Warning labels, the volume knobs on small infants, Death By Vending Machine.
July 18, 2001 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Warning labels, the volume knobs on small infants, Death By Vending Machine. It's an ever-shifting line in the sand of human stupidity, a vague cultural boundary defining how much we expect our products and corporations to protect us from ourselves and how much we're willing to be answerable for our actions, a line dividing how logic-impaired we're willing to admit we sometimes are and how responsible a given corporation should be for dumping shoddy and/or dangerous products on the market without warning. Is excessive labeling a release from liability? Is it killing off common sense or the need to have common sense?
posted by th3ph17 (52 comments total)

 
Death by Vending Machine?
posted by Hackworth at 11:07 AM on July 18, 2001


Because of this, maybe we need "Warning: Penis may cause pregnancy."
posted by benjh at 11:11 AM on July 18, 2001


Check out Coke Machine Accidents for more on the case in question from the people who are suing. (via cruel.com)
posted by almostcool at 11:12 AM on July 18, 2001


Hey, penises don't cause pregnancy, people cause pregnancy. See also: "You can have my penis when you pry it from my cold dead fingers."
posted by jjg at 11:23 AM on July 18, 2001


My favourite, on a bag of peanuts:

"May contain nuts"
posted by salmacis at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2001


Is it killing off common sense or the need to have common sense?

I don't think labels would kill off common sense. However, they do make people think twice before sliding down railings, jumping off loading docks, tilting somewhat heavy vending machines in their general direction, etc etc...

While it's absurd that these warnings have to come from legal actions, it does help those less experienced with the cause and effect physics of gravity to interpret the possible consequences of their actions. On the other hand, I don't see the need for labels everywhere and on everything....it would be too much to read all at once and possibly dangerous, *especially* if on penises.
posted by samsara at 11:26 AM on July 18, 2001


I think it screws up natural selection, the herd needs more thinning!
posted by Mick at 11:32 AM on July 18, 2001


> those less experienced with the cause and effect physics
> of gravity

What planet would these folks have been born on?
posted by jfuller at 11:41 AM on July 18, 2001


I think the warning label on a coke machine is a Good Thing™. I've gotten mad at a coke machine or two, and contemplated rocking it -- it doesn't *look* that heavy -- until I saw the warning with the nice picture of the man getting squashed by the coke machine.

But the coffee warning is just plain dumb.

My favourite, on a bag of peanuts: "May contain nuts"

An aside -- plain M&Ms have peanuts in them.
posted by jennak at 11:44 AM on July 18, 2001


Was it Bill Hicks who once said that, if you do something that causes a company to have to put a warning label on something, your name and photo should also be included on the label?

I like that idea. "Warning: Vending Machine May Tip and Smoosh Your Ass. This Guy Proved It."
posted by UncleFes at 11:45 AM on July 18, 2001


Although excessive labeling bugs me as much as the next person, I'm annoyed that the McDonald's coffee case continuously gets tossed into this category. It was a legitimate suit, and McDonald's lowered the temperature of its coffee as a result.
posted by mrbula at 11:47 AM on July 18, 2001


I think people who make reference to the McDonald's coffee lady as a need for tort reform ought to be squashed by a vending machine. It's become a shibboleth these days; but as is usual, media coverage and short attention spans of stupid people means that we only hear the filtered and incomplete story. We think "har har spill coffee become millionaire har har we need tort reform". Of course, don't let the pesky fawkin' full story of the case get in the way, oh no. That might detract from your pithy little comments. Bastards....
posted by hincandenza at 11:49 AM on July 18, 2001


Oop- what mrbula said. BTW, I'm in a pissy mood this morning, so take my venting and ranting with a grain of salt.
posted by hincandenza at 11:51 AM on July 18, 2001


I know that the Peanut Bag thing is funny.. (Hilarious actually) but they have to put that on there, as well as the M&M bags, because people who are allergic to peanuts are usually severely allergic to them... In fact, people with allergies to peanuts don't even have to eat them for an allergic reaction, the *fumes* or whatever peanuts give off (smell, scent, odor) is enough to trigger a severe reaction.
posted by da5id at 11:52 AM on July 18, 2001


The McDonald's coffee may be legitimate, but what about the Mickey D's Pickle???

A knoxville couple seeks $125,000 in damages from a local McDonalds. The woman claims she was permanently scarred after a hot pickle dropped from a McDonalds hamburger onto her chin causing burns and mental injury. Her husband’s suit claims he “has been deprived of the services and consortium of his wife.” The suit contends that she was injured by an “allegedly dangerous and defective product.”

Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel
October 7th, 2000

Mental Injury? Puh-leese!
posted by da5id at 12:01 PM on July 18, 2001


one of the "Questions We Want Answered" at Coke Machine Accidents website: Why does the US Government provide Safety regulations when the Canadian Government does not?

the population of the US is ten times greater than Canada's, which means there are at least ten times as many dumb-asses in the US. with that many people pissing on electrical outlets and licking the engine blocks of running cars, you need all the regulations.
posted by tolkhan at 12:18 PM on July 18, 2001


I'm in a pissy mood this morning, so take my venting and ranting with a grain of salt

Huh. I guess venting machines really are dangerous.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:26 PM on July 18, 2001


I've gotten mad at a coke machine or two, and contemplated rocking it -- it doesn't *look* that heavy

it may not *look* heavy, but i'll bet you would have figured it out as soon as you grabbed it, thus, no warning label should be necessary.
posted by tolkhan at 12:33 PM on July 18, 2001


I think it's a mistake to assume that in all these cases, even most of them, the plaintiff actually believes that the company f'd up. Of course Coke shouldn't be held responsible if someone tips their machine over and kills himself (unless, possibly, the machine was negliently produced and was a genuine danger). I really think these are cases where something bad happens, and the victims or their families see a chance for free money.

"No, nothing can bring back little Johnny, but at least we paid off the mortgage." It's not right, but you can see why it happens.
posted by jpoulos at 12:34 PM on July 18, 2001


From "Coke Machine Accidents" linked above:

A toppled Vendo Model Coca-Cola Machine which was put in place, unsecured, by the Beaver Foods Company crushed him.

I like the fact that "put in place, unsecured" in this sentence has a clear subject (Beaver Foods Company) but that "toppled" has no corresponding noun to clearly point out who did the toppling. "Him"? "Him" was crushed, that's all the sentence says.

It's all conveniently vague. This college guy shares some responsibility for his own death. Right?
posted by bilco at 12:39 PM on July 18, 2001


I always wondered what those parents are thinking/feeling on the day they receive the check. I can't imagine a single thing I'd want to spend it on.

Monkey's Paw, anyone?
posted by UncleFes at 12:42 PM on July 18, 2001


"I think it screws up natural selection, the herd needs more thinning!"

Amen.

"Was it Bill Hicks who once said that, if you do something that causes a company to have to put a warning label on something, your name and photo should also be included on the label?"

And amen to this, too. I see a partnership between the companies that make these labels and the people behind the Darwin Awards.
posted by CrayDrygu at 12:42 PM on July 18, 2001


These people want to punish the vending machine company because they'd rather live with the memory of their son as an unfortunate victim of corporate negligence than with the memory of him pulling a Coke machine over onto himself. I can sympathize with that. People get nutty in their grief. (I still think the guy brought it on himself, literally, but I wasn't there when it happened so I can't say for sure.)
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:54 PM on July 18, 2001


OT: Ah, "Monkey's Paw"! That story scared the poop out of me when I was a kid.

(Took me awhile to figure out exactly what the ending really meant, but when the lightbulb finally went on ... wow.)
posted by bilco at 1:04 PM on July 18, 2001


hincandenza (and mrbula) - I read that your full story and I still think that McDonald's thing was ridiculous. What wasn't covered accurately by the media? It was coffee, it said on the cup it was hot, she spilled it on herself while trying to put cream and sugar in it in the car and got burned. All that article had in it was the kind of stuff lawyers use to convince juries to order payment of punitive damages that shouldn't matter: how she was 79 years old, how she got third degree burns, how she had to have a skin graft. That's all very sad but she still burned herself with hot coffee! The guy in the article even said the pictures of her burned skin and the expert who argued that damage to skin exposed to 180 degree coffee could occur in two minutes had a lot to do with the jury's award. Why should any of that stuff matter? What if it took twenty minutes to burn skin and she just left it there cause she was driving somewhere in a hurry? What if, for some reason, the coffee missed her and landed on her car seat, burning it, and costing $20 to fix? Would McD's still have been found liable for all those millions in punitive damages?
posted by jeb at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2001


Nothing illustrates the downfall of whatever it was that mankind once had to offer as a species so much as the phrase
"Rinse, lather, repeat."

If you hit a rhesus monkey on the head with a large rock, and then put it in a dryer for a couple of spins, and then gave it a bottle of shampoo, the monkey would figure it out.
Do you get it? Somewhere there's a person that needed to be told.

