Unnecessary "Be Careful" Labeling?


Not long ago, I purchased a universal airplane/auto adapter. There was a packaging insert that exhorted me, the user, to NOT insert the plug the wrong way. There was even a “helpful” green line to help me line up the proper orientation (pictured at left, click for a larger view).

The problem was…. well, the plug was properly error-proofed. It was impossible to insert the wrong way. Great design.

So why the packaging insert? Why the green line? Seems like the “waste of overprocessing” to me. Extra helpful or unnecessary? How would you vote if it were your company? Do you do this to protect yourself from customer complaints, those who *do* try to force it together the wrong way?


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. Anonymous says

    “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

    –P.T. Barnum–

  2. Jamie Flinchbaugh says

    Is it for the customers, or for the lawyers? Unfortunately, product liability law is so in favor of plaintiffs, or lawyers, and almost encourages frivolous lawsuits. Why does Drano say “don’t drink me”? Because someone would sue if it didn’t. For US manufacturing companies, measured as a % of sales, legals costs are higher than profits. Tort reform is badly needed, and until them, the only benefit is we get these silly labels. And there are even websites dedicated to the practice: http://www.rinkworks.com/said/warnings.shtml

  3. Mark Graban says

    Don’t forget the annual “Wacky Warnings” contest:


  4. Jamie Flinchbaugh says

    Even better!

  5. Anonymous says

    Who ever said the legal/regulatory systems uses Lean. There’s a “frontier” for Lean – funding appears to be adequate also.

  6. Bob Yokl says

    My favorite is cereal boxes that are only two thirds full with actual cereal but the big box is used more for visibility and marketing. That box probably costs more than the product inside. I mean it is full color and heavy duty card stock, custom folds, etc. that is one expensive box.

    Sorry about not being quite on subject here, but with the food costs jumping up by 15% to 25% I am really looking hard at all the wasted costs in the name of marketing and visibility in the supermarkets. It is hurting my own personal bottom line. I would rather pay $2.50 for the actual product and not pay the extra $1.50 for a fancy (too big) box.

  7. Anonymous says

    Is this deja vu, or did you and Bryan plan a “connector dysfunction” theme this week?


  8. Mark Graban says

    Total coincidence. That was a nice post there. Here is the exact link:


  9. Mark Graban says

    Bob, we covered the supermarket waste issue back in February… there are some pro’s and con’s that people pointed out about varying packaging size… still seems like waste to the consumer though.



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