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Instructional instructions

February 9th, 2011 · 67 comments

Our submitter in Malaysia called this auto-reply from her coworker “a great way to ensure consistent passive-aggressiveness in the workplace, even when you’re busy holidaying.” (As always, just click the image to enlarge.)

Hi, Thank you for your email. I am on leave till 7 Feb with no email access. Should you need any assistance please drop me an email. Thank you.

It reminded me of these “instructional instructions” from the manual that James in the U.K. received with his DVD player.

1. Read these instructions. 2. Keep these instructions. 3. Heed all warnings. 4. Follow all instructions

related: Gee, that’ll show ‘em

FILED UNDER: e-mail · office · questionable logic

67 responses so far ↓

  • #1   Leigh

    Awesome! I am so using that next time!

    Feb 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm   rating: 7  small thumbs up

  • #2   Talia

    The only thing that could top this would be to include a phone # that automatically went to voicemail when called.

    Feb 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm   rating: 11  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   JetJackson

      And then that female voice comes on the voicemail and says “this carrier uses voice-to-email, your message will be converted into an email and sent to xx”

      Feb 9, 2011 at 8:01 pm   rating: 28  small thumbs up

    • #2.2   The Elf

      Brilliant! You have now composed my next out-of-office auto reply. Thank you.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 7:21 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #2.3   clumber

      YES! And then set up a mail rule that during out-of-office any email that comes in from voice-to-mail is automatically sent another out of office reply!

      At some point the universe will fold into itself if enough of us try it! WHOOOOO!

      Feb 10, 2011 at 8:25 am   rating: 7  small thumbs up

  • #3   Rossy

    “…feel free to try sending your message again, however be aware that doing so could result in complications, such as an infinite loop.”

    Feb 9, 2011 at 7:47 pm   rating: 13  small thumbs up

    • #3.1   AuntyBron

      … or a rupture in the space-tim contiuum.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #3.2   FeRD bang

      What do you take for that… Tums?

      Feb 11, 2011 at 12:29 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #3.3   Kate from Iowa

      Poor Tim and his rupture!

      Feb 11, 2011 at 4:03 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #4   punkypower

    In my office, people set their auto reply to “…if you need immediate assistance, call Jenny…” and “Jenny” usually has no idea that she’s fielding calls for the vacationing perp.

    Feb 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm   rating: 11  small thumbs up

    • #4.1   lupanime bang

      AKA “Should you need any assistance, please talk to Casey in Human Resources


      Feb 9, 2011 at 8:08 pm   rating: 38  small thumbs up

    • #4.2   AuntyBron

      Jenny’s VM message: “Hi! This is Jenny at extention 12345. I’m either on the phone or away from my desk. If you need immediate assistance please contact Casey in Human Resources at extention 22345. Have a great day!”

      Casey’s VM Message: “Hi! This is Casey in Human Resources at extension 22345. I’m either on the phone or away from my desk. If you need immediate assistance please contact Jenny at extension 12345. Have a great day!”

      Feb 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm   rating: 10  small thumbs up

  • #5   Durp

    I love those safety instructions. They make me feel so safe.

    Feb 9, 2011 at 8:30 pm   rating: 8  small thumbs up

  • #6   Canthz_B bang

    I recently purchased a pair of earbuds for use with an MP3 player and noticed that they came with instructions.

    Did you know the one with the “R” on it goes in your right ear, while the one with the “L” on it goes in your left?
    Well! That was a real eye-opener for me too!!

    I’m going to go read the instructions for my new deep-fryer now. I’m thinking about immersing my left hand in the hot oil, but just want to make sure that’s safe.

    Feb 9, 2011 at 8:46 pm   rating: 18  small thumbs up

    • #6.1   Smiley4099

      I once bought a kit to freeze off warts, and the instructions said not to use it if you couldn’t read the instructions.

      Feb 9, 2011 at 9:15 pm   rating: 53  small thumbs up

    • #6.2   Canthz_B bang


      Feb 9, 2011 at 11:05 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #6.3   Dalamara

      How would you know not to use it if you could not read the instruction telling you not to use it if you couldn’t read it?

      Feb 9, 2011 at 11:14 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #6.4   Canthz_B bang

      That’s why you must read the instructions!
      That’s where you find the info you need but cannot read. :-P

      Feb 9, 2011 at 11:45 pm   rating: 9  small thumbs up

    • #6.5   clumber

      6.3 – Exactly.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 8:27 am   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #6.6   FeRD bang

      I think Smiley wins this thread, that’s damn awesome! :)

      My own favorite stupid-instructions encounter was with my A/C manual. The “Safety Information” section started out providing relatively sane & sensible admonishments, but got progressively more wacky the farther you read.
      Included among the 2½ pages of safety bullet points are all of the following (I’m transcribing verbatim from the manual):

      • Do not use the air conditioner as a cooling precision instrument for food, pets, plants, cosmetics, or machinery.
      • Cool air should not flow directly towards people, pets, and plants.
      • Keep indoor temperatures stable and not extremely cold, especially where there are children, elderly, or disabled people.
      • Do not throw the remote control.
      • Do not drink water from the air conditioner.

