After a successful debut last year (and even a cameo appearance by Lifehacker), the ABC’s consumer rights show The Checkout returns to our TV screens this week. Lifehacker chatted with co-host and serial Chaser offender Craig Reucassel about what we can expect on the new series.
LIFEHACKER: The first series did very well and demonstrated that consumer issues could be covered on TV without resorting to current affairs-style clichés. Is The Checkout also taking credit for Today Tonight being cancelled on the east coast?
CRAIG REUCASSEL: Sadly, no — but we’d like to. I think we can just put that down to the good viewers of Australia finally waking up.
LH: What was the most surprising thing you learned during the first year of the show?
CR: There were heaps of little things. I was fascinated by how farmers got paid the same no matter what the milk was branded as. The fact that you can put out pretty much anything and label it as a complementary medicine kind of amazed me as well. The biggest thing I learned was how many laws there are to protect you and allow you to return stuff and take stuff back.
LH: There are going to be twice as many episodes this year. What are the challenges in doing 20 episodes rather than 10?
CR: So much more writing and research — and we only have one gag as well, so that’s hard, because we have to share that around.
LH: Technology companies were a definite focus last year. Will we see more exposes on dodgy behaviour in tech?
CR: We’ll definitely be doing a lot of tech stuff — we always do. I don’t know if there’ll be quite as much Apple this year. We’re going to look at the issue of GST on purchases online, and we’ll look at data roaming and the shift to 4G.
LH: What’s your favourite new segment on the show?
CR: One of the segments we’re looking at is called ‘The Active Ingredient’, where we compare two things that are exactly the same except for the price. That’s quite revealing. It’s incredible. You go: “I can’t believe people are trying to do pull this off”, but they do.
Heaps of this show this year is based on feedback from viewers and consumers. There are literally thousands and thousands of emails.
LH: Who scored the unenviable task of going through all the emails?
CR: Chas [Licciardello] read 5000 emails. He’s slightly obsessive, so he had to read them all and characterise them. He’s a strange man.
LH: Has your own behaviour as a consumer changed as a result of working on The Checkout?
CR: Even though you work on a show like this, you still find yourself saying “I know I’m getting ripped off here, but I just have to buy this now.” Talking to the people at Choice, it’s the same: “Even though I work on a consumer affairs magazine, I still end up getting ripped off.”
LH: Finally, can you offer a guarantee that The Checkout will not feature any footage of the cast naked on a wrecking ball pretending to be Miley Cyrus?
CR: I am unable to make that commitment, although I think there may be only one. It was very relevant. An important consumer affairs point was being made.
The Checkout returns at 8pm on Thursday 20 February on ABC1.