Thursday, May 21, 2009

Product Warning Labels and Miscommunication

In 1997, Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch (M-LAW) began a contest to expose how frivolous lawsuits have led to a new cultural phenomenon—weird and zany product warning labels. Some of these are absolutely hilarious.
1. On a fishing lure with 3 steel hooks: “Harmful if swallowed.”
2. On a smoke detector: “Do not use the Silence Feature in emergency situations. It will not extinguish a fire.”
3. On an electric carpenter’s router: “This product not intended for use as a dental drill.”
4. On a baby stroller: “Remove child before folding.”
5. On a hand-held massager: “Do not use while sleeping or unconscious.”
6. On a household iron: “Do not iron clothes while they are being worn.”
7. On a package of shin guards designed for bicyclists: “Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover.”
8. On a box of sleeping pills: “Warning – may cause drowsiness.”

The list goes on, but you surely get the point by now. In an effort to avoid liability and avert lawsuits, companies have resorted to writing some pretty strange warning labels for their products—often with some unintended and entertaining results.

Communicating clearly what we intend to say can be a tricky matter. We’ve probably all had the unpleasant experience of being terribly embarrassed at something we accidentally said when we’ve mispronounced something or jumbled our words. Unfortunately, once our words are spoken, they take on a life of their own. It’s no wonder that James, the brother of Jesus, declares that “if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.” That unfortunately excludes all of us most likely. But by God’s grace, when we slip and say something harmful, let’s have the courage to make it right by asking forgiveness of those we’ve offended. Otherwise, we might need to wear a product warning label on our foreheads, advising others to be cautious about listening to our words.

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