At Fairprice, Now You See It, Now You Don’t


When you go to the supermarket, when an item is on the shelf, it is on the shelf. If it is no longer available, there would be a sign saying that the item is out of stock.

Can you imagine putting the item you want into your shopping basket, going to the cashier to pay, only to have the cashier remove the item from your basket and tell you it’s out of stock.

This is exactly what happens when you shop at NTUC Fairprice’s online store.

Fairprice supermarkets – all 230 of them – are run by a labor union, the National Trades Union Congress. Fairprice has an online store too. During this period, my family makes frequent online grocery purchases.

After you have concluded your purchase from Fairprice online, you’ll get an immediate confirmation. They will also email and SMS you to say that your order is confirmed and accepted, etc.

Then about an hour or so before the delivery window, on the day of the delivery itself, it is very likely and very often – happened to me each time I made online purchases from Fairprice – that you will get a SMS saying something like this:

We’re sorry, order #12345678 has been amended due to stock availability or as requested. Delivery will be on 02 June, 12 PM – 2 PM. Please refer to your email for more details. For further assistance, visit

So you check your email and it says:

Important note regarding your order #43339636

Hi Mr So and so

We’re sorry that amendments have been made to your order due to stock availability or as requested. The final payment amount is based on the following revised order…

Here’s what happened: without first consulting you, they removed an item that was no longer in stock, recalculated your total purchase price before proceeding to go ahead to deliver your order. And no, you don’t get a chance to stop the order, because they only inform you just before the delivery window you have chosen. Fairprice’s email is only to inform you of what they have done, nevermind that reductions in the number of items in your shopping cart may affect the final price, usually revising it upwards.

I have been a consultant for decades and I have increased the productivity of many manufacturing as well as retail clients before. I have installed many JIT systems in companies all over the world, so I am puzzled how Fairprice operates its online inventory.

Often, consumers purchase an item to compliment other items. For example, a housewife may order a bottle of oyster sauce with a pack of choy sum, amongst other grocery items. She wants to cook oyster sauce choy sum but if oyster sauce is not in stock, she won’t buy the choy sum, so just removing an item from her basket without informing her in advance screws up her menu for dinner.

It’s not a big fucking deal.

But it’s damn annoying, for sure. There is a dichotomy between Fairprice’s online site and/or app and what’s in – or not in – their warehouse.

Customer satisfaction takes a back seat because of this dichotomy. Don’t even talk about customer delight.

This whole thing is so annoying that I was reminded if you juggle the alphabets NTUC, you’ll get CUNT.

But does Fairprice care? I doubt so. I suspect they don’t really care or understand too much about the concept of “customer experience.”

Fairprice has the largest market share as far as supermarkets in Singapore go, it has driven many little mom-and-pop grocery stores to the ground, causing many to go bust. It has bulldozed it’s way into every housing estate and put other grocery stores out of business by price cutting. It has become another behemoth in the corporate world, that’s why whenever I hear of the very “atas” Cold Storage or very downmarket Sheng Siong expanding, I never fail to applaud with glee.

This entry was posted in Unforgiven. Bookmark the permalink.