This seems like the logical result of that downward trajectory we're on.
posted by dong_resin at 1:14 PM on July 18, 2001


An aside -- plain M&Ms have peanuts in them.

Actually, they don't, but because they're manufactured and/or packaged on the same equipment as the peanut/peanut butter varieties, they're considered to be "contaminated" by the peanut enough to warrant that label. As da5id mentioned, the smallest trace can trigger a reaction in severely allergic people. (They're thinking of banning peanuts on airplanes for that reason.)

I think that food ingredient labelling is a necessary idea, and completely different from labeling things to tell people not to do dumb things with them. My personal favourite is on hair dryers and curling irons - do not use while sleeping or bathing. Is this *really* a problem?

Also from da5id, wrt the lady with the pickle-burned chin:
Mental Injury? Puh-leese!

If you were someone who took great pride in your beauty and you received a facial burn and the resultant scars, you would suffer mental injury. Severe, consistent pain (like that resulting from a burn) also results in mental injury, when viewed as part of a tort action. Now, since I've seen a pickle conduct electricity (because of the brine) I'm not sure that it'd take much to convince me that a pickle could become hot enough to burn someone, especially on the face, even moreso if the woman had recently undergone a chemical peel or other medicosmetic procedure.
posted by Dreama at 1:16 PM on July 18, 2001


when the lightbulb finally went on ... wow

I know! He was THERE! And been through the "mill machinery," whatever the hell that is. I'm pretty sure it ain't good, though. Scarier than a hot pickle.
posted by UncleFes at 1:21 PM on July 18, 2001


(They're thinking of banning peanuts on airplanes for that reason.)

OH GREAT! first they take away smoking, some flights don't serve booze.. and now they're gonna take away my fraking peanuts! that's it.. I'm taking the train everywhere I can from now on.
posted by tj at 1:31 PM on July 18, 2001


You know the safety warning on airplanes, "Fasten Seatbelt While Seated"? It means that, for your own safety, it's best to keep your seatbelt buckled whenever you're sitting down.

But when I was a kid, I thought it meant you should buckle your seatbelt while seated because it's impossible to buckle if you're standing up.

I thought that was pretty obvious.

(I know, I'm an idiot.)
posted by bilco at 1:33 PM on July 18, 2001


damage to skin exposed to 180 degree coffee could occur in two minutes

...um, Jeb: ...(From the full story link)..."at the temperature of McDonald's coffee, serious injury occurs to tissue in two to seven seconds. "

you're absolutely right, in 2 minutes you could wipe the liquid up or at least off. But 2 seconds?
posted by srw12 at 1:44 PM on July 18, 2001


bilco: ROTFLMAO!!!!

In all my air travel I've never considered that meaning. funny stuff... I needed that.
posted by srw12 at 1:48 PM on July 18, 2001


Dreama - I understand the pride factor in the mental injury, but how and the hell did the pickle *fall* onto her chin? She must have one hell of a huge chin! Jay Lenoesque even :-)
posted by da5id at 1:55 PM on July 18, 2001


Never underestimate the agile malevolence of a truly superheated pickle, dude.
posted by UncleFes at 2:08 PM on July 18, 2001


Never underestimate the agile malevolence of a truly superheated pickle, dude.

"Agile malevolence"?

Hmmm, I like that phrase. I think I'll use it as the title of my autobiography. Or my airport-bookstore-friendly legal thriller. Whichever I write first.
posted by bilco at 2:15 PM on July 18, 2001


"Now, since I've seen a pickle conduct electricity (because of the brine) I'm not sure that it'd take much to convince me that a pickle could become hot enough to burn someone, especially on the face, even moreso if the woman had recently undergone a chemical peel or other medicosmetic procedure."

Okay, 10% McDonald's fault for the gall of actually using pickles, 90% user error.

- verdict of a jury of one
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:17 PM on July 18, 2001


Looks like banning peanuts on airlines is already done. This link is old, but since the time this came out, I think peanuts have been permanently banned. I know I haven't gotten peanuts on a flight in 3 years at least.

As for the rest of this thread, I worked for tort attorneys for two years, and let me tell you, some completely worthless, fraudulent and ridiculous cases came through our office - and we took them. 90% settle out of court, despite the weakness of the case, simply because it's cheaper (in terms of attorney and court fees as well as publicity) to admit some culpability and get rid of the case than it is to try it.
posted by jennaratrix at 2:54 PM on July 18, 2001


About the vending machines... My sister owned a soda vending service, and her (ex)brother-in-law was a driver for Coke.

