Fireworks! Get Your Illegal Fireworks!

Driving around Lincoln recently, I saw a billboard that caught my eye.

It was for the “Fireworks Emporium” in Rock Port, Missouri

The sign describes the Emporium as the “Home of the ‘Really Good Stuff'”.  What does that mean?  While they don’t specify anything, they do hint at it by mentioning their stuff is “NOT available in Nebraska!”  In other words, things that are allowed under Missouri law, but not by Nebraska / Lincoln laws (bottle rockets, M-80s, among others).

I was able to get a low-quality picture of the sign with my phone before the light turned green:


Come get your illegal fireworks!

I am struck by the message, and I admire the balls behind this billboard.

They are saying:  “Look – we know that Nebraska, and especially Lincoln, have some pretty restrictive fireworks laws.  But we also know that you want to celebrate the Fourth by blowin’ up some stuff that is bigger, louder, and more awesome than what you could find in Lincoln.  So take a short 80 mile drive down to Missouri and stock up on some seriously good stuff – the stuff that will impress your friends, scare the neighbors, and risk your fingers.  Sure, much of what we sell is illegal where you live.  But we don’t care.  Just like you don’t care.  So since you’re going to break the law,  you might as well do it right – with us.”

In short, this billboard is saying, “Come buy your illegal fireworks from us!”

I know, I know – the majority of fireworks laws are notoriously under enforced, especially on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th of July (as well as the nearest weekend).

However, the State Fire Marshall’s website states very plainly:

“It is illegal to transport fireworks across the state line as stated in Nebraska State Statute 28-1248. Only a licensed distributor or jobber may bring fireworks into the state. You may also want to check with the US Department of Transportation regarding any restrictions or requirements they place on transportation of fireworks.”

But the good folks that Fireworks Emporium in Rock Port, MO don’t really care about that.  Neither do the proprietors of the other big fireworks shops in Rock Port or Watson – two small towns in the northwestern corner of Missouri that are a bottle rocket’s flight away from both Nebraska and Iowa.

I wonder if other businesses employ this same strategy – enticing people with products and services that are illegal where they live.

The numerous casino billboards and commercials in Omaha (just across the river from legal casino gaming in Council Bluffs, IA) are the first thing to come to mind.  But there is a key difference:  For the casinos, you actually have to leave your state to utilize the product.  With Rock Port Firework Emporium, you buy them where they are legal, but then you likely transport and use them in a place where they’re prohibited by law.

Now that marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, do you think the legal sellers pot are advertising in bordering states?  Is there a billboard in Corvallis, Oregon advertising the Marijuana Emporium in Bordertown, Washington, taunting the locals with promises of the “Really Good Stuff” not available in Oregon?

For the record, I don’t have a problem with the Fireworks Emporium advertising in Nebraska, nor do I really care if product purchased there is blown up here (I will neither confirm nor deny having used bottle rockets inside the borders of the Great State of Nebraska).  But as a fan of advertising, I can’t remember another ad with a similar message.

Signs, Signs, Every Warning Sign

After tonight’s dinner, we had a little treat:  some Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie dough, right out of the package*.

*Don’t judge me – or my parenting skills.

The lovely Mrs. Feit Can Write asked if I knew what warning was in all caps on the package.  Feeling a little bit like Sgt. Al Powell in Die Hard, I rattled off the warning verbatim:  “DO NOT CONSUME RAW COOKIE DOUGH.”*

*Seriously, don’t judge me.  While this was not the first time I’ve had cookie dough from the package, I have an odd – and relatively useless – talent for remembering random things like this. 

My initial reaction was to claim that “Do Not Consume Raw Cookie Dough” must be the most widely ignored consumer warning of all time.  I eat cookie dough out of the tube.  You eat cookie dough out the tube.  We all eat cookie dough from the tube.  Seriously, does anybody actually bake cookies with the cookie dough they purchase?

Seriously? You can bake this into cookies? (image via

But now I’m not so sure.  Mrs. Feit Can Write suggested “WARNING – Contents may be hot” on the side of every to-go coffee cup.  People still smoke in spite of the “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer” warning/promise on the side of each pack.  And I won’t even get into the lists of bizarre (and sadly funny) warning labels that show up in your inbox every few months.

Personally, I think companies should simplify things.  Instead of putting “For external use only” on a curling iron, all consumer products should have a standard warning/disclaimer:

If you use this product in a manner for which it was not originally intended, you may hurt yourself or others.  If you are unsure as to the intended use(s) of this product, please call our consumer hotline at 1-800-YRU-DUMB.  Regardless, do not even think about trying to sue us or our corporate conglomerate overlords.

Yes, it is a bit wordy, but it sure beats the alternative – a world where every product has a four page list of disclaimers, warnings, potential side-effects, and other legalese in 8 point font.

Or, maybe we could all agree to accept responsibility for our actions and behaviors.  If I burn my thighs and groin, I should probably not have placed the paper cup of scalding coffee between my legs.  If I smoke a pack a day – and started smoking at any time after 1990 – then I deserve whatever karma Joe Camel brings my way.  And if I throw up tonight, it may be because of the raw ingredients in that cookie dough.

But it likely will be because I ate half the tube – although my lawyer is checking to see if we have a case.

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