Monday, 25 March 2013

The Checkout cuts through retail spin

A hybrid beast, the ABC's The Checkout uses comedy to examine claims that affect our retail spending everyday. Last week's first show looked at a number of different products, including dietary supplements and a particular brand of compact car. Pretty wide scope I think. It's a bit sad that you need to spend hours reading the fine print and talking to experts in the various fields to really understand what you are doing when you sign a form or when you pay for an item in the supermarket. Retail spending is powerful, and to a significant degree it determines what kinds of products get made, and how they are made. Choices you make everyday can have a strong flow-on effect up the value chain all the way to the primary producer.

But most people are barely equipped to make informed decisions, so The Checkout is a welcome addition to the weekly free-to-air program list. Viewers will already be prepared for Craig Reucassel's approach in this show because many people already are fans of the ABC's The Chaser, where he has worked before. The show is smart and funny. The first is necessary because manufacturers and retailers are very adept at using spin to influence purchasing decisions. The second just makes it easy to watch.

It's extraordinary what those words on the label mean. I mean, it's in English, but it's not the English that you use everyday. Words on labels have defined, precise meanings that often consumers won't be able to tell apart, or even properly understand in the way that the company that put the words there meant when it did so. This new show hopefully can help consumers to understand just what they're getting when they pull that item off the shelf: it's such an easy action to complete: you grab the packet and throw it in the trolley. But surrounding that action are thousands of other actions taken by people working in offices and factories all over the country, and all over the world. This show takes us behind the scenes and illuminates those actions so that they are visible and plain. Good one Aunty!

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