Do you seethe with frustration about being taken for a ride by products advertised to have remarkable properties they simply don’t deliver?
Co-creator of the ABC-TV program The Checkout, Julian Morrow, certainly does. But where Julian is more fortunate than us is that he has a forum to do something about it.
The Checkout is a cross between a straight consumer affairs program and the comic satire series The Chaser—which stands to reason, as two of the seven members of The Checkout team are Chaser cast members Morrow and Craig Reucassel. Along with fellow performers Kirsten Drysdale, Kate Browne, Scott Abbot, Zoe Norton Lodge and Ben Jenkins, they take aim at the way products are advertised, and The Checkout team is quick to expose what it sees as misleading information that sucks in unsuspecting consumers.
One of my favourite eye-opening episodes was the exposure of the marketing of the painkiller ibuprofen, which produced several different brands to target specific pain, from migraine to menstrual pain to muscle aches. The flaw in the argument was that, despite the different branding, the chemical component was exactly the same in each case—it was the pricing that differed!
Morrow tells Warcry that the creation of The Checkout was inspired by a mix of the fear of unemployment and years of fury at being put ‘on hold’ by telco providers.
‘Before the TV shows, I worked as an industrial relations lawyer, so I had a bit of experience working as an advocate for people who were in dispute with a company. The Checkout is a project that combines the two strands of my career up to that point…and it seemed easier and cheaper than anger management theory,’ he says.
The ideas for the show come from emails from the viewers and some independent research and consultation with consumer groups.
Understandably, the targets of The Checkout are not always thrilled by the attention, although Morrow says it’s not uncommon for companies to change their tune and give viewers a refund.
‘We get quite a few editorial complaints and legal threats or lawsuits from businesses: though in my view, it’s a disappointingly small number of them. Must try harder,’ Morrow quipped.
Jesus was not averse to righting a few wrongs when it came to commercial interests in inappropriate settings. Matthew tells us that ‘Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves’ (Matthew chapter 21, verse 12).
I think Jesus might have enjoyed watching The Checkout!