Remember what George Carlin said about hazardous toys—how the kid who swallows too many marbles doesn’t grow up to have kids of his own?
Nowadays, the kid or adult who swallows too many marbles—or tries to fly while wearing a superhero cape, or uses a swine-growth supplement for anything other than growing swine—might file a lawsuit if things go awry.
That’s why you see warning labels on products. Sometimes, the labels can be wacky.
Bob Dorigo Jones, president of Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch,1 took notice of the labels more than a decade ago and created the national Wacky Warning LabelsTM Contest. M-LAW later partnered with Center For America,2 with which Jones is now a senior fellow. CFA now sponsors the contest.
The contest recently wrapped up its 14th year, and the winners were announced on Fox Business Network’s “Stossel.”3
Jones told John Stossel that he’s not trying to make fun of manufacturers.
“We’re highlighting a system that makes them feel like if they don’t do this, that they’re vulnerable to a lawsuit,” he said on the show. “And the bottom line is that the lawsuits that drive these warning labels wind up costing us consumers more for the things we buy, but also they remove products from the marketplace that we could use.”
Jones also wrote the book, “Remove Child Before Folding: The 101 Stupidest, Silliest, and Wackiest Warning Labels Ever.”
“Stossel” audience members selected this year’s winning labels from a group of finalists. The individuals who submitted the labels were not present at the taping of the show.
The $1,000 grand prize went to Alex Saenz of Dallas, who submitted a dust-mask label that warned, “Does Not Supply Oxygen.”
Second prize went to John Nevin of Holt, Mich., who submitted a bicycle brochure that contained photos of children riding the bicycle: “Warning: The action depicted in this brochure is potentially dangerous. The riders seen are experienced experts or professionals.”
Third prize went to Archer Leupp of Peshtigo, Wis., who submitted a label from the cover of an outdoor hot tub: “Warning: Avoid Drowning. Remove safety cover from spa when in use.”
Some warning labels “just leave you wondering whether you should laugh or cry,” Jones told The Small Business Authority in a phone call.
One of his favorite labels over the years appeared on the handlebars of a Razor scooter: “Warning: This product moves when used.”
Incidentally, Razor USA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a voluntary recall in 2008 of more than 100,000 scooters because of a laceration hazard.6
Another of Jones’ favorites is a warning found in the instructions for a Dremel rotary tool: “This product is not intended to be used as a dental drill.”
For more information, visit:
1. Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch
2. Center for America
3. “Stossel” clip
4. Wacky Warning LabelsTM Contest
5. “In Pictures: 24 Stunningly Dumb Warning Labels”
6. “Razor USA Recalls PowerWing Three-Wheeled Scooters due to Laceration Hazard“