CHOICE Shonky Awards: Australia’s worst products named and shamed: Qantas, Steggles, Bloomex


Qantas has been branded one of the worst companies in Australia after months of cancelled flights, poor customer service, lost luggage and endless delays.

Australia’s flagship airline, given the humiliating nickname ‘The Spirit of Disappointment’ is one of five brands given an unwanted Shonky Award by consumer group Choice.

The awards name and shame major brands for poor service, and this year also include a flower delivery service and a loan for pet owners.   

Millions of Qantas frequent flyers were offered $50 discounts in August after passengers suffered relentless delays and cancellations, as well as lost baggage – which is understood to have affected thousands of customers.

Passengers have been left waiting for their luggage for days, with those on a recent flight to London from Sydney via Darwin told their bags were being left behind in Australia. 

Qantas has blamed its ongoing issues, which are causing misery for travellers and pushing thousands to fly with Middle Eastern airlines instead, on staff sickness and isolation requirements – which were scraped in September.

Australian consumer watchdog CHOICE revealed the five winners, or in many ways losers, in their annual Shonky Awards for 2022 – with Qantas receiving a gong for being the ‘Spirit of Disappointment’

Aviation supply chain issues from manufacturers Boeing and Airbus are also being touted as a cause of delays, as well as an industry-wise labour shortage.

CEO Alan Joyce recently revealed the company was just 11 weeks from going broke at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020. 

Despite the woes, Qantas has reported a return to profitability after five consecutive half-year losses.

Mr Joyce says the carrier expected a ‘very strong’ profit before tax of between $1.2billion and $1.3billion for the first half of 2022/23.

‘If there was ever a company that appeared to deliberately be going out of its way to win a Shonky Award, it’s Qantas,’ Choice travel expert Jodi Bird said.

‘People are still paying premium prices to fly Qantas, but it’s clear from the complaints we’ve heard, they’re not getting a premium service.’

2022 Shonky award winners 

Qantas – for being the Spirit of Disappointment

VetPay – for a finance product targeting distressed pet owners

Steggles Chicken Nuggets Boosted with Veggies – for hiding veggies so well that we could barely find them

Bloomex – for flowers that don’t deliver

Zega Digital cookware – for an expensive ‘self-cooking’ smart pot that doesn’t properly cook

‘Qantas has made it difficult and confusing for their customers to use flight credits for cancelled travel. 

‘This includes forcing many people to spend extra money, putting limits on available flights, being unable to make bookings using credits online – the list goes on.’

A Choice mystery shop tested the airline in September, which uncovered staggering wait times for phone enquiries.

‘Our research revealed on average, you’ll be on the phone for 21 minutes before your call is answered, and up to 50 minutes,’ Mr Bird said.

‘By comparison, Virgin came in under a quarter of that average time with five minutes wait, and a maximum of 13 minutes.’

Choice CEO Alan Kirkland slammed the airline for ‘making redeeming flights credits a nightmare’.

CEO Alan Joyce (pictured) recently revealed the company was just 11 weeks from going broke at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020

CEO Alan Joyce (pictured) recently revealed the company was just 11 weeks from going broke at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020 

Even rival airline Qatar Airways has taken a dig at Qantas, after the national carrier opposed the Middle Eastern airline’s bid to double its flights to Australia to 21 a week.

Its CEO Akbar Al Baker has been pushing for Qatar Airways to add more flights to Australia but his proposal has constantly been blocked by authorities.

Qantas again attempted to stop Qatar Airways in its latest expansion bid by submitting an application to the federal government last week.

The airline claimed it would be unfair and lead to the loss of more Australian jobs if Qatar was allowed to expand.

But our national carrier’s attempt to stop the airline was met with a swift comeback from Mr Baker where he urged the federal government ‘this time’ to remember ‘the commitment of Qatar Airlines at difficult times’.

He called out Qantas for cutting its number of flights, accusing it of raising ticket prices and only acting in the interest of its shareholders.

Mr Joyce says the issues plaguing the airline will likely continue for the next 18 months due to aviation supply chain issues from plane manufacturers (stock image)

Mr Joyce says the issues plaguing the airline will likely continue for the next 18 months due to aviation supply chain issues from plane manufacturers (stock image)

‘The largest operator in Australia (Qantas) has cut its flight to 50 per cent of pre-Covid level, more than doubled the price of the fares to the Australian people in the benefit of the shareholders,’ Mr Baker told Sky News on Friday.