      …It was when I got to that last one that I completely lost it. :D

      Feb 11, 2011 at 12:52 am   rating: 4  small thumbs up

    • #6.7   Canthz_B bang

      That last one really hurts the reclaimed air conditioner water salesmens’ business!

      Feb 11, 2011 at 1:04 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #6.8   FeRD bang

      Oh, @CB (way up top) — while it may seem dumb to spell out, in the manual for your ear buds, that the “R” bud goes into the right ear (and so on…), instructions like that actually do serve a real purpose.

      Yes, anyone should be able to figure out what to do with the bud labeled “R” vs. the one labeled “L”. But imagine that 1-in-100,000 person who’s never used ear buds before, and has just unboxed their very first pair. They wouldn’t necessarily know to look for labels on the buds at all, without that part of the instructions to point them at the “R” and “L” markings. Such seemingly-stupid instructions are really just meant for those rare folk.

      Feb 11, 2011 at 1:07 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #6.9   Canthz_B bang

      Um, they’re replacement earbuds, not an MP3 player w/earbuds. That I could actually see…possible first time user and all.

      Who buys replacement earbuds without having had a pair that needs replacing?

      Who’s so stupid that they can’t figure out that “r” and “l” refer to right and left without written instruction, because I want them very far away from me. ;-)

      Feb 11, 2011 at 1:16 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #6.10   Rattus

      Okay, apparently I’m a complete moron, but what is the purpose of right and left earbuds? I just got my first iPod a few months ago and I’m deaf in one ear, so I just put one random bud in my right ear. Should I be using the one labelled R all the time?

      Feb 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #6.11   Canthz_B bang

      I’ve never thought of that. I guess I’ve always just taken stereo for granted.
      I know I hate it when the left earbud dies and I only get sound in one ear, but I’d sure like to know why it’s always the left one that dies!

      Feb 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #6.12   unholyghost2003 bang

      OK, as a hearing impaired person who does not have 100% hearing loss in my “deaf” ear I have an answer for both of you! (the easiest description is … you know when you are really stuffed up and you can’t hear anything? That is what my “deaf” ear is like all the time. I can tell there are sounds but I can’t hear words or anything and there are some pitches I can’t hear on my “deaf” side at all. It is lots of fun to watch me try to find the beeping smoke alarm, since this means I have no sense of the direction a sound is coming from)

      Rattus, While I am not sure this is true for the iPod brand earbuds many other types of earbuds have a slight contour that makes them seat more comfortably and firmly in their designated ear. (BTW I am also deaf in my left ear … crazy) also (and this gets into the answer for CB) depending on the album/song you DON’T always get the same sound from each earbud. I noticed this listening to the same pieces of music on my earbuds and on speakers … some pieces of music divide up the main melody and the counter point between the left and the right, usually the right gets the main melody and the left gets the counterpoint.

      Feb 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #6.13   Canthz_B bang

      As good a description of stereo as any.

      Also, sometimes the sound transitions slowly from one side to the other, making it feel like say the drums have just gone through you.

      There’s a song by Parliament or Funkadelic (Theme from the Black Hole?) that ends with a transition that makes it sound like a spaceship has just flown over your head from left to right.

      found it!


      Feb 12, 2011 at 6:36 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #6.14   Smiley4099

      Also, if you’ve ever tried listening to “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonley Hearts Club Band” with ear buds, the singing comes out of one ear and the instruments come out of the other.

      Feb 14, 2011 at 12:59 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

  • #7   Odious

    Though it’s gotten better, most frozen foods used to have directions like the following one:
    1. Remove from package
    2. Place in microwave oven
    3. Heat until finished heating
    4. Stop microwave oven
    5. Remove product from oven
    6. Product might be hot
    7. Enjoy

    None of which are necessary except for the first word of #3 (particularly when wattages were all over the place).

    Feb 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #7.1   Canthz_B bang


      From a frozen pizza I just pulled from the fridge for this thread: “For food safety and quality cook before eating.
      Remove pizza from box and inner wrapper.”

      I’d love to see the moron who puts a frozen pizza in the oven inside the box and inner wrapper, or just eats the darned thing frozen.

      Probably just pours shampoo on his head and combs his hair too. “Lather, rinse, and repeat” being foreign concepts to him.

