Fair warning

In the first place, why should a pack of condoms come with accompanying literature? That’s why they’re called literature. Men don’t read them unless they’re required reading.

And if they don’t stop men from plugging appliances straight into sockets, anyway, what makes condom manufacturers think situations requiring the use of prophylactics should be any different? It is a superfluity heaped on something that men, deep inside, feel is a superfluity, in the first place.

Maybe the world is just getting so complicated. Manufacturers feel the urgent need to warn everybody about their products, to protect themselves from liability. I once bought a car freshener that carried the warning: “Do not eat!” So I didn’t.

On the manual that came with a flat iron, it said: “Caution: Do not iron clothes on body.” “May irritate eyes,” said the can of self-defense pepper spray. The Christmas lights were tagged: “For internal or external use only.”

And on a box of rat poison, the thoughtful warning: “Warning: Has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.”

In all fairness to manufacturers, there must be some segment of the population that doesn’t already know these things but is smart enough to read, and another one that is smart enough to read but don’t already know these things. It may be that twilight zone that is a rich source of tort liability.

Because we are told by several Internet sites, and are assured that this is not apocryphal, that on the body of a Boeing 757, it is written: “Fragile. Do not drop.” Pilots are busy people; they need to be constantly reminded.

So when I heard that condom manufacturers were catching on, I bought myself several packs of different brands. Solely — if I may just make it clear — for research purposes. For column material. Not to be used for its intended purpose. I have kept them in their unused state, for evidence.

The most helpful instructions were those of this hip new line of condoms that seems, from its packaging, targeted to the young market. So you can understand the high sense of social responsibility that underlies the thoughtful tip: “How to use: Wear condom before intercourse.”

On the instruction manual that accompanied a Malaysian-manufactured condom that prides itself in being “ultra sensitive” is written: “Don’t return used condoms to the distributor through the mail.”

I will, due to the condom’s “ultra sensitive” nature, withhold this incredulous snicker. Perhaps, in Malaysia, there is this phenomenon we don’t know about. People everywhere returning used condoms by mail. Something we should guard against.

Which leaves me with just one question. What does it say about a condom manufacturer that feels the desperate need to implore people not to return used condoms by mail? What kind of marketing pitch is that? Why advertise the fact that apparently unsatisfied users are resorting to their own return policy?

Let’s just say it doesn’t really inspire much consumer confidence. “Dear Manufacturer: As you can see from attached product…”

But maybe they’re banking on the fact that nobody really reads these things. Me? But I just bought them for research purposes.

SunStar Cebu
16 December 2004

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