Do Not Attempt

The Title of this episode commonly appears as fine print in television commercials, where the advertiser wants to make sure no one holds them responsible for someone else being stupid.

I may add to this post, but here’s the one that forced me (yes, forced) to write this little episode:

  • Do not attempt an automobile collision while someone is hanging from the side of one of the vehicles, on the side of the collision.
  • Do not jump out of an airplane while holding a sphere of electricity and then hurl said sphere into a cloud that you are falling toward, filling it with lightning.

I know you were going to.


3 thoughts on “Do Not Attempt

  1. The “Do Not Attempt” disclaimer mania resulted from a commercial that showed a clip from the movie Smokey and the Bandit that showed a Camaro being driven in a stunt that was clearly impossible. The commercial didn’t contain any sort of disclaimer. Some drunk teenagers in a Camaro tried the stunt and got killed, and their parents sued General Motors, claiming the commercial caused the death of the kids. Never mind that no sane parent would give a 16-year-old the keys to a Camaro, or that it’s illegal for 16-year-olds to have access to alcohol. It was GM’s fault for running a commercial without a disclaimer.

    So now everybody puts in disclaimers that attempt to defend against all sorts of stupidity. I even have a collection that I use with my Practical Writing class when I discuss putting appropriate safety warnings into instructions. Enjoy: Things People Said: Warning Labels.

    • That’s a pretty funny link. Covering one’s ass is an important part of any product strategy.

      Some of the warnings, however, are actually not as silly as they sound when you consider the context, and one of them at least was clearly an indication that the manufacturer had a sense of humor.

      In the former category, some of the warnings would fall under the heading ‘behavior modification’. For instance, the sign in the mail truck that says, “Look before driving.” Sad to say, but when a driver is moving only a few houses at a time and sorting through mail, they may step in to their truck and begin rolling before looking out the windshield. The hope of the sign, I expect, is to reinforce a “look before driving” training module they had to sit through.

      On the other hand, putting the label “Turn off motor before using this product.” on a chainsaw sharpener may seem ridiculous if you don’t know how a chainsaw works, but when you realize that the motor can be running but the chain not moving, suddenly the warning isn’t as silly. Yes, it’s still pretty stupid to sharpen your chainsaw while the motor is running, but it’s just the kind of thing someone in a hurry (or with a balky motor that’s hard to start) might do.

      My favorite, “Do not wear for sumo wrestling,” is obviously a joke. I like that it’s both in English and French.

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