‘In addition, getting billions of dollars of state aid during the pandemic period in 20 and 21.

‘And at the same time, even their large international partner has also cut flights to only 50 per cent to pre-Covid levels.’

Mr Baker said Qatar Airways had continued to play an important role during the pandemic.

‘We connected Australian people to the world during the most difficult period in aviation history,’ he said.

‘We continued uninterrupted at the peak of the Covid, serving the three main points in Australia – Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. We also added during the pandemic Brisbane to the network.’

Mr Joyce warned the issues plaguing Qantas would likely continue for the next 18 months due to aviation supply chain issues from plane manufacturers.

Here are Choice’s other ‘Shonky’ award winners. 

Australian consumer watchdog CHOICE revealed the five winners, or in many ways losers, in their annual Shonky Awards for 2022. They awarded Qantas a shonky for being the 'Spirit of Disappointment'. Pictured: CHOICE Travel Expert Jodi Bird

Australian consumer watchdog CHOICE revealed the five winners, or in many ways losers, in their annual Shonky Awards for 2022. They awarded Qantas a shonky for being the ‘Spirit of Disappointment’. Pictured: CHOICE Travel Expert Jodi Bird 

VetPay 

VetPay was awarded a Shonky for its extensive fees, charges and high interest rates.

The company offers quick access loan products targeting pet owners who find themselves struggling to pay their vet bill.

In most cases this is in the circumstances of a medical emergency for their furry friend.

The company markets its loans as ‘affordable’, yet charges interest rates of more than 18 per cent.

Quick access loan product VetPay was awarded a Shonky for its extensive fees, charges and high interest rates

Quick access loan product VetPay was awarded a Shonky for its extensive fees, charges and high interest rates

On top of that, CHOICE’s analysis found just signing up to the service costs $49 a year. 

As well as the annual fee, the service charges $2.50 for every repayment and has an annual interest rate of 18.4 per cent. 

‘CHOICE is awarding VetPay a Shonky for profiting from people’s concerns when their pet is sick,’ CHOICE’s Head of Policy Patrick Veyret said.

‘A beloved pet’s illness can be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. 

‘Lenders such as VetPay should not be profiting from people’s anxieties about their pets.

‘We’ve heard from financial counsellors who have seen cases where customers have gone into unaffordable debt just from using VetPay.

‘Lenders like VetPay have no right to market their loans as ‘affordable’ when the reality is they have exorbitant interest rates and expensive fees.’

The service costs $49 a year and charges $2.50 for every repayment. It also has an annual interest rate of 18.4 per cent. Pictured: CHOICE Head of Policy Patrick Veyret

The service costs $49 a year and charges $2.50 for every repayment. It also has an annual interest rate of 18.4 per cent. Pictured: CHOICE Head of Policy Patrick Veyret 

Queensland pet owner Kellie Wood felt burnt by the company after she took out a $2000 VetPay loan when her dog, Bear, broke his leg. 

Wood said her VetPay loan turned out to be far more expensive than expected.

‘It’s not on. A company should not be allowed to do that with people, not at a stressful time when they are going through the emotions with their animal,’ Ms Wood said.

‘It’s not worth it, I would never recommend them to anybody ever. It’s not the right time to take advantage of someone.’ 

Steggles Chicken Nuggets Boosted with Veggies 

Steggles Chicken Nuggets have found themselves with a Shonky for bragging about ‘boosted with veggies’ products that in fact have very little vegetables.

‘Although the packaging proclaims that these nuggets are ‘boosted with veggies’, the vegetable content in these Steggles nuggets is negligible,’  CHOICE editor Pru Engel said.

‘Steggles Chicken Nuggets Boosted with Veggies are just another example of a processed food marketed towards parents hoping to sneak more vegetables into their children’s diets.’

Steggles Chicken Nuggets have found themselves with a Shonky for bragging about 'boosted with veggies' products that in fact had very little vegetables. Pictured: CHOICE Editor Pru Engel with baby Archie

Steggles Chicken Nuggets have found themselves with a Shonky for bragging about ‘boosted with veggies’ products that in fact had very little vegetables. Pictured: CHOICE Editor Pru Engel with baby Archie

CHOICE’s research found the nuggets contained a measly eleven grams of potatoes and just three grams of cauliflower per 100g serve.

This equates to less than a fifth of what is accepted as one standard serving of vegetables.

