Sep 032003
 
Authors: Stacey Schneider

Last time I checked, Ronald McDonald was not standing on the corner with chains and brass knuckles forcing people into the nearby restaurant. Also, I am pretty sure that once inside a McDonald’s the 16-year-old cashier at the front was not force-feeding Big Macs to customers.

Despite the fact that fast food restaurants, as well as other businesses, do not force purchases upon customers, many people are all too quick to place the blame on the companies when something goes wrong. More often than not, the reason is due to incompetence. Instead of accepting one’s own stupidity, society has found it much easier to hold someone else accountable. We have turned into a finger-pointing nation and in the end the innocent (usually the businesses) end up paying.

I think the kickoff to this inability to accept responsibility began several years ago. During a routine coffee sale in a McDonald’s, a woman spilled coffee on her lap. Much to her surprise, the coffee was hot. Upon discovering that her beverage was not the lukewarm treat she had anticipated, she proceeded to sue the restaurant for millions of dollars. A jury, apparently made up of coffee spillers, awarded the woman a settlement. In order to punish McDonald’s for daring to serve hot coffee, the court required the restaurant to pay out and print the “Hot, hot, hot” warnings we are familiar with today.

The coffee woman opened the doors to a deluge of lawsuits. People were not satisfied with the level of stupidity out there, so they decided to raise the bar. A man who purchased a rotary lawnmower picked up the bottom part to trim the hedges and proceeded to hurt himself. Since the lawnmower company did not spell out that this might be a bad idea, he sued them and won. Warning labels popped up on a multitude of products due to lawsuits and court requirements. Check your iron. Somewhere in the information you will find a warning to not use the iron while clothes are still on your body. In addition to the required warning labels, businesses were forced to pay out hard earned money to people with no common sense.

The newest bout of lawsuits comes from people who believe fast food restaurants should be held responsible for their obesity and unhealthy lifestyles. Instead of accepting the fact that they are in charge of their own decisions, these people find it much easier to sue restaurants. In the event these suits make it successfully through the courts, more businesses are going to be punished for just trying to provide a service.

When will all the lawsuits stop? When will people start to face the facts? Companies are not responsible for how we act as humans. Businesses that are trying to provide for our benefit are being wrongfully accused and punished. This punishment comes in the form of monetary payment, as well as in the form of bad publicity and tarnished reputation.

I do not think there is one easy solution to this problem. People will always be eager to place the blame on someone else if they are given the opportunity. We cannot stop stupidity or create a more fair court system. The solution is going to have to lie in one court case that puts a stop to this madness. One court case could set a precedent for others to follow.

Until this happens, be prepared for more stupidity, more finger pointing, and more lawsuits. If you need me, I will be waiting this out over a chocolate shake and Big Mac.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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