Warning: You Lost Me at “Important”

Too many warnings.When manufacturers overwarn, it dilutes the impact of warnings that consumers really need to know about. Over-warning is a serious problem — not to be confused with global-warming, which is also really bad.

Given some of the silly and dangerous ways consumers misuse products, one can have sympathy for manufacturers that don’t want to take chances. I’ve done consulting work writing product warnings and instructions for manufacturers and confess that I advise erring on the side of giving too many warnings.

But to waste space and, more importantly, short consumer attention span on worthless warnings that lead with telling consumers to:

1. Read these instructions.

2. Keep these instructions.

3. Heed all warnings.

4. Follow all instructions

… is just stupid. The most important warnings should come first. Even diligent consumers are going to tune out quickly reading these warnings (which led to the headline, a reversal of the famous line from Jerry McGuire, “You had me at hello”). No manufacturer has been or ever will be held liable for failing to warn consumers to read and keep their warnings and instructions.

Meanwhile, the list of warnings for this apparently incredibly dangerous alarm clock went on much longer, but I cut it off.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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