DALLAS - Greg Jackson and Mike Willis say the Original Off-Road Commode their company sells is designed to be something hunters and the like can hang on a bumper in an emergency when a restroom can't be found. It never occurred to them that anyone would try to use it on a moving vehicle.
But, when they heard about one of their customers driving around town with a modified ORC, as they call it, attached to the rear bumper of his pickup, they worried. They might have a liability problem if someone actually tried using it like that and fell from a moving vehicle. Stranger things have happened.
So they slapped the label "Not For Use On Moving Vehicles" on the commodes. Wacky, maybe, but better safe than sorry.
The people who run the annual "Wacky Warning Labels" contest agreed, and awarded it first place in the competition this year.
The contest, sponsored this year by the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice, is intended to show how frivolous lawsuits distort the U.S. civil justice system, organizers say. They say the fear of lawsuits has driven companies to spend millions on common-sense warnings.
The Off-Road Commode is basically a toilet seat attached to a metal insert that slips into a universal receiver/hitch on any truck or SUV.
"We didn't design it to be permanently mounted," said Willis, president of national sales for Wylie-based Convenient Sports International, which has sold the ORC for five years. Jackson is president of the company.
"The product is intended for uses in the outdoors or in emergency situations," Jackson said. It "is designed to slip into the receiver when you need it and take it out when you don't."
Far from being embarrassed by the wacky label honor, Jackson and Willis have welcomed the publicity.
As soon as the national media ran the wacky label story, the phones at Convenient Sports International began to ring. And the ORC's Web site - www.theoffroadcommode.com - began registering hits, more than 1,000 in the first 24 hours, Willis said.
"We were totally overwhelmed with the response," he said.
And, although they couldn't say for sure that it's due to the label, there haven't been any lawsuits.
OTHER WACKY WARNING LABELS
- If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product. (On a bottle of drain cleaner; 2003 contest winner)
- Not to be used as protection from a tornado (On a blanket from Taiwan)
- Caution - Risk of Fire (On a fireplace log)
- Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover (On a pair of shin guards manufactured for bicyclists)
- This product not intended for use as a dental drill (On an electric router made for carpenters)
- Instructions - open packet, eat nuts (On an American Airlines packet of nuts)
- For indoor or outdoor use only (On a string of Chinese-made Christmas lights)
- Warning: May cause drowsiness (On Nytol Nighttime Sleep-Aid)
- May irritate eyes (On a can of self-defense pepper spray)
- Don't use while sleeping or unconscious (On a handheld massager)
- Eating rocks may lead to broken teeth (On novelty rock garden)
- Remember: Objects in the mirror are actually behind you (On a helmet-mounted mirror)
- Do not eat toner (On a cartridge for a laser printer)
(c) 2009, The Dallas Morning News.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.