You wanna know what pisses me off? Those stupid warnings they’ve put all over our products everywhere. But not because they’re warning me, but because they’re so damn patronizing about it. You’ve seen the ones at McDonald’s, when you go through the drive-thru and the sign says “Caution: Coffee is hot”. Now that’s just stupid. That whole old-lady-spills-coffee thing was always misstated anyway, but it wasn’t just that the coffee was hot. It was that their coffee was excessively hot, so as to burn the coffee and give out a coffee smell that would entice breakfasters to buy coffee. It was a marketing gimmick that injured an old woman. And McD’s had quietly settled many such cases. But I don’t want to get into all that.
The main thing is that it wasn’t just hot coffee. And I strongly suspect that those stupid signs aren’t really there to warn anyone, or to limit McDonalds’ liability for coffee injuries. I suspect that they put them up so that all the blowhards who complained about that court case see the sign and immediately think of that court case and get a little glow of satisfaction at how stupid that sign is and how stupid that old lady was; and thusly they like McDonald’s a little bit more, and maybe even buy some of that hot coffee. Maybe that’s just paranoid, but that’s what I think it’s about. I think they turned that lawsuit into yet another marketing gimmick.
And I’m thinking about this now as I’m eating an Uncle Ben’s Sweet & Sour Chicken Bowl, which doesn’t look nearly as nice in person as it does on the box (duh). And I’m reading the instructions and it says “Carefully peel back cover (steam is hot)…” Steam is hot?? No fucking shit. Who doesn’t know that? Oh, everyone knows that, or at least everyone who can read the instructions. So what the hell is that idiotic message about? Sure, maybe it’s to limit their liability, and maybe it serves that purpose. But I think there’s more to it than that. I think they’re insulting our intelligences. I think that they’re implying that we’re morons. And maybe we are, but I really don’t like the insinduations of that.
And I’m not sure where this is coming from. Maybe the top management sits around thinking up this stuff, though I think it’s some annoyed lawyer or similar such person who thinks the whole thing is stupid; so they’re intentionally insulting our intelligence, as a joke. Making fun of us rubes for not knowing that steam is hot. Or when they tell us to not sleep with the hairdryer on. That’s not a warning, that’s an insult. Nobody thinks it’s ok to spill hot coffee on their lap, or to have steam burn their hands, or to sleep with the hairdryer running. Nobody. And these messages aren’t going to prevent anyone from getting hurt.
And maybe some company got sued because they hadn’t warned people from sleeping with the hairdryer on; and maybe this warning will prevent another lawsuit. But I just don’t think that’s what this is about. I think that Corporate America has decided that we’re all fools and dopes who don’t even know when we’re being mocked. And maybe they’re right. But that’s not going to stop me from complaining about it. Nor will it stop me from issuing my own warning: The Uncle Ben’s Sweet & Sour Chicken Bowl sucks. It’s better than starving, but not by much. Considered yourselves warned.