Offbeat

Wacky Warnings: Mobile Toilet Seat Snags Award

Bob Dorigo Jones established a silly contest 12 years ago that is still going strong.

Known as ”Wacky Warning Labels,” a toilet seat has recently won the annual award. The Original Off Road Commode won seats down for its label that warns not to use it while the vehicle is moving. Organizers of the contest declared the first prizewinner to be Steve Shiflett of Georgia, who won $500 for his submission.

Sold by Wylie, of Texas-based Convenient Sports International, the toilet seat is most attractive to hunters, and Mike Willis, who is the president of national sales for the company, is very pleased with the recognition brought to its product.

The seat is not designed to lock onto a trailer hitch and the company added the warning about two years ago after learning that at least one consumer had modified their product and was driving around with it on the back of his vehicle.

Although there could be only one first prize-winner, there were several others that certainly deserve honorable mention: second prize from that same contest is a wart removal product that warns: “Do not use if you cannot see clearly.”Daniel Berganni of Minnesota took home $250 for that one.

Third prize was a tie. Consider how difficult it must have been for the judges to decide between this ridiculous advisory on a cereal bowl: “Always use this product with adult supervision” and the bag of livestock castration rings that cautions: “For animal use only.” Michael Leonard of Maine and Freddy Krieger (not Kruger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame, folks) from Michigan shared the $100 dollars.

Behind the publicity of this wacky contest was the desire to draw attention to frivolous lawsuits via an annual contest and book written by Bob Dorigo Jones of the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch. The organization helps to trace the origins of different warnings for different products.

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In his own words:

“We want to expose how the American civil justice system is out of whack, and this contest allows us to use humor as a hook to start an important debate over how much consumers and families spend because of frivolous lawsuits, how much more they spend on everything from medicine to automobiles.”

Warning labels do serve an important purpose and we must not lose sight of that. After reading about some of these however, it might be difficult to keep a straight face. There are so many silly products with funny warning labels that could double as one-liners for any stand-up comedian worth his or her salt.

Some of these include remembering not to: use a hair dryer while sleeping, heat up a cell-phone in the microwave oven, use a curling iron in the shower, and last but by no means least, remembering not to swallow a fishing hook (which concerns more with the potential toxicity of the lead in the hook than the lovely aspect of just the hook). This can only be topped or at least considered to be at the same level as a warning against using “birthday candles as earplugs or for any other function that involves insertion into a body cavity.”

With just a little bit of research, one can uncover quite a few really ridiculous warnings on equally ridiculous products. Consider the 13-inch wheelbarrow where the warning reads: “not intended for highway use,” and the bathroom heater with the warning, “This product is not to be used in bathrooms.” Or how about the admonition written on a battery that reads: “Do not recharge, put in backwards, or use” and the baby stroller that instructs one to “Remove child before folding.”

Some warnings are just too much for words; such as the car jack whose label warns “for lifting purposes only” and the children’s cough medicine where the bold print warns, “Do not drive car or operate machinery.” Certainly among the most unbelievable has to be the cord phone that warns: “Do not put lit candles on phone” and the household iron that says: “Never iron clothes while they are being worn.”

Got any silly warning labels to share?

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