McDonald's coffee, or does a self-evident label prevent user inju ry?

Subject: McDonald's coffee, or does a self-evident label prevent user inju ry?
From: "Bailie, Rahel" <r_bailie -at- trillium -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2001 08:58:54 -0800

Bailie, Rahel wrote:
After all, who could have predicted that MacDonald's would have to label
coffee as "hot" because customers burned their mouths? Or is that lesson:
never underestimate the softheadedness of a percentage of consumers? ;-)

Evans, Elliott replied:
Or is the lesson, "Never underestimate the temperature of McDonalds coffee"?
In short, McDonalds now labels their coffee because people were getting
third degree burns from it. *snip* In addition to labelling their coffee
as hot, McDonalds also now serves their coffee at a reasonable temperature
instead of at 40 to 50 degrees above the level that McDonalds' own research
found to be hazardous.

A similar situation arose in a plain language group, which focused on legal
situations. A ski hill began posting "prominent" signs so if skiiers went
over a cliff, they could not sue the ski hill. There was great debate about
what constituted the legal definition (what would win in a court of law)
of plain language: yellow vs red background, minimum point size, and so on.
None of this was intended to actually prevent injury. It was a CYA sign
to protect the company's bottom line. The company's feeling was that to
sit down with people and warn them of the dangers of skiing was
to their customers and would hurt business, but they didn't want to be sued
by someone who bought tickets, skiied, fell, then sued.

Similarly, I would argue that instructional or safety on a cup of hot
coffee is less about protecting end users than protecting the company.
Labelling coffee "hot" does nothing to protect a user from driving off
holding that cup of coffee between her thighs. The label does not say
what the temperature is, indicate the consequences, or otherwise make
a consumer think about consequences of using the product (because hot
coffee is what a consumer expects to purchase). What the company did to
protect customers was to reduce the product temperature. What the company
did to cover themselves legally was to put a self-evident label on the

And now I put this thread to rest,

Rahel Bailie

Develop HTML-based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver! (STC Discount.)
**NEW DATE/LOCATION!** January 16-17, 2001, New York, NY. or 800-646-9989.

Sponsored by DigiPub Solutions Corp, producers of PDF 2001
Conference East, June 4-5, Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. or toll-free 877/278-2131.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: RE: cooking instructions for Kraft Dinner
Next by Author: RE: Tech writers and cookbooks
Previous by Thread: RE: table of figures
Next by Thread: Re: When you really need to create a screen (WAS: Cursors! Foiled again.)

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads