The CHOICE "Shonky Awards" have named and shamed the dodgiest consumer products of 2014, with Thermomix "winning" the consumer vote by a landslide. The once-loved kitchen appliance received more nominations than any product in the award's nine-year history. Hell hath no fury like a Thermo fan scorned.
Each year, consumer watchdog CHOICE doles out the dreaded "Shonkys" — an anti-prize for terrible products and services that injure, mislead or rip-off Australian consumers. This year's finalists included Arnott's "Peanut Butter Flavoured" Tim Tams (which use paprika instead of peanuts), Kmart-branded swimwear (which contained a minuscule "see-through when wet" warning) and the Commonwealth Bank for its wide-scale financial planning scandal and subsequent lobbying against financial advice protections.
However, the company that received the most nominations by far was Thermomix manufacturer Vorwerk. The high-end kitchen appliance vendor drew the ire of the Thermomix community for failing to announce that a new, smartphone-enabled model was in the pipeline prior to its appearance on store shelves. This resulted in hundreds of consumers buying the older model at full price — mere days before it was superseded without warning.
Of course, there's nothing new about products being replaced by newer models — the issue here was the high level of secrecy and a perception of deliberate misinformation on Vorwerk's part.
According to CHOICE, some Thermomix customers even asked about the rumoured new model prior to purchase and were assured by the company that there was no upgrade on the horizon. To add insult to injury, the new model retailed for just $50 more. Customers effectively lost hundreds of dollars off the value of their "old" Thermomix overnight.
"What has left a bad taste in consumers’ mouths and led to the awarding of this Shonky is the secrecy and choppy communication around the launch of its first new model in seven years," CHOICE explained.
"The TM5 was released on 6 September with no prior warning, and some new owners took delivery of their full-price, soon-to-be superseded TM31 as late as a day or two before."
The company eventually offered purchasers of the old model a free bowl blade and lid set which did little to quell the rage on social media. Here's what CHOICE had to say on its decision:
"For being less than upfront with loyal fans about the release of its new TM5 model, selling the TM31 at full price and delivering it right up to the day before the launch, and receiving the highest number of nominations in Shonkys' history, we were left with no choice but to juice the Vorwerk/Thermomix lemon."