Warning: Labels

Warning labels are a product of a litigious society that drive prices up.


When you use a coffeepot, do you need a warning label to tell you: "Do not hold over people"?

Must a bicycle bell be sold with the warning: "Should be installed and serviced by a professional mechanic"? Of course not. Yet that bell also carries the warning: "Failure to heed any of these warnings may result in serious injury or death."

This is nuts. It's a bell.

The blizzard of warning labels means we often won't read ones we should, like the Clorox label that warns, do not use bleach "with other product… hazardous gasses may result." No kidding. Mixing bleach and ammonia creates gasses that can kill people.

But I rarely bother to read warning labels anymore, because manufacturers put them on everything.

A utility knife bears the warning: "Blades are sharp."

I know about such dumb labels because Bob Dorigo Jones, author of Remove Child Before Folding, asks his readers and radio listeners to send in ridiculous labels for his "Wacky Warning Label" contest.

"We do this to point out how the rules that legislatures and Congress make favor litigation," says Dorigo Jones. "We are the most litigious society on Earth. If the level of litigation in the United States was simply at the level of countries that we compete with for jobs in Asia and in Europe, we could save $589 billion a year."

America has more silly warnings mainly because, unlike the rest of the world, we don't have the "loser pays" rule in courts. That rule means that whoever wins a court battle is compensated by the loser. It creates an incentive not to bring frivolous cases.

In the U.S., the incentive is to try even dubious legal arguments and hope you'll hit the jackpot. Or maybe your enemy will pay you to avoid the bigger cost of hiring lawyers to continue the fight.

More lawsuits mean more frightened corporate lawyers smearing labels on everything, just in case "lack of warning" is an issue in a lawsuit.

That's probably why a toy Star Wars lightsaber comes with the label, "Not to Be Used as a Battle Device." Why would they bother to say that? Did someone sue, claiming they thought a lightsaber would do what it does in Star Wars movies? I don't know. The company never responded to our questions.

Some dumb labels are brought to us by dumb politicians. California requires warnings that something may be "toxic" or cause cancer on everything from foods to theme parks: "Disneyland Resort contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm." Gee thanks, California, but it would probably be better to warn kids about alligators over in Florida.

Dorigo Jones offers a prize to whomever submits the wackiest label. The lightsaber label won this year, earning Susannah Peat of Carmel, Indiana, a thousand dollars. You can submit your choices to try to win next year's prize.

Please do. It's important to make fun of lawyer-driven stupidity that distracts us from more important risks.

I suppose I shouldn't really blame companies. They've been sued successfully so many times for not having labels that they feel they must try to protect themselves. Injuries aren't the real danger here. Lawyers and politicians are.

When companies get sued, they end up charging higher prices to cover the cost of the lawyers. So those warning labels not only distract us but also are part of a process that makes us all poorer.

I worry that they also make us stupider.

Economists say that when people assume that government protects us from all possible harm, we acquire a false sense of security. We stop looking out for ourselves.
Those warning labels give us the impression that the law has assessed every possible risk—if something were seriously dangerous, government wouldn't allow it.

Lawyers and legislators' insistence that most every action be bound by written rules makes many of us forget to use own own brains.


NEXT: Brickbat: A Finger on the Problem

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  1. Unfortunately, the society is geared to dealing at the level of the lowest common denominator – that’s: a) the lawyers that recruit the clients to file the suits; b) the people who agree – “Geez, you mean I can get paid for being stupid? Kewl.”; c) the legal system that allows these suits to proceed; d) the various legislatures that are paid for by the trial lawyers associations; e) the universities and storefront operations that are turning out such a massive number of lawyers that they have to be looking for things to litigate in order to maintain an income.

    I think we see the appeal to the lowest common denominator in the rise of Donald Trump…but that’s another story.

    1. You forgot to mention the democrats who block any attempt at reform because of all the money they get from the trial lawyers.

      1. Fun fact, historically and as a proportion of current membership, a Dem congresscritter is overwhelmingly likely to have gone to law school. Moreso than the repubs (who also have an infestation of lawyers)

      2. Fun Fact John Edwards once considered a serious Presidential candidate. Despite the fact that his only claim to fame was getting rich from nuisance lawsuits. And while it was an open secret that the was cheating on his wife, the only news organization that bothered to follow through with that info was the National Enquirer.

        1. the only news organization that bothered to follow through with that info was the National Enquirer.