      Feb 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm   rating: 9  small thumbs up

    • #7.2   JetJackson

      I love the “Enjoy!” command that those meal instructions usually have. I just imagine that if you ever wrote to them to complain about the quality of your microwave meal you would get the following response;

      “We appreciate your feedback however if you read the instructions on the packet you will see number 7 says ‘Enjoy’. Please take care to follow this accordingly next time and we are sure you will have a much more rewarding microwave meal experience.”

      Feb 10, 2011 at 12:34 am   rating: 40  small thumbs up

    • #7.3   Cake Train bang

      About those frozen pizzas… I’d like it if they reminded you to remove that stupid round piece of cardboard on the bottom, it never cooks right when I leave it attached. Maybe they could just print “FREE FLYING DISC UNDER PIZZA!!” on the front, then I would be ripping the plastic off and taking it out before I was even thinking about eating the pizza.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 11:11 am   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #7.4   Ace of Space

      The problem is that when food companies have to demand that you Enjoy! the food, you know the food probably sucks.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm   rating: 5  small thumbs up

    • #7.5   satisfied

      still not sure what they mean by “Enjoy”…

      In any case, my pizza was indeed more enjoyable warm than frozen.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #8   cleanuponaisle2

    I have a cell phone with instructions that say (and this is from memory, not verbatim)… Avoid water, including steam from the shower and tears of joy. Don’t buy parts you need from anyone but an authorized dealer. This means buying parts from out of someone’s trunk. Don’t drop your phone, including throwing it out the window of a moving car.

    I wonder if the phone company thought people might not read instructions anymore. Good thing I’m ridiculously thorough and surpassed their expectations. I would have given up long ago, but I find my thoroughness almost always brings me pleasant and unexpected surprises like that gem. ‘Idiocracy’, anyone?

    Feb 9, 2011 at 11:10 pm   rating: 16  small thumbs up

    • #8.1   Dalamara

      And you know that they have such specific instances because they have had people who have done just that call and complain when their phone stopped working.

      Feb 9, 2011 at 11:16 pm   rating: 4  small thumbs up

    • #8.2   Canthz_B bang

      Worse, they’ve probably been sued because some defective product of conception felt that since there was no instruction to not misuse the phone, it’s the company’s fault that they misused it.

      There was a guy who won a huge award by suing a bicycle manufacturer because he was riding his bike at night, had no lights and was hit by a car.
      Well, bicycle lights are an accessory, not a standard component of your average bicycle, and can be easily obtained if one wants to ride after dark in safety. This guy didn’t do that, and the jury blamed the manufacturer.
      The bicycle maker should have sued the State for inadequately educating the citizens it plans to use as jurors in court cases!

      Feb 9, 2011 at 11:32 pm   rating: 18  small thumbs up

    • #8.3   cleanuponaisle2

      VERY true, guys! Like I said… ‘Idiocracy’. Similar to a certain someone who (recently *ahem*) couldn’t sing the correct words to the American National Anthem… We all laugh that these small funnies are cute… but there are only a handful of us left who can laugh and laugh knowing that …. eeee! we’re in trouble, might as well laugh while we can! (I can only hope that’s not true!)

      Feb 10, 2011 at 1:12 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #8.4   Canthz_B bang

      I swear, I understood why these instructions are printed after my second day of jury duty (not on the above case), and knew then that I’d never trust my fate to a jury of my “peers” because the “average person” tends to have less than average intelligence for some odd reason.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 7:18 am   rating: 9  small thumbs up

    • #8.5   Amy

      A judge once told me that he has no faith that juries can come to the correct result and, if they do, it is by accident.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 10:33 am   rating: 7  small thumbs up

    • #8.6   oi

      Just yesterday I was told that pharmacist wants to talk to me after collecting my medication. Pharmacist told me not to lie down at least for 10 minutes after taking medication to ensure it reaches to the stomach! I started laughing but she glared at me and said choking is a serious business. People die. Seriously?

      Feb 10, 2011 at 11:27 am   rating: 8  small thumbs up

    • #8.7   owlie

      Your pharmacist is an idiot if she thinks that’s the reason you shouldn’t lay down. It’s to prevent GI upset.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #8.8   Canthz_B bang

      oi, how long did she say you needed to wait before going swimming?

      Feb 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #8.9   Kate from Iowa

      I’ve recently read a terms of service agreement that contained the line “if you do not agree, then do not do any of these things.”

      Never underestimate how stupid people are…some things must be spelled out in excruciating detail for a certain segment of the population. Many of them may actually be in the departments writing these excessive statements.

