Shonky Award season at CHOICE is a bit like Christmas – except that instead of presents we give companies the gift of the 'award no-one wants'. And instead of joy, we're spreading awareness. So probably not like Christmas at all, really.
But around the CHOICE office, there's a buzz of excitement as we prepare for the anti-festivities: the halls are decked with lemon decorations, the media team is tying up the media releases, and everyone is speculating about what kind of stunt our whitegoods expert Ashley Iredale will be involved in this year.
These are the moments most cherished by CHOICE staff from the first Shonky Awards in 2006 to the present day.
Ikea 'leather' couches – 2015
"My favourite Shonkys moment has to be when a soap opera was filmed surreptitiously in the Ikea showroom in relation to faux leather couches masquerading as real ones!" – Kim
"The seamless* integration of a Shonky into a Neighbours episode was one of my favourites." – Graham
Ikea got a gong for advertising non-leather lounges and armchairs in the "Leather sofas and armchairs" section of their website.
While it's impossible to tell what an Ikea product is from the name alone – Morgedal sounds like something from a JRR Tolkien novel, not a mattress – it's reasonable to expect that a leather couch from Ikea is made from, well, leather, right?
Back in 2015, Ikea shoppers were understandably confused to find some of the Swedish store's leather lounges were actually made from distinctly non-bovine products like polyester and polyurethane.
The details were buried in the fine print of the product information, with one model described as "durable coated fabric that has the same look and feel as leather".
We called bull on this tactic and awarded Ikea a Shonky for their hide.
Fortunately they 'herd' what we had to say and stopped trying to pass off 'cow-nterfeit' leather lounges as the real deal. (Sorry! We'll stop now.)
The not-so-smart Nanosmart laundry balls – 2015
"I think the Nanosmart laundry ball standing in for the Deathstar is always going to be my favourite. The glimpse into a day in the life of the Imperial armed forces is inspired. Who knew there was an Imperial laundromat? And who would have guessed that stormtroopers read CHOICE magazine?" – Jo
"I had popped into the office that filming day to pick up a new project and had my four-year-old in tow. He was very impressed to see Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers striding through the hallways of CHOICE!" – Mel
Can you imagine a world without washing powder? Nanosmart can, claiming their laundry balls allow you to wash without detergent. The only problem is they didn't work.
Sarah meets the guest of honour at the 2016 Shonky Awards.
The VIP dromedary – 2016
"It's got to be my first Shonkys at CHOICE in 2016 – we had a real camel at the event as we were naming and shaming Camel Milk Victoria for their dodgy health claims. It was certainly a unique introduction to an event that never fails to entertain, while also delivering on our purpose." – Sarah
"My favourite Shonkys moment was in 2016 when we had a camel at the Shonkys – we all wanted to get a photo with our VIP guest! The camel milk industry was charging $21 a litre and there were claims it was as good as breast milk and could cure anything from autism to cancer. After the Shonkys, within days the shonky health claims were removed from the retailer's website." – Uta
2016 was the year that the camel milk industry gave us the hump – claiming that camel milk was a panacea that could improve the immune system and help cure autism, diabetes, tuberculosis, cancer, stomach ulcers and more.
Chef Pete Evans (yes, *that* Pete Evans) also got on board, promoting it as an alternative to breast milk. It's probably not the most outlandish claim he's made, but that's quite a low bar!
2016 was the year that the camel milk industry gave us the hump
We referred them to the ACCC and Victorian food enforcement bodies, and within just days of the 2016 Shonkys, Camel Milk Victoria had removed the misleading health claims on its website (unlike Paleo Pete, who continued to spruik all kinds of wacky health advice and whose profile, ironically, aged like camel milk).
Lisa and Siobahn with (fake) camel and (fake) Pete Evans.
The dog days of CHOICE – 2019
"My favourite Shonkys moment was the year we got everyone to bring in their pups to draw attention to how unfair and problematic pet insurance was. There were quite a few dogs causing havoc out the front of the CHOICE offices. It was made even sweeter when we managed to help reform the industry and improve pet insurance products for our furry friends." – Pru
10 October 2019 was a very special day at CHOICE: bring your dog to work day.
But it wasn't all just pats and ball-throwing. The pups were there for a purpose: to highlight shonky behaviours in the pet insurance industry (in the cutest way possible).
Previously, the pet insurance industry was expensive and confusing, with so many exclusions and conditions on policies that many of them were basically pointless. It's a dog-eat-dog world, but we thought the way the industry treated consumers was a bit ruff.
To their credit, the pet insurance industry responded positively to receiving a Shonky Award. Insurers contacted us to take our concerns on board and made positive changes to their policies.
All in all, it was a win for dog-loving CHOICE staff and a win for animal-loving consumers!
The pet insurance industry received a Shonky for conditions that can render the insurance worthless. We reviewed 86 policies and 0 were recommended by CHOICE.
The time CHOICE went to the sunshine state – 2017
"One of my favourites was when we actually flew Ash to the Gold Coast and back in a day to dry a load of washing." – Graham
"I have this surreal vision of Ash standing on a Gold Coast beach with a pink floaty around his waist, as part of our Shonky Award for a Samsung washer-dryer. Strangely it seemed to make sense at the time!" – Rachel
The Shonky Award for... a $3000 waste of time and water.
If you're going to blow $3000 on a washer-dryer, you'd expect that it would be equipped with cutting-edge technology to make it effective and efficient, yes? Well, Samsung didn't think so.
Its WD16J9845KG washer-dryer combo took more than 6.5 hours to complete a cycle, used a massive 210L of water, and it cost around $400 per year on top of the purchase price to run.
Our experts estimated that in the time it took to dry a load of clothes, they could nab a cheap fare from Sydney to the Gold Coast and dry them on the beach. So they did just that!
Whitegoods expert Ashley boarded a plane and set up a clothesline on Kurrawa Beach. He was back in Sydney with a suitcase of dry clothes well before the Samsung had finished a cycle – and he'd managed to catch some rays in the meantime!
Fortunately Samsung discontinued the model after receiving the Shonky – yet another Shonky Awards success story.
The buzz – every year!
"My fave Shonkys moments are what happens behind the scenes. I love the excitement and pride we all take from the event. Mostly I love the incredible Shonkys Lemon Bake-Off entries – my mind is still blown by Emily's baking last year." – Helen
The Shonkys are a busy but exciting time at CHOICE. There's a lot of hard work that goes into making the Shonkys happen, but there's also plenty of fun!
We have a Shonkys-themed trivia quiz and a Shonkys Lemon Bake-Off to raise money for our charity partners.
And of course there's the buzz around the awards themselves – which company or product will be deemed shonky enough for a Shonky? (Sadly there are always plenty of contenders.)
Emily's winning Shonkys Lemon Bake-Off entry.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.