The 2009 CHOICE Shonky Awards

The CHOICE Shonky Awards is like the film industry’s Golden Raspberry Awards (frequently referred to as the Razzies) for consumer products and services. Best summed up by the CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn, “The Shonky Awards highlight what is frankly ridiculous about some of the worst examples of sub-standard products and services CHOICE reviews each year”.
When Mark Communications invited me to attend a behind the scenes tour of CHOICE’s headquarters, I was more than curious to see where and how these products were tested.

Behind the scenes at CHOICE test labs - in the kitchen testing mixers and BBQs

I’ll just start off by saying that the CHOICE test labs puts a whole new dimension to a classroom science experiment.
Here are 10 interesting things I discovered:

  1. All tests are conducted in a controlled environment. For example, the kitchen is always a steady 23 degrees.
  2. Different food types, temperatures and loads are used to test BBQs. Did someone say party?
  3. The kitchen is definitely where the fun is. Varying textures from pizza dough to meringue were used to test mixers. They even test microwave defrosters with frozen quiches, measuring the temperature distribution on a hedgehog thermo conductor.
  4. Being a CHOICE tester isn’t for the commitment phobic. It takes approximately 2 weeks to test mixers, 5 weeks to test BBQs and 12 weeks to test 2 batches of fridges.
  5. Tested products are eventually sold half price to staff or auction houses, and occasionally, eBay.
  6. It’s all about accuracy and monitoring. Everything from heat to energy measurements goes through the calibration lab and if required, a correction factor is added. Heck, even rulers are calibrated!
  7. 28 different areas are tested inside a fridge; consistent temperatures result in a longer food life span versus of course, sporadic temperatures.
  8. It only takes 1 person to test coffee machines. Caffeine overdose? Oh, and they’re tested with short blacks made from Vittoria coffee.
  9. What stains are used to test dishwashers? A mixture from the 4 food groups of starch, protein, fibre and fat are used to stain dishes in quarters which are then left to dry overnight in a controlled environment.
  10. To CHOICE staff, hot water means 60°C and cold water is 20°C.

At CHOICE headquarters, testing dishwashers, coffee machines and eskies

While none of the Shonky Award winners collected their gongs, along with who’s who of consumer media, some bloggers and I had a good laugh at Vanessa Wagner’s demonstrations of just how dodgy these lemons were. And yes, that’s a rubber chicken you see in the stock pot!

The 2009 CHOICE Shonky Awards with Vanessa Wagner

The Awards that were most relevant to foodies include:
CHOICE Shonky Award: Water at what price?
Winner: Chefs’ Cupboard and Massel liquid stocks
Why: The liquid stocks are made from reconstituted powder or concentrate, meaning consumers are paying an extra $2.50 per litre for the convenience of pre-added water.
CHOICE Shonky Award: Honey I shrunk the groceries
Winner: Uncle Tobys Oat Crisp Honey cereal
Why: Shrinkage with extra packaging meaning that despite the RRP as decreased 6%, the unit price increased by 10%!
CHOICE Shonky Award: Cheese-fearing surrender monkey
Winner: Tiffany FP807 food processor
Why: It failed a simple cheese and mayonnaise test and the plastic parts of the shaft even crumbled. Epic fail!

The CHOICE Shonky Winners

Win a free 3 month subscription to CHOICE!
Want more unbiased product reviews and comparisons? Thanks to Mark Communications and CHOICE, one lucky JENIUS reader will be able to enjoy a 3 month subscription to CHOICE magazine. Simply leave a comment below in 25 words or less and tell me about a shonky product experience you have had.
Competition closes Sunday 15th November, 11:59pm. Winner will be announced on Monday 16th November. Competition is open to Australian residents only.

This competition has now closed.

Congratulations to Fiona, who has won a 3 month subscription to CHOICE!
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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.
  • ooooh that’s hilarious!
    ____
    my shonky product was a pair of shoes I had where the soles fell off, returned , replaced, then it happened again! Can’t remember the brand. 🙁

  • Bri

    Entertaining! Where can we learn about the other (non-food) winners of the Choice Shonkys?

  • Jen

    Hi Fiona, that’s a pity you don’t remember the brand of the shoes. Would’ve been nice to know so other girls could avoid them too 😉
    Hi Bri, there’s more info on the CHOICE website at http://choice.com.au/Reviews-and-Tests/Money/Shopping-and-Legal/Shopping/The-2009-Shonky-Awards/page/Introduction.aspx.

  • They were school shoes of some sort, so not sure!