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.

The 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…


(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation and is Editor-in-chief at Siuslaw NewsHe is the author of Humor at the Speed of Life and Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist. Both are available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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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...

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

  1. True story: Husband’s ex thought she hated that famous take-and-bake pizza place because their pizza “always smelled funny and tasted chemical-y.” Then he watched her try to make one and had to dive into the oven at the last minute to remove the plastic, the foam tray, and the paper instruction sheet.

    They have since added the “remove all plastic and packaging, including these instructions” step to the baking instructions, but I’m comforted by the thought that she was probably rendered infertile by other stupidity.

    1. I have a friend (who now has a PhD. Seriously) who did that, only no one was supervising him. Fifteen minutes later, as black smoke was billowing out of the oven, everyone realized he hadn’t taken the pizza off the plastic tray. One of his gifts for graduation was the oven rack with fossilized plastic on it.

        1. That’s fantastic! So glad to hear you’re writing yohr own book, Rebecca! And so glad mine could help. You know, other than for squashing spiders 😉 Congrats!

          1. Haha I’ve had to rescue it a few times from Ranan but never put it in a position to squash spiders. 😉 I feel kind of insane writing my own. The deadline to get it to the editor is the 21st and I’ve been compulsively, maniacally writing at 3am for a week now. Lol

  2. You should add a warning to your blog. Something about drinking while reading could result in choking, and damage to nearby electronics,,,,

  3. Ha! Isn’t that the truth?

    My favorite warning comes from a five gallon bucket of pickles in a restaurant once and it said, “immersing head in pickle bucket could cause drowning.” It was good to know this, because sometimes in the restaurant business you are looking for new and inventive ways to off yourself.

  4. Five ways to fatally injure oneself with a bar of Irish Spring? Do tell. We use that here, and I don’t want to be irresponsible with it. And by the way, now I know what my dream job is.

  5. The really sad part is that most of the “warnings” stem from some idiot having ALREADY done something stupid. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have to be put on the labels. Stupidity really is impossible to fix!

    You know what a redneck says just before he dies???

    “Hey Y’all! Watch this!” 😅😅😅😅😅😅

  6. I was only on my first cup of coffee this morning when I started reading your post, so I’m slower than I would be further into the caffeine consumption. When I read the “remove child before folding” I couldn’t understand why you were folding the child. Like, in order to properly fold the child, you have to remove them [from something] first. Ooooooh, wait wait… fold the seat! Got it. 🙂

    1. Yeah, my brain doesn’t function without caffeine, which leads me to believe most of those warning were written by other coffee drinkers BEFORE their morning caffeine.

  7. My hairdryer says ‘do not use while sleeping’ and after I read this warning I was so bummed! Now I lose a half hour of sleep every morning while I dry my hair. My coworkers have had to label me: ‘volatile when tired.’ Very funny post, Ned. Found you through D.G. Kaye. Great discovery.

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