BY NORBERT RUG
The opinions written here reflect those of the writer only. They do not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper, or its employees. This newspaper does not endorse these opinions nor recommend them. Do not try this at home. Proceed at your own risk.
I have observed that we now live in a world filled with legal disclaimers. During a sitcom I was watching on television recently, a commercial came on telling about the success story of a company that makes investments in mutual funds. While spending a large amount of the 30-second ad telling me that over the past several years they had, without fail, outperformed the “Lipper averages.” The commercial then ended with a very quickly spoken statement that past history was no guarantee of future performance. That there weren’t any guarantees when investing. That I was most likely going to lose every dollar I had ever saved if I trusted my money to this firm. (Ok that last sentence is mine.)
If past history wasn’t any guide, then why would they even mention how this firm’s selections had performed vs the Lipper average? (FYI, the Lipper average is “the average level of performance for all mutual funds as reported by Lipper Inc.” a subsidiary of Reuters.) Half the mutual fund companies are above this number and half are below it, that’s what makes it an average.
The commercial reminded me of the dozens of drug commercials that ended with a barely understandable, hastily spoken list of warnings that the drug advertised could not only cure your rheumatoid arthritis, but may also cause Blindness, Incontinence, Constipation, Diarrhea, Cancer, Excessive Hair Growth or Death. They make sure to issue these ominous warnings in the same sentence with all the possible benefits their product could have. I don’t think I am interested in taking any drug with this many side effects
It seems to me that every new car ad tells about their great longevity, safety and outstanding gas mileage and then quickly retreats from these promises by posting “your results may vary.” It appears that the new rule of television advertising is that you can promise the consumer anything you want in the first 23 seconds of a commercial as long as your legal team can provide you with wording to retract any and all claims that you made in the last seven seconds. Talk about C. Y. A.
One rule of thumb I’ve embraced is that if the last seven seconds of an advertisement, the disclaimers, go by so rapidly I can barely read them, much less understand them, I probably don’t want to deal with this company. It seems to me that they are trying to hide something.
It makes me yearn for the good old days of “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” and “Smoke mentholated Kools when you have a cold!” Granted, they were outright lies but at least they were not lawyer-sanctioned outright lies.
Thanks to Stella Liebeck who had purchased a cup of McDonald’s coffee, spilled it, burned herself and sued we now have a warning on fast food coffee cups that say “Warning: contents may be hot.” Part of the reason I buy a hot coffee is that it is hot.
What really gets me is the disclaimers that people with half a brain should understand. We have the ludicrous warning on a bag of peanut butter pretzels warning us that the product may contain peanuts. Oh my gosh! Is that where peanut butter comes from? Peanuts?
There is the warning on a box of Legos saying the package may contain small parts that might represent a choking hazard for small children. Have you ever seen a box of Legos? It’s all small parts!
I have bought toys that come wrapped in plastic bags. The bags are printed with a warning that tells you not to let your kids play with them because it “may result in suffocation.” What kind of parent would let a child play with a plastic bag? There are now more warnings on children’s toys than there are on a pack of cigarettes.
Even when you rent a golf cart, it comes with a gloomy warning sticker on the dashboard telling you that “Improper operation may result in injuries up to and including death”. Yeah, I have never driven before so you may want to warn me about the dangers of driving a golf cart.
When I grew up, we didn’t tell the doctor what meds we wanted and knew not to play with plastic bags. We also took responsibility for our own actions and didn’t sue if our coffee was hot.
All of these warnings make me want to grab a peanut butter sandwich, light up a smoke, take my arthritis medication, jump into my gas-guzzling car, get a cup of coffee at the drive-thru, go to the golf course, put a plastic bag over my head and see if I can roll over a golf cart.
Norb is a writer from Lockport. You can follow him here.