come up with warnings — piercing your eye, thumb, electrical outlet — and THAT is the one you’re most worried about?!? Well, at least we won’t have to worry about those people re-creating… 😉

        1. Would you mind if I posted this? Kind of as a “This just in….” thing? If you’d rather me not, no worries. I’m sure there are plenty of penis insertion warnings out there 😉

    2. Oh My – that was not expected. You know, my other half has a lot of these screwdriver sets about, I am going to have to ask what he uses them for now!

  3. Have written on similar myself with more of a slant to the movement to remove warning labels so that stupid people would self select themselves out of existence…..don’t I wish…

    1. Hahaha! I love that idea! Instead of some homicidal killer putting poison in Tylenol, they can just take warning labels off screwdrivers and motor oil. How dastardly!

  4. Bwahahahahaha!!! Having once again fulfilled my quota of belly laughs, I shall now take myself away to other pursuits. Thank you for your ongoing contribution to my good health!

  5. Like the infamous packet of peanuts which states ‘Warning, may contain peanuts’ – I think they should remove the warning labels and let nature take it’s course.
    Although, I did leave the puppy shampoo by the bath last week and just stopped the hubby using it as mouthwash . . . apparently if the colour is right we don’t have to open our eyes and check the label.

  6. Just another result of society steaming to a level of lazy that results in everyone wanting something for free. The good news for us, warning labels like this continuing to tickle our funny bone.
    *Warning: tickling funny bones could lead to serious side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, hair loss, reduced testosterone, broken funny bones, feelings of flying, feelings of falling, feelings of euphoria, hallucinations, halitosis, brain swelling, cough, and even death. Consumers assume all responsibility for ingestion of this quality product.

  7. That disclaimer will work as long as you stay topical, Ned. 😀 Perhaps you should specify optical and cranial consumption. The scary thing to realize that the warnings are on products because somebody actually did them! Unfortunately there is no way for manufacturers to anticipate every kind of stupid impulse which might be inspired by their products.

  8. I am laughing out loud by myself right now. The dogs are looking at me like I am crazy, which is nothing new. I will never look at a bar of Irish Soap the same way.

  9. Before you post blogs about shit, do your reasearch. That old lady you refer to was the passenger in the vehicle and mcd’s had received nearly 700+ complaints of their coffee being 100°+ (to hot for human consumption). She sued only because of the 3rd° burns she received. And only AFTER asking mcd to help with the med bill (which they refused) everything you think you know is just disinformation. Think don’t listen.

    Although you post is mostly relevant You still continue to disinform by failing to look for truth.

    1. Yeah, I saw that investigative report also, Matthew. And while it brought some things to light — including the media’s jump to quick conclusions and overall inaccurate spin that I, like millions of viewers, fell for — I still feel that ultimately we are responsible for our own actions. Whether she was the driver or passenger, and whether the coffee was too hot or not, we make choices that have positive or negative consequences. Had she been 20 instead of much older, I doubt the burns would have been as severe. And if McD’s would have paid for medical expenses, it would’ve have been an admission of guilt that could’ve opened a floodgate of other suits down the road.

      It’s not that I’m trying to protect big business and corporate interest, nor is it that I don’t feel terrible for that she was burned and had to live with the stigma that came as a result of the lawsuit (which I’m sure lawyers were more than happy to pursue). I’m just uncomfortable with what I feel is a growing lack of accountability within our society as a whole. As a humorist, I try to make my point in an entertaining way that, hopefully, gets people to think.

      That said, I really do appreciate your perspective on this, and for taking the time to read and respond.

  10. My professor was just talking about the McDonald’s incident in my Public Health/Community nursing school course. She mentioned that the water was dangerously hot, but that now water temperatures are better regulated. But I totally agree with you, at some point people have to start taking responsibility for their own actions/stupidity. As Albert Einstein once said, “Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity.”

    Wow, mine is the first reply in almost 8 years. Now I’m just hoping to get a reply… haha

    1. Hey, better late than never, Nate! That applies to both of us at this point! Thanks for reading and commenting… and watch out for that hot coffee! Merry Christmas!

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