‘As all parents know, dinnertime can definitely be a battleground when it comes to getting your kids to eat their veggies but these nuggets really aren’t the answer,’ Ms Engel said.

‘To get just one serving of vegetables from them you would have to eat the entire 400 grams pack of Steggles Chicken Nuggets Boosted with Veggies, plus part of a second pack.

‘If you could actually stomach the 26 nuggets needed to get a single serve of vegetables, you would also be getting double the sodium and more than half the kilojoules that the average adult needs to consume in a day.’

CHOICE's research found the nuggets contained a measly eleven grams of potatoes and just three grams of cauliflower per 100g serve. This equates to less than a fifth of what is accepted as one standard serving of vegetables

CHOICE’s research found the nuggets contained a measly eleven grams of potatoes and just three grams of cauliflower per 100g serve. This equates to less than a fifth of what is accepted as one standard serving of vegetables

Bloomex 

Canadian-owned Bloomex offers same day delivery on flower purchases across Australia.

The company, however, has received many angry reviews online about failing to deliver on this promise. 

CHOICE’s research found flowers were often wilting, crushed or even undelivered.

Canadian-owned Bloomex offers same day delivery on flower purchases across Australia but has received a Shonky for failing to deliver on this promise and on the quality expected

Canadian-owned Bloomex offers same day delivery on flower purchases across Australia but has received a Shonky for failing to deliver on this promise and on the quality expected

Their mystery shop found that of 21 Bloomex bouquets ordered to regional Australian addresses eight couldn’t be delivered. 

Eight of the 13 orders that were able to be completed arrived late and eight also contained flowers which were wilting or decomposing.

In CHOICE’s mystery shop, if an order was unable to be fulfilled, Bloomex did not offer a refund.

‘That’s pretty poor service, especially for a company whose motto is ‘Fresh, Fast and Fair’,’ CHOICE Editorial Director Marg Rafferty said.

‘These results confirm what we heard from unhappy Bloomex customers. Time and again we heard from disappointed people whose orders for flowers to mark a special occasion were delivered in terrible condition, arrived late or didn’t arrive at all.

‘Bloomex deserves the withering reviews they have received from their customers, and they also deserve their place in the 2022 Shonky Awards.’

CHOICE's research found flowers were often receieved wilting, crushed or even undelivered

CHOICE’s research found flowers were often receieved wilting, crushed or even undelivered

Zega Digital cookware

The Zega Digital cooking pot claims hands-free, energy-saving cooking all able to be accessed from your phone. 

The problem is according to CHOICE expert Chantelle Dart, the technology ‘doesn’t deliver’. 

‘The Zega Digital pot really disappointed us. When our experts cooked chicken according to the Zega app recipe, the chicken was partially raw, the sauce was watery and the vegetables were undercooked,’ Ms Dart said.

The meat was also found to only be 66 degrees Celsius in the centre, well below the 75 degrees celcius needed to kill illness-causing microbes.

The Zega Digital cooking pot claims hands-free, energy-saving cooking all able to be accessed from your phone. The problem is according to CHOICE expert Chantelle Dart (pictured), the technology 'doesn't deliver'

The Zega Digital cooking pot claims hands-free, energy-saving cooking all able to be accessed from your phone. The problem is according to CHOICE expert Chantelle Dart (pictured), the technology ‘doesn’t deliver’

‘To make the dish edible we had to cook it for a further 90 minutes than the Zega app recipe dictated, costing more time and money and defeating the entire purpose of this self-cooking pot,’ Ms Dart said.

The brand also states the Bluetooth technology allows the consumer to walk away and be notified when the food is ready on their phone, but Ms Dart says this technology doesn’t work well.

‘Unfortunately, this Bluetooth technology is not as smart as Zega claims. If you leave the house or even just move to another room that puts you out of Bluetooth range, you won’t get the alert on your phone to let you know the meal is done,’ she said.

The Zega Digital cooking pot costs $299 retail.

'The Zega Digital pot (pictured) really disappointed us. When our experts cooked chicken according to the Zega app recipe, the chicken was partially raw, the sauce was watery and the vegetables were undercooked,' Ms Dart said

‘The Zega Digital pot (pictured) really disappointed us. When our experts cooked chicken according to the Zega app recipe, the chicken was partially raw, the sauce was watery and the vegetables were undercooked,’ Ms Dart said

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