Many reckless lawsuits are pushing companies into using labels on their products that just seem silly. While labels should provide useful and relevant information like instructions, warnings and ingredients, sometimes the wording used on these labels seems a little off kilter. All too often labels serve no other purpose than to overstate the obvious. What happened to the days of relying on common sense and telling it like it is?
One morning at a McDonald's drive through window, an elderly woman received a coffee that was too hot to sip and ended up spilling on her lap. She won a lawsuit mainly because the coffee did not warn her that it might be hot. Hence, "caution: hot" was since imprinted on all McDonald Styrofoam cups. Of course, you could argue that this type of information needed to be stated. Most labels try to inform a consumer about contents and processes used in making the goods. However, do you really need to be told that a bag of carrots contain "Ingredients: Carrots"? Also, many labels offer valuable warnings or guidelines such as age appropriateness. However, do you need to be warned that a Harry Potter broom "does not actually make a child fly"?
Various sources in the different industries decide on label regulations. For example, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) regulated ingredient and nutrition labels for the U.S. food industry. As for label warnings and instructions, most company lawyers and some federal laws advise the wording.
Some websites poke fun at labels currently on today's market. One site, for example, DumbNetwork.com, has a large supply of examples that would amuse nearly every consumer:
- "Instructions: Put on food." Product: Heinz Ketchup
- "It is not suitable for driving under the conditions of poor light." Product: Ray Ban Sunglasses
- "Never iron clothes on the body." Product: Rowenta iron
- "Do not use while sleeping." Product: Blow dryer
Many labels contain instructions on how to remove wrapping or the box's content first. While these instructions sound silly, many first time users lack basic skills and need a lot spelled out. In other words, what seems obvious to you is not so obvious to someone else - perhaps this explanation would make a great label! Occasionally, manufacturers include instructions to discourage certain unwanted behavior. For instance, many golf carts contain the warning "Not for highway use" to discourage mischievousness.
Even though many labels sound ridiculous, these labels must be worded carefully to ward off frivolous lawsuits and from preventing consumers from doing something harmful. One hair-coloring manufacturer may have hit the real reason on the head when it used this warning on the side of its box, "Do not use as an ice cream topping".
Short note about the author
Copyright 2005 Samson Bateson. All rights reserved.
Samson Bateson is the webmaster of Funk Label the best on-line label resources site. For any questions or comments please visit his archive of articles: http://www.funklabel.com/