Answer Man

Can you really get arrested for tearing that tag off your mattress?

Is it illegal to remove the “Do not remove under penalty of law” tag from your mattress?
Is it illegal to remove the “Do not remove under penalty of law” tag from your mattress? Flickr

Q: Has anybody ever been arrested for tearing a tag off a mattress or pillow?

S.P., of Mascoutah

A: Have you ever had to bop yourself in the head for not reading the fine print?

Well, it’s time to brace yourself for another smack.

You’re obviously still laboring under the silly but apparently widespread belief that you’ll break the 11th commandment if you remove those tags. I’m here to assure you that you won’t. If you examine those tags closely (I just cut one off my mattress, so there), you’ll see they plainly state: “Under penalty of law this tag not to be removed EXCEPT BY THE CONSUMER (emphasis mine).”

In other words, the second you get it home, you can rip, cut and tear to your heart’s content with no fear of a SWAT team ramming down your front door. Here’s the deal:

We’re talking about Title 15, Chapter 2, Subchapter V, Section 70c of the U.S. Code, which states “After shipment of a textile fiber product in commerce, it shall be unlawful to remove or mutilate or cause or participate in the removal or mutilation of — PRIOR TO the time any textile fiber product is sold and delivered to the ultimate consumer — any stamp, tag, label, etc., etc.”

The reason? Your health and well-being. In the early 1900s, the government learned some of the stuff being put in pillows and mattresses had the potential for transmitting pests and disease. Back then, companies were using everything from horsehair to corn husks as stuffing since the buyer couldn’t see what was inside the finished product.

As a result, the feds ordered tags be placed on such products to show their contents and whether the material was new or recycled because recycled material could contain lice, fleas, bedbugs or even human excrement. This regulation allowed consumers to make smart buying decisions while preventing stores from removing those tags under threat of prosecution.

At first, tags admittedly were stamped “Do not remove under penalty of law,” which seemed to apply to everyone in perpetuity, but “except by the consumer” was added later.

Apparently few have noticed the addition, because countless movies and TV shows continue to perpetuate the myth. In an episode of “Sanford and Son,” for example, Redd Foxx ripped off a tag and shouted, “Power to the people!” Even mattress companies have gotten it wrong. Serta, for example, once aired a commercial in which its familiar counting sheep were thrown in jail for the “crime” after the mattress owner said she didn’t need it anymore.

So if they annoy you, cut them off and sleep easy. Just one thing: Companies do suggest keeping them in case you have to make a warranty claim. And, oh, yes, you might want to start reading some of those terms and conditions before checking all those “Agree” boxes on the internet.

Q: I was telling my grandson about hunting rabbits with a beagle. I explained that you should stand and wait near the spot where it was jumped. After making a large circle with the beagle in pursuit, it will always come back. My grandson, of course, asked, “Why?” Help!

Joe Quevreaux

A: Let’s say Elmer Fudd is out to get that wascally wabbit Bugs once and for all. Like you, Fudd has found after careful study that every rabbit does the circle you describe. So what’s up, doc?

It’s easily explained, veteran hunter Max Watkins told The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City back in 2008. After all, a rabbit is only human. If you’re in your backyard and see a menacing group of strangers approaching, what are you going to do? If they’ve cut off the path to your back door, you (if you can still run) are likely going to race around the neighborhood, always with the intent of getting back to the safety of your house.

Rabbits have the same idea, said Watkins, 66, who has been hunting for decades. That’s why a hunter often can stay put.

“All rabbits will circle because when you jump them out of their house, the first place he wants to go is back home. That’s basically what the circling rabbit is about. People used to ask me, ‘How do you train your dogs to bring the rabbit back?’ I tell ’em it takes a lot of training, but it’s not true. All they got to do is follow the rabbit.”

So you can tell your grandson that your strategy is not nearly as hare-brained as it might seem at first glance. Of course, like Yogi, Bugs is not your average varmint, so good luck with that, Elmer.

Today’s trivia

Where would you go to see a parade in which all the floats told Bible stories?

Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s what even legendary collegiate basketball Coach John Wooden had to do to win his first NCAA Tournament game. Yes, in his 27 seasons at UCLA, Wooden would win 10 national championships (seven in a row) as he compiled an astounding 664-162 record on the college level. But did you know it took him 12 seasons at UCLA (and two at Indiana State) before he won his first championship bracket game? It’s true. After taking over the Bruins’ reins in 1948, Wooden failed to notch a post-season victory until March 16, 1962, when his squad defeated Utah State, 73-62. (I’m not counting a victory over Seattle for third place in the 1956 Far West Regional loser’s bracket). Wonder if schools today would be that patient? Bonus fact: Wooden, a 5-foot-10 guard at Purdue, was college basketball’s first three-time All-American and was Player of the Year on a 1931-32 Boilermaker team later picked as the national champion.