When a 2×4 is No Longer a 2×4 – Living Life by the Lowest Common Denominator


There was a small news story recently that went largely unnoticed across the country.  Home improvement retailer Lowes lost a $1.6 million lawsuit in Kalifornia (see what I did there?) for its the labeling of building products, specifically, dimensional lumber.

A Superior Court judge laid out terms by which the retailer must advertise its 2x4s and other dimensional materials in response to a civil “consumer protection” action. Judge Paul M. Haakenson, handed down the order in response to a case involving claims by the Marin County, Calif., district attorney’s office that the retailer “unlawfully advertised structural dimensional building products for sale.” His finding lists three main rules for the retailer to follow going forward:

  • “Common descriptions” must be followed by actual dimensions and labeled as such. For instance, a 2×4 must be followed with a disclaimer that the wood is actually 1.5-inches by 3.5-inches and include a phrase equal or similar to “actual dimensions.”
  • “Popular or common product description,” like the word 2×4, must be “clearly described as ‘popular name,’ ‘popular description,’ or ‘commonly called.’”
  • Dimension descriptions are required to use the “inch-pound unit,” meaning they must include abbreviations such as “in., ft., or yd.,” and can’t use symbols like ‘ or ” to denote measurements.

According to a 1964 publication by the U. S. Department of Agriculture titled History of Yard Lumber Size Standards, the national standard for lumber dimensions was established in 1924, with several revisions made over the years since. How is it, then, after 90 years of national, government affirmed standardization, the “consumers” of Kalifornia are so bewildered that one company can be singled out and levied such an exorbitant fine for “unlawfully” labeling it’s product?


The real underlying issue, the greater concern if you will, has nothing to do with lumber dimensions.  This case is a mere symptom of a much deeper problem. There’s an increasing ideological divide in this country in which the courts and our government continually impose laws and rules that pander to the lowest common denominator. I believe the birth of this mindset originated with the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit in 1992, which paved the way for these frivolous progressive “consumer protection” actions.  Common sense and personal responsibility have long since given way to this “nanny state” mentality, through which we all must be protected from our own stupidity and negligence.  After all, anything that threatens (reveals) our intelligence, or lack thereof, must be dangerous and offensive, yes?

Clearly not everyone thinks this way, hence the ideological divide. And make no mistake, the divide is real and gets wider every day as a result of the cultural and social dependencies nurtured by actions such as this lawsuit. I have no doubt that a significant proportion of the population is cheering this as a legal and moral victory. For every one of us who is outraged at the frivolous absurdity of this Lowes finding, there’s no doubt at least one counterpart in America who celebrates this as a victory against capitalistic dominance and discriminatory business practices.

We are a nation completely obsessed with taking offense. It dominates our news, our daily conversations, our social media, and shapes our political alignment.  Somebody please tell me, where is it written that anyone anywhere has a “right” to live without offense? Just because you’re offended, uninformed, underprivileged, or blatantly stupid, doesn’t mean you’re being discriminated against. And just because you’re inconvenienced certainly doesn’t mean you’re entitled to compensation.  Or at least it didn’t used to.

Everyone and his brother is fixated on one label or another, and any word, term, phrase, color, pattern, sign, or whatever that might cause someone hurt feelings is suddenly deemed insensitive if not discriminatory. Even our own US flag is under attack by those who worry it might be viewed as offensive. Imagine that!  Offensive!? Offensive to whom? And who cares?  This is America, and this is our flag, is it not?  But I digress.

We are becoming a nation of helpless entitled pathetic crybabies, more interested in reality television, selfies, and a government provided free ride than in learning and earning our way in this world. And God forbid, anything that offends any one of us, the lowest common denominator, might be socially and politically unacceptable. Perhaps all adjectives should be banned and we should all wear homogenous pattern-less uniforms of beige or some other benign color. While we’re at it, we can do away with nouns and names and just assign everyone a serial number. Equal income, equal distribution of wealth, equal opportunity regardless of effort or intelligence.  Socialism, Marxism, Communism…?  Where does it end?

You know what’s really scary?  There are plenty of “Americans” who think that’s a great idea.  How’s that for offensive?

I’ll tell you one thing, bub… if you don’t know that a 2×4 isn’t actually 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide, do us all a favor – instead of getting sawdust in your mangingo and lawyering up, put down the hammer, go buy yourself a box of tampons and a Midol, wash it down with that skinny soy milk double latte frappawhatever, and hire someone who knows what the hell he or she is doing.


About Bryant
Bryant is a business management and organizational development executive with over 20 years’ experience focused on financial and operational efficiencies, talent development and optimization, improved employee engagement, and cultural alignment of teams within the organization. He has diverse experience in successful financial and strategic planning, brand management, leadership analysis and talent development, as well as designing and executing improvements to teams’ cultural efficacy and organizational alignment. Bryant has experience in both International Public S&P 500 Corporate and Non-Profit Sectors, and also runs his own entrepreneurial business venture, a consulting company specializing in helping small businesses and organizations improve operational efficiency, leadership development, and employee engagement . Bryant holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelors in Fine Arts (BFA).

13 Responses to When a 2×4 is No Longer a 2×4 – Living Life by the Lowest Common Denominator

  1. mark160 says:

    Bryant, you should be more frank and upfront and not hold back on your opinions. Just say what you think, as long as you don’t offend me, my family, my friends, my community, my ethnic heritage, my religion, my color, my race, my gender, my gender preference, my hair color, my tooth color (if I have some), my plaid shirt, my khaki pants, my socks and my shoes, my coffee, my intelligence, my alma mater or my dog. It might just hurt my feeling(s) and I may have to hire me up a liar and suyu.
    Please not that all those involved in the decision made in Marin County has a Juris Doctorate. It’s the American Way. Boy, California is a great state to be FROM.
    (Jeez, I hope I didn’t offend the lawyers)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mark160 says:

    uh, “…please note…”


  3. The same thing happened at the other end of the store. The 16″ x 16″ patio pavers are now labeled 15.7″ x 15.7″. It causes all sort of confusion when customers try to estimate the amount of pavers they need for a patio.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dick Biship says:

    Well written with many valid points made but the last paragraph was more of an off color rant which I felt took away the overall value of the piece. Not at all acceptable, especially when alluding to the ladies in such a rather crude fashion..


  5. Richard J says:

    The rest of the planet is metric. Is it any wonder why everyone laughs at us when we can’t even get our act together on a 50 plus year old nomenclature system?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a similar problem with bi-lingual installation instructions. The English part is always pretty clear, but I just can’t make heads or tails of the Spanish part. I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before we will have to learn Spanish AND metric in order to be able to do our work.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Shel Sanders says:

    Yes it is stupid to do what the court did, but (the inevitable but) if I want to deal with items political and societal, I go to blogs devoted to just those topics. Virginia Toolworks has been one of the better blogs on tools and it should continue on in that tradition. Leave the rest to Fox News, Limbaugh and O’Reilly.


  8. Anonymous says:

    Well said, I was offended that there are those so far out of touch that they are offended.
    Coffee sold at a fast food store should be hot. When you buy a can of coffee grounds at the grocery, don’t presume its a 1 pound can.
    OK off my soapbox.


  9. Dave says:

    It is sad what this country has come to. America is becoming the laughing stock of the world. How any court would allow such an ignorant lawsuit to win is beyond me. I wonder if I can sue myself for all the hardships I have put myself through?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: