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- This article is part 3 of a 3 part series – Part 1 | Part 2
We’re back with our final installment of Instacart in 2018, a series of posts in which we sent RSG contributor Dash Bridges to cover what it’s like delivering with Instacart. Part III of his series on Instacart, Dash covers what everyone wants to know: how much did he earn working for Instacart?
Earlier this year, I tried to work for Instacart to see how it compared to my DoorDash experience. I wrote about my onboarding experience here. In summary, the app and attention to detail impressed me. The $12.50/hr guarantee did not.
My next article described my first shift, including shopping for food, pre-shopped pickups, challenges and other observations. In my first 4.5 hour shift, I averaged $15.53/hr. Not great, but hey, just my first time.
So now, finally, please allow me to wrap up the loose ends of my Instacart story. As with all of my articles, the ONLY payment I’ll receive for this writing is from the Rideshare Guy. I’m not a corporate shill and I don’t have any conflicts of interest. Without further ado…
Ready to sign up for Instacart? You can sign up here using our affiliate link
Highlights of Working for Instacart
In addition to Instacart’s excellent app layout, there were several aspects to the work for Instacart experience I enjoyed. First of all, I’m driving a lot less. Because I’m shopping for groceries instead of simply picking up meals, I spent far less time driving. I averaged 1.0 Instacart deliveries per hour vs. 1.8/hr with DoorDash.
Although my driving distance is a bit farther per order, I’m completing half the deliveries. On an hourly basis, it’s only 8.5 miles/hr at IC vs. 14.4/hr at DoorDash. Instacart places less strain on my car. It’s something to consider when you drive a less-efficient vehicle or you have a financial situation that doesn’t take full advantage of the $0.545/mile federal tax deduction.
Although this may sound silly, I appreciated the mental challenge of Instacart shopping. I’m not suggesting that working Instacart is a bold intellectual endeavor (or ‘endeavour’, as I straighten my bow tie), but it DOES require me to consider logical store product placements and think through alternatives for unavailable products.
I hate to say this about DoorDash, because I enjoy it and I’m good at it, but let’s be honest: any knucklehead can DoorDash. You pick up orders. You deliver orders. You drive to the next restaurant. When you work for Instacart it requires more thinking, more consideration, more decision-making. It’s a harder job. It just is.
Here are a couple of IC-generated speed reports following each of my shifts, followed by a regional leaderboard. Unfortunately, compared to the rest of the shoppers in the greater San Jose area, I’m average-to-below average. Still, it’s motivating! I looked at my ranking every week.
Due to these speed rankings, I learned to delay my location arrival until I was already inside the store and ready to pick up my first item. No sense in wasting valuable seconds while I’m in the parking lot looking for a shopping cart. Furthermore, as I focused on the items to pick up, I learned to trust the app and its sequence of items that popped up in my feed. Generally, the next item to appear was in the order of my travels from one end of the store to the other.
Editor’s Note: If you don’t want to be bothered searching for obscure items at grocery stores, try delivering with Caviar instead!
Lowlights of Working for Instacart
I picked up most shopping items with relative ease. Even in places like Whole Foods, where I never shop for myself, I could find it without raising my search time average. But every so often there were items that I couldn’t find to save my life. For instance, WHO KNEW that Ezekiel bread is found in the freezer? Are kosher spices in the spice area or ethnic food shelves?
For better and for worse, I’m pretty familiar with liquor stores. However, I spent an insanely frustrating 40 minutes in a Total Wine looking for SEVEN lousy items! This customer’s order included Drambuie, Sambuca, Disaronno, Amaro Nonino (isn’t Amaro Nonino a Star Wars character?), absinthe, and a specific single malt Scotch, of which there are probably 125 varieties, all containing the word ‘glen’. Was this customer opening a speakeasy? The items were difficult to locate, and of course store help is hard to find.
But one stands out as my personal nemesis. This rascal right here:
One day I knocked out all but one of my list at Target, and began my search for Sodastream mix, which goes into your home soda maker. Where would one start this search?
First, I went to the soda section within Target groceries. No dice.
Then I went to the mixers section. Nope.
Then I asked an employee. Answer: “No idea. I haven’t seen that.”
Then I asked a second employee. “Ohhhhh, I think those are with the actual soda makers. Upstairs.”
So I take my cart of groceries upstairs and look around. Where does one buy a home soda-making machine? I go up and down several housewares aisles. Finally, among the coffee makers and microwaves I find the countertop soda machines. Lo and behold, next to it were the replacement mixes for said machines. After 20 minutes of looking, I finally found the Sodastream Diet Dr. Pete Soda Mix. Then I went back to the grocery area to replace the cold items. They became warm over the course of my search. Absolutely maddening.
