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Grab Says Food Delivery Charges Depend On Time Of Order, We Test If It’s Legit

We Test To See If Food Delivery Charges Differ If You Have A GrabUnlimited Subscription

Food delivery apps are undoubtedly a godsend for those who are too busy to cook or go out to dabao meals, but getting your lunch sent straight to your doorstep will understandably come with delivery fees.

This is why users turn to subscription plans like GrabUnlimited, which gets them up to S$3 off all delivery fees and other discounts at S$5.99 a month.

However, over the past few months, there have been complaints from users claiming that GrabUnlimited subscribers are supposedly charged higher delivery fees compared to non-subscribers.

While Grab has already debunked these allegations by explaining that delivery fees are determined solely by market conditions at the time of the order, they ‘challenged’ MS News to find out the truth for ourselves once and for all.

So we set out to conduct a little food delivery ordering experiment of our own, and this is what we found.

GrabUnlimited subscriber & non-subscriber place delivery order at same time

Now, we’re not the first ones to try and put Grab’s claims to the test. There are other videos out there of folks conducting little experiments to see if there is indeed a supposed price discrimination between GrabUnlimited subscribers and non-subscribers.

Responding to our queries, Grab explained that clicking on the food icon in the app at different times — even if just a few minutes apart — can result in different delivery fees due to the ever-changing real-time conditions.

For instance, if there’s a higher demand for riders, the delivery fees will naturally be higher as well, and vice versa.


So, when we conducted our experiment, we made sure to tap the ‘Food’ icon on the homepage on two devices — one with GrabUnlimited and one without — at the exact same time.

This is when the delivery fee will be logged — not when a user taps into the restaurant or adds something to their cart. This fee will then be on hold for a period of time as they continue browsing the app.

At about 4pm, we added a Grilled Truffle Cheese Toastie from SYIP Cafe into our carts to be sent to the MS News office, which is located within the Chutex Building at 219 Kallang Bahru.

We were quoted S$2.60 for the ‘Saver’ delivery option for both the GrabUnlimited and non-GrabUnlimited accounts.

If you’ve updated your Grab app to the latest version, you will notice a small line of text underneath the restaurant’s name that states when this delivery fee was calculated, right down to the precise second.

In our case, our delivery fees were both logged at 4:11:53pm.

Image by MS News

The only difference was the GrabUnlimited subscriber could get a discount on their delivery fee after adding the voucher under the “Offers” tab before checking out.

Second test yields same result

We repeated the test in the morning on a different day on phones with different operating systems.

This time, we ordered two of the same dishes from Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant, again to be sent to the MS News office at 219 Kallang Bahru.

Since there was a light rain and the restaurant was a little further from our office than SYIP, the delivery fee was slightly higher, but it was still consistent across both devices.

Image by MS News

We also noticed that the delivery fees were calculated five seconds apart even though we tapped on the ‘Food’ icon at precisely the same time. In any case, both devices were quoted the same delivery fee of S$3.20 for the ‘Saver’ option.

Once again, the GrabUnlimited subscriber was able to use a voucher to offset the purchase by S$3.

Ordering at different times generated different delivery fees

On another day, we repeated the same experiment but placed the orders about 15 minutes apart.

Image by MS News

The delivery fee for the order that was placed later was 30 cents more expensive compared to the earlier one.

This meant that during the 15-minute gap, there was already a change in market conditions, most likely a growing demand for riders and surge in orders as we approached lunchtime.

However, the GrabUnlimited subscriber still ended up paying less for their meal thanks to their S$3 discount voucher, even though their delivery fee was slightly higher.

Grab delivery fees determined by real-time market conditions

So yes, while this is a – full disclosure – sponsored article by Grab, our experiment still appears to confirm their explanation that the delivery fees you see depend solely on the time you begin browsing the app, and nothing else.

This fee is set at the time you tap the ‘Food’ icon on the homepage and ‘locked in’ through a process called caching until you check out your order.

As we mentioned earlier, the delivery fee is calculated based on real-time market conditions like demand, supply of delivery partners in the area, traffic, and the weather.

Because these are constantly changing factors, the delivery fee can also fluctuate by the second.

Now that Grab has added the timestamp to the top of the order page, you’ll know exactly when your delivery fee was calculated.

Image courtesy of Grab

If you’re still scrunching up your nose in doubt, well, feel free to get two phones — one with a GrabUnlimited subscription and one with a normal Grab account — and try it out for yourself.

For more information on the new update, how the caching works, and why this system is in place, visit Grab’s website.

And if you wish to give GrabUnlimited a go to see just how much you can save on your food delivery bills, new users get a one-month free trial when they sign up.

Don’t say we bo jio.

A little bit goes a long way in terms of savings

While S$3 may not seem like a lot, it can sometimes offset the entire food delivery fee, proving that something small can also make a huge difference.

But if there’s anything more precious than money, it’s time, which is also something you can save with food delivery apps because the time you would’ve taken to buy or make the food can now be spent doing other things.

With technology coming as far as it has, it only makes sense to take advantage of its convenience.

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Grab.

Featured image by MS News.

Tammi Tan

Tammi loves the colour pink but wears a lot of black. She can often be found enjoying tiny house tours on YouTube or rewatching Christopher Nolan and Marvel films.

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