TL;DR: Do NOT subscribe to MealPal.
When MealPal was introduced in Singapore majority of the CBD folks rejoiced, myself included.
(Screenshot from MealPal’s website.)
To put simply, MealPal is a subscription service where you pay a fixed amount of money for a fixed number of meals per month. You order your meal from the restaurant the day before, and simply show up to collect your food the next day when it’s time. No queue, no fuss.
The model is simple math. Taking the mid level package as a reference, you get 12 restaurant meals for $96, averaging it out to $8 per meal. Here’s a glimpse of what you can expect to eat with MealPal:
(Screenshots all taken from the respective Facebook pages or websites.)
All’s good? Not quite.
Strike one. I should have seen this as a red flag. When I was still exploring MealPal I had wanted to see the variety of restaurants as well as food options under their belt.
I was prompted to sign up for an account, including giving my credit card details and choosing my meal plan before I could view the restaurants. I was definitely not comfortable doing that. Why do I even need to sign up for an account?! It’s like having to sign up and give your credit card details before you can browse Qoo10. I got around this by browsing through my friend’s app (she was already a member).
Strike two. Restaurants offer only one option per day. If you don’t like beef soup, then restaurant A is out for the day. The whole idea is to allow the restaurants to prepare the required demand so they don’t run into issues of insufficient food. Sure, I’ll just wait until a day where restaurant A finally offers that meal I really wanted; the meal they are well known for.
Wait long long.
Most, if not all, rotate their menu between two to three options across the days. It’s always either Green Curry or Tom Yam Chicken. After a while, you can guess tomorrow’s menu, and it screams boring. Also, this means that people with preferred dietary options have a super small selection to choose from.
Strike three. Some restaurants offer very limited sets. And I mean the likes of 10 meals a day. To give you context, MealPal opens the kitchen at 5pm sharp daily. Once an item is sold out, the pin would be greyed out, like in the screenshot below:
Needless to say, the greyed out restaurants offer something really value for money. So I tried to grab a meal. I went in daily at 5pm sharp. Got my co-workers to do so as well. None of us successfully got it for as long as a week, until Lady Luck smiled at one of my co-worker. When she went to collect her meal the next day, she asked if they (the restaurant) could release more meals.
The answer is no.
MealPal had capped the number of meals they (the restaurant) offered per day. The restaurant explained a little more, and I figured that MealPal wouldn’t be able to cover the costs if more sets were released. Sure, I’m fine that it makes perfect business sense, but as a customer, being unable to get my favourite meal even though I went in at 5pm sharp daily for a week no less, is just ridiculous.
Strike four. I was primed to think that I had only 12 meals per month. If I used up all 12 meals before the billing cycle ended, I would have to wait till the next cycle before my meals would be reset. Not too bad, I can choose to have other types of food however I pleased on the other non-MealPal days.
The moment you finish your 12th meal, MealPal will start billing you for the next 12 meals. What this means is that even if you haven’t reached the 1 month mark, you might be billed again depending on how quickly you finish your meals. Not quite the typical way of how subscription services work.
Strike five. By this time I was starting to fume. I explored the notion of cancelling my subscription, and started looking through the app for that “unsubscribe” button. Couldn’t find any, so I tried looking for the “FAQs”.
There were none.
Wtfbbq? How could it be so difficult to unsubscribe? What was MealPal trying to hide from me? Desperate, I clicked on everything, and finally, the “Tems of Use” (who reads these anyway?). Cue enlightening background music. The answers were all there, within the 946261957462 paragraphs of words.
“For a cancellation to be effective for your next Membership Cycle, it must be received at least 7 days prior to the end of your then-current Membership Cycle or before you reserve your last meal in your cycle, whichever comes first. To cancel a membership, i) email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Cancel Membership” in the subject line; or ii) access “My Account” from the MealPal dropdown. To cancel your membership in My Account, click “Change Plan for Next Cycle”; then “Hold or Cancel My Account”; and then “Cancel Account”. ”
Oh I must have missed the “My Account” button on the App. So I checked again and:
This was the last straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Come on MealPal, isn’t it obvious that everyone works on their mobile smartphones these days? Going to a desktop meant that I’ll have to make that dedicated, special trip to my study room, and that I’ll have to key in my password (which I may have forgotten by now since mobile apps are unlocked via thumbprints these days).
Bonus strike. You have to unsubscribe at least 7 days in advanced, either before the last meal or before the billing cycle ended, whichever comes first. What is this 7 days notice about? MealPal are you paying me a salary? Do you need 7 days because you need to find a replacement for me? The last I checked I am in fact paying you close to a $100 a month. And note this ridiculous condition if you decide to unsubscribe but later for some reason think that you want back in: you have to pay $19 to re-join.
Still thinking of subscribing to Mealpal? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
To be honest, towards the end of my first month I was screaming to be released from MealPal. It was pure torture, having to settle for food that I didn’t really like (or rather, was bored of), coupled with the accumulated disgust I had for them.
So it’s goodbye MealPal, you won’t be missed.
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