Man. The stories I've heard... detached arms and other extremities found wedged under a toppled machine, for example.

Just plain dumb to get angry with a machine weighing several hundred pounds.
posted by silusGROK at 3:05 PM on July 18, 2001


"Rinse, lather, repeat."

The thing that transforms this into genius is the word "repeat." let's say you work for Shampoo Company, and one day you come up with a one-word addition to your bottles that will double the sales of your product. Would you use it? Do you think that guy got a raise or what?
posted by rodii at 3:13 PM on July 18, 2001


but because they're manufactured and/or packaged on the same equipment as the peanut/peanut butter varieties, they're considered to be "contaminated" by the peanut enough to warrant that label

Well, they have enough peanuts in 'em to make me blow-up and die.

Just plain dumb to get angry with a machine weighing several hundred pounds.

My money's on the coke machine.
posted by jennak at 3:24 PM on July 18, 2001


From Facts About the Accident:

Why did the Sherbrooke Police play at tilting the machine themselves to see if they could tip it? Is not that the role of experts?

Man, I knew my advanced degree in Coke Machine Tipping would come in handy some day. I wonder when they'll call me.
posted by briandame at 3:32 PM on July 18, 2001


radical new idea: Use Weeble-Wobble designs for machines? what do you think?
posted by th3ph17 at 3:33 PM on July 18, 2001


Oops, that question was on the main page.
posted by briandame at 3:33 PM on July 18, 2001


Nothing illustrates the downfall of whatever it was that mankind once had to offer as a species so much as the phrase "Rinse, lather, repeat."

Especially since the correct order is lather, rinse, repeat.
posted by whuppy at 3:54 PM on July 18, 2001


Three words: Lowest Common Denominator

On the vending machines...I'm sure the machine design exceeded it's intended use....sitting on the ground, stationary and dispensing cold drinks. So, the vending company is to blame for this moron shaking the machine until if fell on top of him and killed him? It is sad, but where do we draw the line?!
posted by 120degrees at 4:04 PM on July 18, 2001


If I lather, then rinse, then repeat, I go back to step one. So I rinse, lather, and then repeat, so I go back to step one. So I rinse, lather, and then repeat, so I go back to step one. So I rinse, lather, and then repeat, so I go back to step one. So I rinse, lather, and then repeat, so I go back to step one. So I rinse, lather, and then repeat, so I go back to step one. So I rinse, lather, and then repeat, so I go back to step one.... they need a warning on that bottle that says at what point to stop.
posted by benjh at 4:15 PM on July 18, 2001


Damn, the correction was two posts up and I still screwed it up.
posted by benjh at 4:16 PM on July 18, 2001


Well let's suppose you have any machine/weight that is not anchored to wall/floor , but that is reasonably stable if not tilted by any fool ; you still would need to secure the machine/weight if , for example, it's located in place that's affected by earthquakes. It makes total sense.

Yeah that's not the subject of this coke story, but I guess the flaming idiot already got what he deserved for his idiocy.

My point is that..well..you can't fix idiocy but as soon as you discover that an idiot has found a new way to harm himself you should at least try to fix the problem, when reasonably possible. That could help preventing potential lawsuit from idiot customers (which are a sizable portion of total customers I think).
posted by elpapacito at 6:39 PM on July 18, 2001


Looks like banning peanuts on airlines is already done. This link is old, but since the time this came out, I think peanuts have been permanently banned.

Southwest gave me peanuts on a flight a few months ago. First time in a few years, though.
posted by fidelity at 7:32 PM on July 18, 2001


Wow, I just figured out why you can't open more than one drawer at a time on a filing cabinet.

BTW I googled for a bit and found this old piece. This vending machine problem seems to have been an issue for many years. There appears to be a copy of a warning sign on the page, has anyone ever seen it (the piece seems to be referring to the US)?
posted by davehat at 8:41 PM on July 18, 2001


Swear to god, on my shampoo it says "rinse, lather, repeat", in that order.
You're right rodii, "repeat" is the master stroke, there.
posted by dong_resin at 10:05 PM on July 18, 2001


A few years ago, the tiny plastic bags of Goody Pony Elastics used to have instructions on how to tie a pony tail. I'm sorry, but if you're too dumb to figure out how to use an elastic band to tie a pony tail, you probably won't be able to open the plastic bag to get to the elastics anyway.
posted by lia at 12:10 AM on July 19, 2001


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