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 continue to go to laughable lengths to protect their customers, bombarding them with ridiculous warning labels or stunningly obvious explanations of how their products work. Here are 25 of the best--er, worst--we found over the last four years.
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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.
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 other doozies we found over the last four years.
Jabra Drive 'N' Talk|
Label: Never operate your speakerphone while driving. Product: Jabra Drive 'N' Talk.
The 2010 winner of the annual Wacky Warning Label contest, which challenges Americans to find the most ridiculous warning labels in the country. The Jabra Drive 'N' Talk is a Bluetooth speakerphone accessory for cellphones to be used in the car. So should it just be called the "Talk"?
Label: This product may contain nuts.
Product: Peanuts & Peanut M&Ms.
Often found on bags of peanuts, including those made by Sainbury, as well as on those yellow bags of Peanut M&Ms. All of which makes you wonder what some conspiracy theorists think they're buying.
Label: Do not hold the wrong end of a chainsaw.
Many chainsaws bear this digit-saver, in sticker form, right on their sides.
Label: Do not use while sleeping.
Product: Hair dryer.
Several manufacturers of hair dryers thought it necessary to warn users of the dangers of sleep-drying, an affliction that, apparently, befell somebody.
Label: Contents may catch fire.
Product: Blow torch gas bottle.
Just let 'em go up in flames.
Label: Do not drive with sun shield in place.
Product: Reflective cardboard sun shades for car dashboards.
OK, so what is the sun shield for? Presumably, hanging out in your car, alone, sipping a 44-ounce fountain cup of Mountain Dew, air conditioning on, sun shade firmly in place, contemplating where you'll drive when the sun finally goes down. Or you could just take the sunshade out of the window and drive in the blistering sun without it.
Label: This product may contain eggs.
Product: A carton of eggs.
So that's what those are!
Nytol sleeping pills|
Label: May cause drowsiness.
Product: Nytol sleeping pills.
Let's hope, for GlaxoSmithKline's sake, the warning rings true.
Staples's letter opener|
Label: Safety goggles recommended.
Product: Staples's letter opener.
Sadly, this was a misprint. According to Amy Sandler, a public relations rep at Staples, "The label is meant for our retractable box cutter, where the blades might slide off. Package redesigns are currently being shipped to Staples and Staples.com with the correct 'Keep out of reach of children' warning." Fair enough.
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.
Well, that sure takes the fun of out it: After all, who doesn't like being handed a blank check?
Label: Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level.
Product: Jet Ski.
This little ditty can be found on gas caps for personal recreational vehicles such as jet skis and ATVs. Should be followed by: "And if this was news to you, you are not legally permitted to operate this vehicle or, for that matter, leave the house."
Label: Do not put any person in this washer.
Product: Huebsch Washing Machine.
First load: towels. Next load: the youngest daughter.
Dremel Multipro rotary tools|
Label: This product is not intended for use as a dental drill.
Product: Dremel Multipro rotary tools.
You can't be too careful in this day and age.
Apple's iPod shuffle|
Label (on website): Do not eat.
Product: Apple's iPod shuffle.
When Apple introduced its digital music player in 2005, the company added this warning on its website. Parody or paranoia? The company wouldn't comment.
Bialetti Casa Italiana's nonstick pans|
Label: Keep pet birds out of the kitchen when using this product.
Product: Bialetti Casa Italiana's nonstick pans.
Polly may not have a thing for fancy cookware, and she might not like the fumes potentially given off by hot Teflon, either. "Many animal owners call us inquiring about it," says Richard Duran, a Bialetti consumer relations representative.
Solid advice, always.