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Via Andrew Sprung, I learn that a couple of weeks ago a family in Maine bought a cake from Walmart and discovered that a paring knife had accidentally been baked into the bottom of the cake. No harm came of this, and apparently no one is really claiming that there was even any potential harm. But the cake buyers were extremely upset and say they might sue. Lenore Skenazy comments:
For its part, Walmart sounded almost sane and strong for a second, offering the family only its apologies and a replacement cake. Right on! But then a spokesman added that the chain was "now banning the use of pairing knives at its bakeries across the country."
Wha!? Just because ONE person in ONE Walmart screwed up ONE time with a paring knife--not an AK47--now the chain is banning ALL paring knives at ALL times in ALL Walmart bakeries? Are apples going to peel themselves for the pies? Is the store going to ban cleavers from the meat department, too?
What's disturbing about Walmart's response is how quickly and cravenly the corporation was willing to pretend that the problem was X, and now it is solved forevermore, by X banishment.
This appears to be almost universal human nature. If something bad happens, the instantaneous response is to figure out the ultimate root cause, no matter how trivial, and put in place regulations to halt it. In this case, it's paring knives in bakeries, even though there's exactly zero evidence that paring knives in bakeries are, in fact, any kind of systematic problem. In fact, quite the contrary. If this is the first incident of its kind, it suggests that paring knives in bakeries are perhaps one of the least dangerous problems in American society today.
But it's a very visible one, and that makes all the difference. If only carbon dioxide were a nice visible gas, we might actually be able to get something done about climate change, too.