Each year, consumer advocacy group Choice’s Shonky Awards provide a clear blueprint for businesses everywhere on exactly what not to do when it comes to producing a product or service.
Last year, dubious products such as pain-erasing pens and bank accounts for babies took home the gong for being some of Australia’s most questionable products, and this year is no different.
The consumer advocacy group, who famously does not hold back when it comes to shonky products, said in a statement their awards aim to “name and shame the shonkiest products and companies taking advantage of Australian consumers”.
So, without further ado, here’s the ‘winners’ of this year’s Shonky Awards.
Marriott hotel’s ‘timeshare’
According to Choice, Marriott’s Vacation Club International offering is a product which traps potential holidaymakers into a “bad deal for a lifetime”, by offering a 40-year contract term for week-long stays at Gold Coast apartments at a rate 938% more expensive than similar accommodation offerings.
The stay would cost $450,001 over the contract lifetime, compared to $14,907 for a comparable length of stay at a similar location.
“A lifetime investment product that doesn’t offer a financial return, based on an emotional purchase? That’s Shonky. This so-called investment is the bad deal of a lifetime,” Choice said.
Commonwealth Bank Dollarmites
CommBank’s youth-focused Dollarmites program copped a gong for relentless targeted marketing at “young minds”, says Choice.
Dollarmites also copped heat in the recent banking royal commission after it was revealed CommBank staff allegedly manipulated Dollarmites accounts to earn bonuses.
“While most people would agree that letting a corporation buy its way directly into the education system is ludicrous, we still permit virtually unlimited access to young children from some of the worst big business offenders in the country,” Choice said.
“Since 2011 we’ve tested 60 portacots and, shockingly, the vast majority have failed to meet minimum safety requirements. Most of us would assume that any baby product has been held to the highest safety standards before it’s released onto the market. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case,” says Choice.
The consumer group singled out a number of available portacots on the market, calling for them to be recalled over safety concerns over infant deaths.
A magnet underlay you can snooze on and reduce pain? If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because it is. And it’s made even more astonishing due to the products’ astonishingly high-prices, ranging from $50 to $500.
“With such a bold claim, you’d hope for some type of evidence, but there’s a clear lack of studies that prove these devices aren’t simply placebos,” says Choice.
The group singled out Dick Wicks and BioMagnetic Sport, companies which sell such devices at chemists across Australia, criticising them for not making their medical disclaimers more prominent on their products and on their website.
Choice has taken Australian pharmaceutical company Bioglan to task for claiming its homeopathic melatonin products are able to help customers sleep, with Choice saying there’s “no reliable evidence that homeopathic melatonin (or homeopathic products in general) has any effect other than as a placebo”.
“Despite this, the company makes the claim that Bioglan Melatonin helps ‘relieve mild temporary insomnia and symptoms of mild nervous tension’,” Choice says.
‘Slightly warm’ toast
There’s nothing worse than burnt toast, except maybe for mostly uncooked toast (also known as bread). However, Choice has slapped down KitchenAid’s 2-Slice KMT2116 toaster for failing the company’s toaster tests and producing “slightly dried, warm bread”.
“With no significant browning on any of our attempts, we had to give this toaster a performance score of 0%,” Choice said.
“This brushed stainless steel toaster may make your kitchen look pretty, but we think KitchenAid should release it in a new colour: ‘Shonky lemon’.”
Nutri-Grain sugar smash
Finally, Choice gave its last gong to Kelloggs for its Nutri-Grain Banana & Honey Smash Protein Squeezer, which the company found contained 14.7 grams of sugar, compared to just 5.6 grams of protein.
“We think companies like Kellogg’s need to be transparent about how much of their sugar is added and how much is intrinsic to the ingredients. If we know whether sugar is added, it’s much easier to make healthier choices in the shopping aisle,” Choice said.
Statements from the companies mentioned in the Shonky Awards can be found here.