I recently checked into a hotel and received a list of 10 traveler safety tips. These were printed on the folder that held my key and posted inside my guest room door. Tips included such things as: “Don’t invite strangers to your room; don’t answer the door to your guest room without verifying who it is, and if you see any suspicious activity, notify the hotel operator.” Also posted in the elevator and on the door were warnings to use the stairs instead of the elevator in case of fire.

All of these caveats seemed to be blatantly obvious to me — and then I wondered if they were obvious just because they had been repeated to me so often, or would they have been obvious anyway?

There is a lot of information out there that is so apparent to most people that the warnings fade into oblivion. “Watch your step before exiting the escalator.” “The moving walkway is now ending.” “Fasten your seat belts on the plane.” “Don’t flush products down the toilet.”  “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” “Don’t leave your child unattended in the shopping cart or on the changing table.” 

Would people leave their child alone on a piece of plastic four feet off the ground without anything to secure them without that little sign? Or, asked in reverse, does that little sign change anyone’s behavior?

I am sure there are legal reasons that many of these warnings are posted, and, of course, you need to comply with such requirements. But if you have latitude in what you preach or post, try to do so in a way that is meaningful and memorable. Rote is one step away from invisible and offers no value to anyone except the lawyers.

beth triplett

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