I guess I could have declared the items unfindable or out of stock, but I wanted to solve this problem without giving up. It’s one thing to find the shelf tag for an item and see it’s out of stock, but quite another to give up just because I can’t find where it is. Perhaps that’s MY problem, not Instacart’s.
Remember above when I said I enjoyed the mental challenges of work for Instacart shopping? Those challenges are tiring! I’m constantly problem-solving, searching, replacing and swapping food items, all with a ticking clock in the background.
Instacart is definitely more involved than DoorDash, and I finished my shifts mentally drained. Additionally, I spent a lot of time standing and walking on those concrete grocery store floors. It’s more physically demanding than DoorDash. Obviously I’m not comparing Instacart to crab fishing and coal mining, but it’s noticeably more difficult than Dashing.
Of course, I’d probably embrace these job challenges if the pay was equal to or better than DoorDash…but, uhhhh…..
No, Instacart Doesn’t Pay Very Well
Long story short, here are my numbers for both Instacart and DoorDash in February:
|Service||Gross Total||Gross/Hr||Deliveries/ Hr||Tip/ Delivery||Gross/ Delivery||miles/ hour||miles/ delivery|
From February 17-26, 2018, I worked nearly 27 hours at Instacart, ranging from 3.0-4.5 hours at a time. I shopped during Instacart-designated prime hours (weekday evenings and Sunday afternoons). I had some good days and some really terrible days.
However, I never earned more than $17.50/hr on a shift, and a couple of shifts earned below $9.00/hr. As you can see above, the average hourly earnings were $13.48/hr, which is significantly below my DoorDash average for that month. AND…my $17.28/hr DoorDash earnings represents one of the worst months of my DoorDashing career.
Of course I kept a running total of my IC earnings. I knew it wasn’t paying out what I hoped. On a rainy Monday, I scheduled myself from 6-11 p.m. I decided to clock in directly from the office at my day job.
6:00 – Sign in
6:15 – Receive a batch order for a Safeway located 25 minutes away, which is unusually far. Remember, it’s raining and batch orders don’t pay well. So I decline. As a disincentive to decline orders, IC places shoppers on a mandatory 20-minute no-order ‘break’ when you decline. So now, I’m forced to wait.
6:40 – Receive another batch order for a different Safeway a similar distance away. The pickup and three deliveries take over 90 minutes
8:18 – Complete the above Safeway batch order
8:18 – Receive Smart & Final order
9:16 – Complete Smart & Final order
9:27 – Frustrated by no additional orders and earning a measly $27.21 since 6:00pm, I sign out. I conceded that I didn’t see a scenario where Instacart would ever outearn DoorDash. Right then and there I vowed to end my Instacart experiment.
And I did, for the most part. In June, I worked another 19-ish hours to both remember some of the finer points of the job and to ensure I had enough hours (40) to qualify for referrals. I improved to $16.86/hr during that period, even earning over $18.60/hr in a couple of short shifts.
However, those earnings were in ideal situations, with little store traffic. Even then, the orders were extremely stressful. I had multiple orders in the same store, meaning I shopped for two different people using two shopping lists with two separate replacement/refund text strings. THEN, I had to separate the items at the checkout stand to process separate bills. Strong earnings, but the circumstances were totally unsustainable.
Want to give working for Instacart a try? You can sign up for it here using our referral link!
Instacart Sign Up Bonus
To be honest, all three are tall orders. Both of the work for Instacart bonuses must be earned in 30 days. In the first example, someone needs to commit to 10 hours per week to qualify. If you’re doing this as a side job, that’s a solid commitment.
In the second example, Instacart calls out batches, not hours. Batches are the pre-shopped pickups that you scan and pack into your car. Shoppers don’t necessarily get batches. They’re mixed in with other shopping orders. You might get one or two per 4 hour shift. So if you need 30 batches in 30 days, you’re going to work a lot more than the 40 required hours in example #1. Obviously the incentive is higher, but again, you may need to work twice as long to qualify.
The DoorDash referral bonus is clearly the worst. At around 2 orders per hour, a driver would need to work at least 75 hours (in two months) to earn $300. The lack of incentive is understandable. As we begin summer, orders will decrease as customers go on vacation and a ton of students will Dash as a summer job, flooding the Dasher pool. DoorDash doesn’t particularly need drivers for the next few months.
Burnt Out Talking To Passengers? Deliver Food With Caviar!Click to Sign-up!
-Dash @ RSG
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