Before you go any further, please scroll down and read one of my earlier posts (it doesn’t matter which one—you decide).
I wonder why so many of us do that? Maybe we think we are too busy to spend that extra few minutes. Or maybe we are so excited about our new purchase we just have to dive right in—’Pffftt. How hard could it be?’ Unfortunately, we often find out. How many of us have attempted to assemble toys, or (the dreaded flat-pack) furniture, or programme our phones, televisions and VCRs, by nothing more than the force of sheer determination, only to (grudgingly) then go back and rifle through the packaging to find the discarded instruction manual?
I have certainly have, on more than one occasion, and although my initial tendency is still to ignore them, these days I do try and at least ‘skim’ through any instructions I might receive with any new purchase—just in case. I mean, you never really know what you might learn . . .
Last week I bought myself a pair of crocs—just a nice pair of flat summer sandals to slob about in. (Don’t judge me—they were in an on-line sale at 50% off!) They arrived, all in good order, in two days (and they fit) so I was very happy, but it wasn’t until I was taking the tags off that I noticed they also appeared to have come with a set of instructions.
As the tags were attached to the shoes themselves I thought they must be ‘care’ instructions (e.g. rinse, wipe, repeat—they were only rubber after all) but on reading them I was somewhat surprised to find that they were actually instructions (in six different languages no less) in the art of using an escalator (presumably whilst wearing new crocs, although that was not mentioned) . . .
(To avoid severe personal injury when riding escalators and moving walkways—stand in the middle of the step facing forward; do not contact any surface next to the moving tread or step; step carefully when getting on and off; hold child’s hand and supervise at all times.)
All good advice I am sure, and if we had any escalators here in North Haven (and if I could borrow a child’s hand to hold) I would definitely follow said instructions to the letter . . .
So, possibly, there is part of the answer as to why we tend to gloss over the ‘Please Read Carefully Before Using’ bits. They can be (at least on the surface) not particularly relevant, often poorly written, overly complicated, or conversely, so simple as to make little or no sense at all.
Yet it appears that some manufacturers will still go to extraordinary lengths to protect their customers with absurd warning labels, or blatantly obvious explanations of how their products work . . .
On packaging for an iron: Do not iron clothes on body.
On a Swedish chain saw: Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.
In a microwave oven manual: Do not use for drying pets.
On a bottle of laundry detergent: Remove clothing before distributing in washing machine.
On a muffin packet: Remove wrapper, open mouth, insert muffin, eat.
A sign in a street in Hong Kong: Beware of people.
Rules on a tram in Prague: Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be persecuted. (And no, ‘persecuted’ is not my typo!)
On a toilet cleaning brush: Do not use orally.
On a blowtorch: Not used for drying hair.
On a bottle of hair dye: Do not use as Ice Cream topping.
On a toaster: Do not use underwater.
On a mattress: Do not attempt to swallow.
It’s easy to laugh I know, but perhaps we shouldn’t rush to judge. Even the best and brightest of us can sometimes get it completely wrong . . .
Years ago at the college we purchased a small blow-heater which we were going to keep under the Reception desk. As one of our colleagues (who shall remain nameless) unpacked the box we asked if there were any instructions attached (it was a bit of standing joke—she never read instructions.) Sure enough—‘We don’t need any instructions,’ she said. ‘There’s nothing to do. I’ll just plug it in and it’s ready to go.’ And she promptly did just that.
A little while later—’Can anyone smell burning?’ We immediately rushed to the new heater, turned it off, unplugged it and picked it up. After turning the heater on our colleague had, very carefully, set it down on the floor—with heating vents facing the floor, instead of facing outwards—and there was now a lovely, deep, dark, shiny, melted patch of carpet where the heater had previously been sitting . . .
Ooops . . .