      And Canthz…there’s a very good legal reason why toothpick wrappers say “not for use in eye.” If you don’t tell the idiots not to do it…

      Feb 10, 2011 at 1:19 pm   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #8.10   Dina

      As a technical writer, I suspect that the writers stuck that in there just to see if anyone read that far. It sounds like something my coworker would do. :3

      Also, whenever someone brings up Idiocracy, I always feel compelled to post this:

      Feb 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #8.11   Kate from Iowa

      Dina it made me laugh so hard I had to share. I sent it around to some friends, most of whom had the reaction “well, did you do any of them?” *sigh*

      One of them however, pointed me to this site a few months ago, so they’re not all lost causes.

      Feb 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #9   Divvitar

    What’s really funny are the foreign product instructions (especially from China) that are “translated” into English.

    Feb 10, 2011 at 1:24 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #9.1   unsatisfied

      Don’t you mean “Engrish”?

      Feb 10, 2011 at 11:09 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #9.2   matt

      case in point: packet of screws in korea labled “screw China”

      Feb 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #10   Grant

    Rule 1. Nobody talks about the instructions.

    Feb 10, 2011 at 4:02 am   rating: 12  small thumbs up

    • #10.1   Nunavut Guy

      What happens in the instructions stays in the instructions.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 6:34 am   rating: 10  small thumbs up

    • #10.2   The Elf

      And if this is your first time reading the instructions, you have to obey them.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 10:37 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #10.3   ashmeadow

      The instructions stop when the book ends.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm   rating: 2  small thumbs up

    • #10.4   matt

      These instructions are here to save your ass not kiss it

      Feb 11, 2011 at 9:14 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #11   Woman on the Verge bang

    Last time I left one of those “I will be out of reach so don’t even bother trying” email responses on my inbox, I forgot to take it down for a week after I was back. Finally my boss asked me if I could please change it… I loved knowing that the email request to change it was met by the autoresponse email.

    Feb 10, 2011 at 6:36 am   rating: 8  small thumbs up

  • #12   clumber

    At work, we have a support request software program that pulls reported problems from an email inbox. When a support request is accepted into the system, the sender receives an automatically generated “your ticket has been received and logged as issue #1234. IT staff will be contacting you, please do not reply to this message. This is an automated reply.” email. Around 10% of our users will reply to that auto-generated email with “Thanks!” or “Could you please also look into the cup holder…”

    This starts a loop. It is that much worse if the person sent the original support email cc:ed to other people as well, as they’ll hit reply-all with “Ok.” or “Why did this go to me?” and then we have multiple loops until it becomes Fruit Loops and finally Trix.

    Feb 10, 2011 at 8:37 am   rating: 12  small thumbs up

  • #13   Nahhh bang

    I’d leave a witty comment, but I’m not logged in.

    Feb 10, 2011 at 9:04 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up

    • #13.1   The Elf

      But at least you’re first.

      Feb 10, 2011 at 10:42 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

  • #14   mobiuschic42

    Eh, I could see the first one just being a mistake. I often just edit the details of my previous out of office message to make the next one, and it’d be easy to miss that you previously had “For any problems, send me an email”, especially when you’re trying to quickly set up your message before running out the door.

    Feb 10, 2011 at 11:59 am   rating: 1  small thumbs up

    • #14.1   Susannie

      Yeah, me too. I recently realised that my away-messages ended with: Have a nice summer..

      Feb 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #15   neurotic notes

    Best instruction manual EVER. As a diligent follower of instructions myself this would totally confuse me. This is probably what all instructions aim for though. Ever seen the IKEA assembly instructions?


    Feb 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #16   Cooper

    I got bored so I looked through the booklets that came with my computer. According to it, there are a few things it is a good idea not to do.
    A: Stick your laptop in the microwave.
    B: Stick your battery in the microwave.
    C: Hit your laptop with a hammer.
    B: Hit your battery with a hammer.

    Feb 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm   rating: 3  small thumbs up

    • #16.1   The Elf

      What? They don’t believe in concussive maintenance?

      Feb 11, 2011 at 9:22 am   rating: 2  small thumbs up

  • #17   moonbait

    mama always said, the key to the art of redundancy is being redundant, my mom always said

    Feb 10, 2011 at 10:33 pm   rating: 7  small thumbs up

    • #17.1   Kate from Iowa

      What did she say again? I’m having hearing problems because no one told me not to put the “L” earbud into my right ear before I sat directly in front of the air conditioner to make lemonade out of the water coming from it.

      Feb 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm   rating: 11  small thumbs up

  • #18   Burly

    #Kate! Welcome to America! If you are in America, you are entitled, nay, EXPECTED to sue Everyone who didn’t tell you not to put the “L” earbud into your right ear before you sat directly in front of the air conditioner to make lemonade out of the water coming from it.
    Except me.

    Feb 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm   rating: 0  small thumbs up

  • #19   Malaysian

    This being from Malaysia, I sincerely doubt that show of PA was intentional.

    Feb 24, 2011 at 1:31 am   rating: 0  small thumbs up


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