MANILA - Shopping in the time of COVID-19 is no easy feat.
When the quarantine started, it meant getting a community pass to be able to leave the house, putting on a face mask, carrying around alcohol or alcogel or tissue wipes to sanitize every surface that you come across, queueing for hours as stores try to cope with physical distancing guidelines, and then making do with what’s left on the shelves as everyone was still doing their fair share of panic buying.
I only tried it once and gave up and decided to let my fingers do my shopping. Where my only lookout in the past was Total Lower Cost (TLC), I soon discovered online shopping to be a totally different ballgame. In case you are not familiar with TLC, this is basically a guide on which supermarket offers the best bargains for you. It’s impossible to compare prices for every item in the store, but what you can do is to make your list and then shop in 2 to 3 stores in your neighborhood. When you discover which one has the TLC for your list, that’s the grocery store best suited for your wallet.
Back to online grocery shopping, you can still try TLC by putting the same items in the virtual cart, but as you check out, that total will pad up with concierge fee and delivery fee. Some also require a membership fee before you can check out. With your budget already stretched thin, can you afford all these add-ons? Fortunately, if you know how to hunt bargains online, you won’t have to. To aid you and your wallet, let me present my list of Yays and Nays for online grocery shopping using a 5-star rating system, with 5 being the highest.
#1 Go Robinsons – 5 stars
Before COVID-19, I admit Robinsons Supermarket did not pass my TLC. But a couple of months ago, they launched GoRobinsons.ph and I have been a loyal fan since. They have limited coverage across Metro Manila and Rizal but lucky for me, my zip code was a winner. You need to shop for at least P1,000 but that will come with a P200 concierge and delivery fee. Or shop for at least P3,500 and get that fee waived. I scheduled my shopping to twice a month so that I can spend at least P3,500. You can choose your delivery date and time based on available slots, and they will alert you for out of stock items. Right now they cannot offer replacement if item is unavailable, but they are efficient in adjusting your final total. Plus, you can choose to pay online or cash on delivery, and also earn Robinsons Rewards points if you’re a member.
#2 SM Call to Deliver – 5 stars
I confess I am somewhat cheating by adding this to the list because they are not a supermarket. They do offer some food items though so please indulge me. I started out shopping via ShopSM.com and would always get a heart attack when about to check out and I see the shipping cost. With SM Call to Deliver, you use Messenger chat (more responsive than the landline) to reach out to their central hotline and then indicate which SM Store is closest to you. Someone will contact you and your virtual shopping experience can begin. They have a flat rate of P100 delivery fee within Metro Manila and I have shopped for nearly everything from an electric fan, to pots and pans, to snacks and chips. They take photos of items available in store to help you choose based on design or price range. Pay via credit card or cash on delivery, and members can also earn SM Advantage points.
#3 GrabMart – 4 stars
Grab has become my constant companion in this pandemic. From deliveries to food orders and now for groceries too. They have a growing list of retail partners and I have used them for ice cream cravings, Korean food and grocery shopping too. I noticed that the prices on Grab are sometimes higher than in-store (which you can easily check online) plus with GrabMart you have to pay for concierge fee on top of delivery fee. So what I do is wait for offers of free delivery fees, or P100 waived for P1000 shopping. This is a welcome alternative when I only need a few items and need them like now. You also need to check the items as sometimes the store misses one or two things but still charges you for them. Grab customer service is not on-demand, but I do get a reply within 24 to 48 hours. Use Grabpay and earn points you can use for a growing list of rewards on Grab’s catalog.
#4 LazMart – 3 stars
Back in March when most supermarkets were not ready for the overnight increase in demand for online shopping, LazMart was the only light in the dark tunnel. The prices are noticeably higher though and I assumed then it was because of the crisis situation. The shipping fee is also driven by volume so the more you shop (and the heavier your purchases), the more you pay. Today, the prices remained the same and the shipping fee calculation too so I have stopped being a customer. I still buy from Lazada, but grocery shopping here does not give me the best bang for my buck. I have friends who remain loyal and they like the option of paying via e-wallet or credit card or cash on delivery.
#5 Landers – 2 stars
Desperate times called for signing up for a membership with Landers. I was ready to say goodbye to LazMart but have yet to discover GoRobinsons and SM Call to Deliver then. Grab was still building their GrabMart partners so against my better judgement, I paid for a membership.
I realize there is a market for membership shopping as S&R also has quite a loyal following, but I was not sold on why I should pay just to be allowed on premises and shop from the store. With my newly-minted membership, I was shocked to learn that I still have to pay for a personal shopper fee of P99 and a delivery fee of P199. To get free delivery, I need to shop at least P6,000 worth – but the personal shopper fee will still be charged.
Having paid for the membership, I decided to suck it up and get my money’s worth. Check out done and delivery date set, I waited for my purchases and was dismayed to discover a motorcycle rider doing it! See, I ordered food items, laundry items plus five 6.6 liter bottles of distilled water. He had the bottles strapped all around his motorcycle around his feet, while my food and non-food items were packed together. I was so mad that I tried to call Landers and got nowhere. They have no customer service number (how is that possible!?), and you can email and try Messenger chat and get nothing. They do give automated responses but months after I sent my complaint, still no word. I would have given them 1 star but since my items were still delivered, I decided to be generous and grant them 2.
Oh, and one more thing you need to be careful with when it comes to membership shopping stores, they carry a lot of inventory, very nice things that well you do not really need in the middle of a pandemic so try to tamp down your impulse shopping and keep your hard-earned cash. Your savings will thank you for it!
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.