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Bonnie and I did our weekly visit to “the big store” in town on Friday. Now, my lady is what you would call “an informed shopper,” she reads all the labels, researches products on the web before she buys them, and takes her time with decisions. Me, I’m a guy shopper. I throw a few things in the basket with little thought beyond price. But yesterday I started to notice how many products have warning labels on them. I began to walk around the store, trying to determine the variety of items with warnings pasted on them or printed in the instructions. The whole thing reminded me of an article I had written over a decade ago. I was able to find some pieces of that and patch together an up-to-date version on life in the greedy and stupid lanes.

Even for someone who rec­ognizes that we live in an age where people with IQ’s smaller than their shoe sizes are becom­ing wealthy overnight for doing something incalculably stupid, then hiring a New York lawyer to make someone pay them for it, I was still amazed.

Basically, I discovered that there are two kinds of warnings. The first, regarding federal offenses, intimidates you, threatening government in­tervention, fines and prison time. These relate largely to copyrights on books and videos, transportation of flammable liquids in illegal containers, walking through customs with undeclared fruits, vegetables (or glassy-eyed with white powder in your mustache), or shipping bombs, dead animals, or your cousin Hernando through the U.S. Postal Service.

The second, and certainly the more widespread, is basically a disclaimer, saying, if your mud­ dumb enough to put this in your eyes, over your head, rub it on you, eat it, drink it, or put your hand in it while it’s running, we’re not going to be responsi­ble.

Some of the things I found with warnings really epitomized the preposterous state of affairs in this society.

In sporting goods, Baitmaster Fish Attractant, which comes in a variety of flavors such as nightcrawler, crawdad, and frog, warns you not to spray the contents in your mouth. Are they kidding? The instructions on hair dry­ers warn you not to use while showering or sleeping. Warnings packed with large vacuum cleaners state concern for use around small pets and birds. I like that one. It conjures up all sorts of amusing images.

All toasters recommend that you do not immerse the product in water while using. Duh… One of my favorites is fast food hot beverage cups that now have labels stating that hot cof­fee may very well be found in the hot coffee cup. This, of course, is a result of the lady who ordered a cup of coffee from McDonalds, spilled it on herself, then promptly sued the company for $6 million and won, because of all things, the coffee was hot!

If this kind of thing keeps up, we may have to replace the old axiom, “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” with, “The dumber I be, the richer I am!” I suppose we can’t really blame the companies who attach these ridiculous labels to their products, what with the legions of people out there perched like vultures over a fresh kill, just looking for an opportunity to take someone to the cleaners. It’s become a way of life. But let’s be reminded, every time someone files a suit, you and I pay for a little piece of it in the products that we buy and the insurances that we purchase.

Let’s do our part to keep statistics down. Remember, if it has blades and whirs, keep your fingers out of it. If it’s electric, keep it out of the bathtub. If it says, “Not fit for human con­sumption,” don’t eat it. If it says “take one a day to feel better,” don’t take five, hoping to feel great.

Let’s all do our part to put class-action attorneys out of business and more money back in our pockets, where it belongs.

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