Ashley Iredale is a content producer and whitegoods expert.
He's involved in every part of the testing process – from deciding which products to test, to project managing the testing itself, then writing articles and buying guides to share the results. He also does media interviews and responds to members' questions.
"It's a diverse role," he says. "It's helped me develop a very high level of knowledge around the products we deal with."
Here, he opens up about what it's like to work at CHOICE.
Describe your job in five words
It won't be five, but it will be brief. I project manage the testing and publishing of white goods and FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) to help consumers choose the best products for their needs.
What's the most common reaction you get when you tell people you work at CHOICE?
More people than I would have expected tell me they're members and go on to say how much they respect the organisation and how we've helped them buy a good TV or fridge or washing machine, which is nice to hear.
The other reaction I get from non-members is, "That's great, 'cause I need a new [insert product here]. What's a good one?"
Is that the CHOICE equivalent of being a doctor and getting asked to inspect the moles on someone's back?
Yeah, that's exactly it, just without having to cross unpleasant personal boundaries. But it's nice. It shows that there's a need for what we do.
"Even though I'm a content producer, I work in a laboratory – because science!"
What part of your job would an outsider think is bizarre?
Probably the sheer variety of products we test. Whitegoods are my stock in trade, but I've also been involved in testing everything from blood-pressure monitors to ice cream and hot cross buns. And the time it takes to test is, not bizarre exactly, but unexpected – it takes us a very long time to test and fact check the results. But that thoroughness is what makes our results so trustworthy and meaningful.
Also, people might not realise that even though I'm a content producer, I work in a laboratory – because science! I'm surrounded by some pretty specialist tools, and specialist people.
It takes us a very long time to test and fact check the results. But that thoroughness is what makes our results so trustworthy
Something else people might find surprising is that when we're testing washing machines and dishwashers, we use a really bad detergent. That's because if we use a good detergent, everything would come out spotless and we wouldn't be able to tell you anything about the mechanical performance of the machine.
As for some of the really bizarre stuff – I never thought I'd be interviewed on television as an expert in dishwasher cooking. I can't think of any other workplace where you'd be paid to do that.
What consumer rights issue really annoys you?
Marketers and salespeople telling consumers that a mediocre product is really good. This is the thing about CHOICE that I really like – we cut through all that rubbish to tell consumers how products actually perform, so they're not wasting their money.
RELATED: Find out where you stand with our consumer rights guides.
Tell us about the Shonkiest product you've seen at CHOICE
How to pick a favourite? The Geoclense Home Harmonizer – or, as we call it, a $187 block of solid plastic – was a highlight for me because it's so incredibly bogus.
CHOICE testing found Geoclense had "all the effectiveness of a tin foil hat".
And Viagogo is probably one of the biggest ones because of their diabolical and misleading tactics (passing themselves off as the official ticket vendor for gigs and engaging in illegal drip pricing). I've personally been stung by them too.
So even CHOICE experts can be duped?
Yeah, and when we are, it really stings. I find it really disturbing that there are just so many shonky products out there, and that even with our rules and regulations, consumers are still being taken for a ride.
RELATED: CHOICE Shonky Awards hall of fame.
Of all the products you've tested in the CHOICE labs, do you have a favourite?
A Samsung 16kg washer-dryer combo. Not because it was good – it won a Shonky in 2017 – but because it gave me the chance to fly to the Gold Coast and lie on the beach.
Because the problem with the product was it took six and a half hours and 210L of water to dry a load of clothes. We discovered that it was quicker to fly return from Sydney to the Gold Coast and line dry it on the beach.
What about non-Shonky products?
Well, some people might think dishwashers are boring, but we put a prototype next-generation dishwasher through its paces recently and I was totally geeking out over it. It's not available in stores yet, but it's smart enough to talk to your home's solar power system, so it can turn itself on once your power generation is in surplus.
Plus the attention to detail and thoroughness that went into every aspect of its design and manufacture was just astounding. One of the engineers said to us, "Do you like the action of the door opening? That was my bit!"
And being part of the testing for ice cream and hot cross buns was pretty high on my list. I don't think I need to go into detail as to why.
What's something most people should know about whitegoods, but don't?
That many of the components of your appliances can be readily recycled at the end of their life – in fact, scrap-metal dealers may even pay you a small amount of money for your old washing machine or dishwasher.
Also, washer-dryer combos actually use water to dry your laundry – sometimes up to 210L litres – and that's just to remove about five litres of water from your clothes.
We've seen cases where a fridge can detect that it's in a test scenario so switches itself to a low power mode to get a better energy star rating
Another thing most people don't know is that it's possible to put a circumvention device in a fridge. We haven't seen it for a number of years, but we've seen cases where a fridge can detect that it's in a test scenario so switches itself to a low power mode to get a better energy star rating. It's really bad because it means that same fridge, when used in your home, would be using a lot more electricity than it's supposed too. But again, that's where the value of our work comes into play.
What's the most surprising or useful fact you've learnt at CHOICE?
That your fridge is responsible for about eight percent of your home's total annual energy bill, and that often it's not the expensive cleaning products that do the best job, while some cleaning products are actually worse than just using plain water. Which again, is where the value of CHOICE testing comes in.
Yep, CHOICE staff really get to taste test premium vanilla ice cream
Complete this sentence? Australians need CHOICE because…
… there are so many people out there aiming to make a few bucks that aren't working in the interests of consumers. CHOICE is an independent organisation whose whole reason for existing is to make life better for consumers – through independent product reviews and testing, holding shoddy operators to account, and lobbying for better legal protections and safer products. No one else does that.
What would 9-year-old you say about your job?
"It's great to help people, it looks super fun, and do I really get paid to eat ice cream?!"