Newcomer honestbee has changed the online groceries game in Singapore. Find out what Sassy Mama loves (and doesn’t like) with our honest review
One of the things I love about Singapore (compared to my previous expat posting) is that I feel like you can find almost any product here if you look hard enough. You’ll have to visit five different malls and schlep all over the city to do it, and it might be expensive – wherefore art thou, Target?! – but generally you can find what you need. This is particularly true with supermarkets and groceries in Singapore.
Off the top of my head our family shops at four different supermarkets depending on what we need – Giant for cheap dry goods, FairPrice for cheap local fruits and vegetables, Cold Storage (because it’s the closest) for Cheerios and granola and peanut butter that they don’t sell at the other places, and Marketplace for boutiquey things like Frank’s Hot Sauce and Bounty Paper Towels (the only brand we can live with in our family). I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
While online grocery delivery has always been an option in Singapore, for the reasons mentioned above I’ve always refrained from partaking, because no one’s offered a critical mass of all the stuff we want to buy (and therefore I’d still have to go to the grocery store anyway). Last year, however, honestbee launched, calling itself a “grocery concierge service”. What sets honestbee apart is that you can shop from a variety of different stores but place everything into a single order. It’s pretty cool!
While some suppliers are available island-wide, others are based on your location. In my neighbourhood, for instance, the two available grocery stores are Cold Storage and FairPrice (which I find handy since there isn’t a FairPrice within walking or even easy driving distance). There’s also a cool “Farm to Table” category that features fresh produce from Pasir Panjang Fruits and Thygrace Fruits & Veggies, along with popular specialty shops like Wine Connection, Jones the Grocer, Gastronomia Da Paolo, and many others.
So it’s a great time consolidator. Rather than run around to three different stores, I can get it all done in one go, from the comfort of my own couch. Honestbee has essentially eliminated the need to run errands. For instance, we had a party a couple weeks ago, and I was able to stock up on lots of drinks and snacks from FairPrice, all without having to schlep all those heavy bags home and up the stairs while also carrying a toddler. Any items that I couldn’t find at FairPrice (like our beloved Bounty Paper Towels, for instance) I grabbed from Cold Storage.
Other things I really like about honestbee:
- Prices are exactly the same as in the store
- The user-friendly interface makes shopping a snap (and they’ve also got an app – available for iPhones or Androids – that’s great on the go)
- In contrast, to other delivery services, they offer same-day delivery options, with nice and small one-hour delivery windows.
As mentioned above, honestbee is a “concierge” service, which means that an actual human is going to stores with your list to do your shopping. What’s cool about this is that if something on your list isn’t available in the store, they will actually call you to let you know and ask about alternatives (the website also lets you choose a backup alternative for every item beforehand that your shopper can automatically default to).
This can also be a bit frustrating; in my initial order, a third of the things on my list from FairPrice were unavailable, and I had to go through backups over the phone while my toddler screamed in the background. It happened again with an order from a specialty beer shop and, most ridiculously, with Pet Lovers Centre, where I ordered exactly one item and was told they’d run out of stock. Really? Every Pet Lovers Centre on the island is out of Revolution Heartworm patches?
I realise that this is more an issue of inventory and keeping the website updated, but would definitely say it’s my biggest critique to this point. (Another side effect of dealing with humans: they sometimes make mistakes. I ordered liquid Persil detergent, for instance, and was delivered a box of the powdered stuff, which also happened to be $2 cheaper yet I was billed for the liquid. Fortunately customer service straightened the issue out within hours.).
My two other minor quibbles: there’s a $10 delivery fee per store if you don’t meet a certain price threshold. It’s pretty easy to hit that when you’re stocking up on essentials at FairPrice or Cold Storage, but when I wanted to buy some apples and berries from Pasir Panjang Fruits, there’s a $30 minimum spend to get free delivery. That’s an awful lot to spend on fresh fruits, which I prefer to consume in small batches before they go bad. I ended up scrapping the order and ordering from FairPrice instead.
Secondly, and this is just me, but I received multiple error messages when I tried to pay with a U.S. credit card, and had to talk with customer service before the error could be explained. E-commerce should be all about convenience and ease of access – if I can use my Amex at regular Cold Storage, I should be able to use it buying groceries online, too. Hopefully honestbee will rectify this soon as they continue to grow.
All in all, I’ve been incredibly impressed with honestbee’s customer service, which is no small thing in Singapore. The team is friendly and super-responsive. The site also runs frequent promos (check out their Facebook page for the latest updates) to give 20% discounts and things like that.
In fact, if you’ve never used honestbee before, all new users can take $12 off their first order with a minimum spend of $100. Stock up on your monthly essentials, mama, and you’ll be sorted!
I look forward to honestbee’s continued growth, as I think the inventory issues and availability will only improve with time. It’s definitely saved me time, so I know I’ll continue to use it. Anything to cut down on errands!