          “Best investigative journalism on the planet. Sure, read the New York Times if you want, they get lucky once in a while…”

    2. How’d you get that in @ 12:37, when the article wasn’t posted until 6:30 or so? Does Fist know about this?

      1. Warning: Article and comment tIme stamps may not be accurate..

  2. Warning: Toxic Commentariat

    1. Warning,: Do not allow the commentariat to go loose in California.

      1. Warning: Contains people known to the State of California to cause cancer.

    2. Warning: Comments may lack trigger warnings.

    3. WARNING:commenting on H&R may get you investigated by the ‘

      1. Warning: Incomplete thoughts.

        1. Mistakes were made,procedures were followed.

          1. Mistakes were made procedures.

            1. No dogs were injured in this post.

      2. Justice Department.

      3. I just assumed your comment was redacted by the [redacted].

      4. WARNING:commenting on H&R may get you

        May get you Blocked?

    4. Warning: warning Will Robinson.

  3. My favorite is the label on the butane lighter package – “Do not use near flame”. Classic!

  4. Why does deep dish pizza flavored casserole not come with a label thay says “This is not pizza”.

    1. The law does not have a definition of pizza, so you can label anything as pizza. I could sell you a peach cobbler labeled ‘Georgia Pizza’ and get away with it.

      1. And yet there’s a legal definition of “mayonnaise”? This is *outrangeous*!

        1. *** gets coffee ***

          1. legally “coffee”?

  5. Forget bicycle bells, unless you are a10-year old riding a pink Sting-ray wit tassels on the handlebars.

    Get yourself an Airzound!

    Kevin R

  6. The company never responded to our questions.

    Well, sheesh, John — *Sue* them!

  7. Anyone else see the ads for lawsuits on baby powder? When did this get to be a thing?

    1. When a purported link to ovarian cancer surfaced.

      1. If you’re getting ovarian cancer from baby powder, you’re using it wrong.

        1. Apparently this is incorrect.

          1. by what mechanism does it bypass everything else in the body and just cause ovaries to start growing tumors? I’m thinking there was a cluster of cancer and a correlation was seen that had no causal impact.

            1. Correction,you mean a cluster of attorneys?

                1. Cancer ,attorneys,I see you point.Maybe attorneys cause cancer?

                  1. It would be worse if cancers caused attorneys.

                    That’s a terrible symptom for an already awful ailment.

      2. Warning:Do not put baby powder up your vagina.

        1. /heads quickly to the closet for some Massengil

    2. The talc used in baby powder is the issue. It has been linked to many health issues, including lung and ovarian cancer. It can also potentially contain asbestos, since the talc mineral usually located near asbestos deposits.

      My wife is allergic to it. When she gets talc on her skin, it starts blistering and causes her a lot of discomfort.

  8. “Your Honor, my client reads neither English nor Spanish.”

    “The Court finds in favor of the Plaintiff.”

    *** pounds gavel ***

  9. I worry that they also make us stupider.

    WARNING: Stoss is trolling Nikki.
    WARNING: Nikki is the worst.

  10. Warning: these posts may contain SugarFree fiction which have been known to cause loss of soul, blindness, and suicide.

    1. You forgot to list nausea, vomitting, cerebral putrefaction, homocidal tendencies and dry scalp.

      1. Don’t forget dandruff…

    2. Wouldn’t loss of blindness be a curative effect?

      1. Once I was blind and now I can see.

        1. and then immediately wanted blindness.

          1. Just think of the savings on brain bleach.

      2. *soul loss, blindness, etc


  11. Citizens laboring cumbrously under disfiguring insecurity will smother their nation’s objects and actions with the stagnation of precaution.

  12. Warning: Welcome to Detroit.

  13. Kudos for shining a spotlight on why these kinds of obvious warning labels are needed, John. It’s time to start a national conversation about how we can put personal responsibility back to work in America. Anyone who would like to enter this contest or get information about the important work of the Center for America which sponsors the contest should visit us at

    1. Who the fuck are you?

      Are you the latest generation of Spambot?

      1. WARNING: UCS comments without RFA.

        1. Nobody reads the articles.

          1. And after having gone to check the article I still find a greater than 60% probability that this is in fact a new iteration of spambot.

              1. A: I’m not going to take a posting handle at face value.

                B: a search on the element with a low credibility rating in terms of identy verification does not speak to the veracity of the poster.

                C: The website being shilled by the unidentified commenter was not referenced in the article and has a suspicious name.

                1. WARNING: UCS will resolutely defend his poorly researched opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

                  1. “Overwhelming”? You take a name at face value and promptly assume anything that comes up under looking for that name is automatically associated with the actual poster in question.

                    That is not evidence, it is faulty logic.

