Updated 5 July 2019: I received feedback that people think Eight Stars is not doing honest business, and I disagree. After 3 months and a lot of new customers, it seems Eight Stars is doing rather well in its sales and marketing, and I see many customers taking up this offer without any issue. Eight Stars have also provided the water sample report from Setsco Services which you can download here.
I recently received a “free” alkaline water system through word-of-mouth referral. Eventually, I find that it is just clever marketing. Was I scammed? Read on.
Alkaline Water For the Home
For the longest time, my family wanted to get an alkaline water system, but gawked at the prohibitive prices. Then one day, my wife sent me a screen capture of a “free alkaline water system” from her colleague who signed up, and asked if we should get it. I looked at the offer: free water system of Korea technology but pay for the filter priced at S$168 and installation charge S$50. I replied, sounds like a deal.
Neither did I expect to receive a call a few days later and that the caller on the other end told me I was recommended to receive the free alkaline water system. She reiterated that the system is valued at S$1888 but it will be completely free, except to pay for the filter system at S$168 and installation charge of S$50. Also, I have to create a Facebook post to share the news, and to send her the screen shot so that she can “claim against Korea for the free machine”.
The appointment was made the following day. I informed my wife who was surprised that they could deliver at such short notice. She was told by her colleague that there were over 1000 requests so a direct referral would receive priority attention. This is beginning to sound like a “con job”.
Installation and Revelation
The installer came on the dot, and proceeded to install the alkaline water system. He was very skilled at the job, and was very helpful in explaining the “sales strategy”, which is, by doing this “free promotion” of an “older product”, the company hoped to build the brand awareness that could help when their new products are launched.
During installation, he opened up the “machine” to reveal the 4 cans of filters linked one after another for the tap water to pass through. This is also known as the “reverse osmosis” system, and the “machine” is merely a plastic container to house the filters and definitely nowhere worth the S$1888. No electricity is required.
This is what each filter does:
- Sediment filter removes dirt, other minute impurities and rust scales.
- Pre-Carbon filter removes chlorine, pesticides, herbicides and other harmful organic chemicals. It also gets rid of bad taste and odour.
- Alkaline Filter contains ceramic balls that raises hydrogen ion concentration and helps in detoxification.
- Post-Carbon filter further removes harmful chemicals that may still be present.
Before the installer left, he issued a proper receipt and a warranty card with 2-year warranty. The company printed on the receipt is “Eight Stars Pte Ltd”.
Further Online Search
Now that I have inside-out information about this alkaline water system, I went online to do some searching about this brand and the type of filtration system (at time of publishing). Here are my findings:
1. No search results on “Eight Stars Alkaline System“.
2. I found images of the same looking machine under the brand “Ocean Dolphin”.
3. Ocean Dolphin happens to operate from the same office address as Eight Stars Pte Ltd.
This 4-stage alkaline water filter system is readily available in the market and priced around mid-S$100 with the filters alone.
Updated 5 July 2019: Eight Stars has provided an updated test report from Setsco Services dated 22 March 2019 to show the alkalinity of the filter. Eight Stars added: “Online filters supplier don’t dare to provide customers Singapore Test report. Our filters are exclusive and custom made from manufacturer and it provide the true results as shown in your Part 2 review.”
I’m not implying these filters are the same, though the price is similar. At the end of the day, we buy things not just for the product quality but also the after-sales service. Eight Stars Alkaline System offers 2 years warranty for the product and even replaces the filters if the alkalinity drops abnormally fast. Indeed, buying from Eight Stars as opposed to online platforms gives you some assurance.
Not a Scam, Just Clever Marketing
I would like to feel that I am conned, but maybe not. The sales team is very clear upfront about the purchase of the water filters and installation charge, so technically, they did give the “container system” free. At least I am paying a fair market value for the reverse-osmosis alkaline water system, even the S$50 installation price was arguably reasonable given he spent 30 minutes of his time doing professional work. I think the company is genuinely trying to run a business, but is such an alkaline water system really worth S$1888?
Apparently so! I came across AOX, a Singapore company, who specialises in filtered water dispensers. They also have reverse osmosis alkaline water dispenser similar to the above, and they do cost almost S$2000! From the photos of the user manual, the filter design appears to be similar, but AOX have received awards for their products so it’s definitely more established than Eight Stars. I guess indeed there are different quality levels of the water filter cartridges, and from that, I cannot assume that the Eight Stars filter system is poor quality.
But then again I wonder: creating alkaline water is as simple as running water through alkaline ceramic balls which can be bought off any hardware shops or online shops for US$11. And the carbon filter and sediment filter are also public knowledge. It’s a matter of whether you want to pay a premium for brand, R&D and features, or will you go for OEM.
Besides the RO system, the other types of water system produces ionised alkaline water through electrolysis using electricity. These systems might have some fanciful features, like able to adjust the pH level to use for washing (acidic) or for drinking (alkaline).
Is It Really pH 8.5 Alkaline Water?
Update 24 Mar 2019: I have bought the pH meter and tested the water. Read my article “Free Alkaline Water System Part 2: Testing Water Quality” for answers. Eight Stars have also provided a test report dated 22 March 2019, which can download here.
Do I Recommend Getting This “Free” Alkaline Water System?
After my Facebook post, many friends have been asking me if it’s worth it.
Right now, I am waiting for the pH meter tester to be delivered so that I can verify the alkalinity, but will not be able to confirm if the water really delivers what they claim. Read Part 2 of my post to see the results. The same goes for all other alkaline water systems in the market: how can you conclude which brands produce better water and gives you better health?
One thing is for sure: at S$218, it’s cheap enough for me to try it out, and since I’m already in it, let me assess over the next few weeks or months to see if I notice any changes in my wellness.
If you know of any tests that can verify the properties, drop me a comment. I can even pass you some water samples to experiment.
Updated (5 July 2019): Eight Stars have reached out to me in hope to clarify their business.
We have received feedback from customers that they feel uncomfortable after looking through your first review and claimed it as a spam mail. We would like to clarify that we are not doing clever marketing as we are using our advertising Budget to give away free machines to consumers as a reward to help us create awareness and build branding in the market. We are also not a fly by night company as we do have a customer service care on our quality and honesty of service offered. Our product has been proven from Setsco tested for safety consumption too.
Based on the above clarifications, I have updated my above post.
3 Months On: Genuine After-Sales Support
Given the recent revived attention to the alkaline system, I went to test the alkalinity again and found that the pH level dropped to almost the same as tap water. After giving my feedback to the original sales person whom I got the deal with, they arranged for an on-site inspection using their liquid pH test kit. After verifying that the alkalinity has worn out, they replaced a new system. Check this out: a new design!
The on-site installer added that on top of a new design, the filters are also improved. I did not open the cabinet to see the interior, but in any case, if the alkalinity drops too fast again, I’d be happy to call them back.
3 months after my purchase, Eight Stars are still around and doing good business. For now, there is no reason to doubt their alkaline water system and their ability to deliver after-sales service.