Warned to Death
If you pick up just about any household item nowadays you will typically find a warning label.
Some are pretty standard.
Warning labels on car seats tell you that the backseat is best for your kids and the label on a pack of cigarettes explain the health risks if you choose to smoke.
These seem somewhat necessary and dare I say helpful.
Yet there are other labels out there that have their roots in customer incompetence and leave the thinking public wondering if companies just assume we are plain dumb.
Take for example the famous warning in some microwave instruction books, "please do not use to dry pets" or the tag on your hair dryer that warns "do not use in shower".
These aren't just some corporate safety geeks that decided to throw as many warnings out as possible; these labels were created because people tried doing these things with their products and didn't think it thru.
Microwaved pets and electrocuted bathers aside, my favorite warnings come from the world of food and drink.
Like the bag of peanuts that warns the customer this bag "may" contain peanuts, I would quite frankly hope that's ALL the bag actually contains.
The warning however that gets the most attention is the one found on cups of coffee and tea, "warning this beverage is hot".
This gem stems from an incident in 1992, when 79-year-old Stella Liebeck bought a cup of takeout coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Albuquerque.
Liebeck spilled it on her lap.
She sued McDonald’s and a jury awarded her nearly $3 million in punitive damages for the burns she suffered.
All because her coffee was too hot.
This week a similar case is developing right here in Canada.
A Winnipeg woman who was scalded by a cup of Tim Hortons tea is demanding new rules for how hot beverages should be served at restaurants.
Lisa Marchant suffered second- and third-degree burns on her left side after an extra-large cup of green tea spilled on her lap following a minor car accident.
While Marchant has not filed a lawsuit against Tim Hortons, she wants to see governments develop safe beverage temperature rules.
That's right, government regulation over how hot my HOT beverage should be.
Ideas like these speak to a growing notion out there that people can no longer think for themselves. We have become a society that no longer can have an accident without searching for someone to blame.
Don't get me wrong, I feel bad that Mrs. Marchant was burned by her cup of tea, but not for a second do I believe that any of the responsibility lies with Tim Hortons.
Coffee and tea are hot, we expect them to be.
In fact many fast food outlets have made these beverages extra hot because they know we may not be drinking them until we get into the office and nobody wants a cold cup of coffee.
Marchant's lawyer disagrees and said, "There needs to be some accountability and responsibility on the part of industry to realize that their products can be causing damage or harm".
Which to me proves running to government or taking businesses to court is fashionable. Taking personal responsibility is not.
The real solution to this problem isn't creating a new job in the public sector for a government hot water tester. The answer lies in making a few realizations about life.
First off, accidents happen. Some are even going to be your fault, while others will be nothing more than a clumsy mishap.
No further government regulation or detailed warning label is going to prevent it from happening.
The second part to that is simple, when these things happen you aren't owed anything.
We need to be able to take our bumps and bruises, dust ourselves off and not expect that someone will be waiting with an oversized novelty cheque to ease our pain.
So let’s back away from the demands for more government meddling and not be so quick to call our lawyers the next time we have a minor setback.
That may restore a little sanity to those that have lost a grasp on common sense.
Consider yourself warned.