                    1. -Bob Dorigo Jones is mentioned in the article as writing a book and running a Wacky Warning Label Contest.
                      -‘Bob Dorigo Jones’ comments on the article and directs users to a website.
                      -Google search shows that Bob Dorigo Jones is a spokesperson for the organization that ‘Bob Dorigo Jones’s’ link is directed to.
                      -The provided link directs to a website that administers the Wacky Warning Label Contest and shares the name of the organization for which Bob Dorigo Jones is a spokesperson.

                      UCS: ‘By way of superior reasoning a logic, I declare ‘Bob Dorigo Jones’ to be a spambot.’

            1. Dammit. I meant to say

              WARNING: USC can’t Google

              1. Poor university of south carolina.

      2. This is why we can’t have nice things here…

  14. TRIGGER WARNING: Life may expose you things that make you uncomfortable.

    1. Eeeck. Run and hides in safe space.

  15. Excess warnings also foster the emergence of superstition-grade thinking on activities and creations that rarely deserve this even while warnings are required and never posted on things far more pressing to be avoided- like government, for example.

    No fucking courthouse has a warning label on it stating: Caution: Building Exhibits Imprisoning Levels of Societal Insecurity

    Fucking scrape labels off the goddamn bikes and hang gliders and place them on the motherfucking institutions of the world.

    1. That is far too sober and rational a statement.

      Are you sure you’re Agile Cyborg?

      1. Yes, dear. Sorry about the altered states. I fucking despise trippy typing clattering off my fingers- it creates thread sewage and font malaise. Trying to work on this.

        1. Don’t. Please. It’s wonderful.

          1. Hush, you pink clit nozzle.

  16. One of the worst examples of lawyer driven madness I’ve seen is on the Can-Am Spyder (trike motorcycle with the two wheels in front). I don’t know if they still do this, but a few years ago I test rode one and discovered there is a little tray with warning labels on the instrument panel that must be pulled out and replaced every single time you start the vehicle. I assume this is disabled immediately by anyone who actually buys one.

  17. Warning: Do not stare into laser with remaining eye.

  18. I worked as an in-house attorney at a clothing company. It was crazy a) the dumb lawsuits that we got, b) how we mostly settled those dumb lawsuits for money rather than fight (from a business decision it made sense, but still always bothered me), and c) we would warn everyone about anything that could possibly ever go wrong.

  19. Does Stossel’s ‘stache come with a warning label?

    1. Warning: May be abrasive to vagina.

      1. but, It’s exfoliating.

        [insert Homer receiving free frozen yogurt scene]

      2. That one should be printed on everything.

  20. I don’t know if you ever read here, considering it’s syndicated, but just in case, how’s the lung? Any persistent pain from the repair?

  21. Back when I was formulating this ? ? I got samples of the ingredients in solution, with MSDS that said in case it spilled, “remove with soap and water”. Dammit, it is soap & water!

  22. I enjoy the series of warnings on drug commercials, especially the warning not to take the medication if you are allergic to it.

  23. >use own own brains


  24. “Injuries aren’t the real danger here. Lawyers and politicians are.”

    Lawyers don’t get to decide which cases go to trial. That’s the work of judges who have the power to dismiss a case as frivolous.

  25. Planters Peanuts

    Ingredients: Peanuts



  27. “Mixing bleach and ammonia creates gasses that can kill people.”

    I didn’t know that. Thanks for the warning.

  28. I enjoy the “It is known to the state of California” warning labels. Even if there is no good evidence that there is any correlation, somehow the “State” knows.

  29. “You can submit your choices to try to win next year’s prize.”

    In order to do that, I would have to actually read some of those stupid labels. I’m not abandoning my plausible deniability.

  30. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Clik This Link inYour Browser??.


  31. uptil I saw the bank draft four $8760 , I be certain …that…my sister woz actually bringing in money part time from there labtop. . there neighbour had bean doing this 4 only about eighteen months and resently cleard the depts on there home and bourt a top of the range Chrysler ….

    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ?

  32. before I looked at the draft saying $9453 , I have faith that my mother in law woz like truley erning money part time at there computar. . there mums best friend haz done this 4 less than 14 months and just repayed the dept on their apartment and purchased a brand new Honda . read here …..

    Please click the link below

  33. I’ve made $76,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student.I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money.It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..


  34. before I saw the bank draft which had said $9426 , I didnt believe that…my… brother woz like actualy earning money part-time at there labtop. . there uncles cousin has done this 4 less than fifteen months and by now repaid the dept on there place and got a great new Mini Cooper . read the full info here …

    Clik This Link inYour Browser??

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