- This article is part 1 of a 3 part series – Part 2 | Part 3
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You’re all probably familiar with popular RSG contributor Dash Bridges, who typically writes and answers reader questions about DoorDash. You may even remember he really prefers DoorDash to Postmates. So we decided to challenge him by asking him to sign up and document his experience with Instacart (referral link). What is Instacart, how much does it pay, and what’s the process like? Dash covers it all here!
Do you want to be an Instacart driver?
I’m going to be honest with you, my valued readers. The low-hanging fruit of DoorDash articles, i.e. “Tips to Maximize Your DoorDash Cash”, are gone. Other than compensation initiatives or comparing earnings over time, there isn’t a lot of breaking news for Dashing. You sign in. You receive orders. You deliver orders. You wait for your next order. Then at some point, you sign out and go home. Not much fertile ground.
Thankfully, to challenge my ennui, the Rideshare Guy High Council of Elders proposed an honorable endeavor. “Wanna try being an Instacart driver and write about your experience?”
“Sure. OK.” (And then to self, “What’s Instacart again?”)
Most of these stores are of the big-box variety, including Safeway, Costco, Whole Foods and Target. Once you choose your store, you’re able to select your items from a very detailed list of all the products carried. Your Instacart shopper goes through the list, buys the items, and delivers them to your door.
Working for Instacart is also similar to the other app-based gigs. You’re an independent contractor. You sign up online, get approved online, wait for some stuff in the mail and make your own hours. Once you’ve earned some money, your pay will be direct deposited into your account. It’s the usual routine.
Without any referrals to use, I simply went to the first place I think of to find an Instacart driver ad: Craigslist. No shortage of ads there! Let’s just say the Instacart referral code posts are a little….thirsty. Go to jobs, search ‘Instacart’ and BOOM, there are about 20 identical ads posted on any given day. “GET PAID TO SHOP! Have a car? Earn $$$ delivering for Instacart” the ads scream. I clicked on a link to start the process.
Wait. Before I go into the onboarding process, I want to express my feelings about this Instacart undertaking.
With Instacart, You’re Shopping for Other People
I’m dreading it. I’m sincerely, deeply dreading it. Why?
I’m not a consumer. I don’t buy stuff. I only go to the store when it’s absolutely necessary. I live by myself 85% of the time. I’m never home and I don’t need much. I have a bland palate and cook about five very boring, often microwave-based meals. I don’t peruse the grocery store shelves looking for inspiration, like some people do while using a Fetch rewards referral code. I know where my stuff is and that’s it. I’m exceedingly unaware of food options outside of my very basic needs!
Furthermore, I’m a notoriously slow and anxious decision-maker. I’m concerned that these Safeway and Whole Foods grocery runs risk a high item failure-rate. In the limited experience I have with grocery delivery, the customers are never happy. There seems to be so many opportunities to mess up. Here’s a future scenario I see for myself:
“Task: Buy 4 Gala apples. Uh oh, Safeway is out of Gala apples. Do I switch to Honeycrisp apples without saying anything? But Honeycrisps are an extra $0.50/lb. Maybe the customer wanted Gala because they’re cheaper. In that case I should get the similarly-priced Granny Smiths. It’s just apples, after all. But Honeycrisps are delicious, and it’ll only cost an extra $1. It’s not my money. But wait, will the customer be mad at me? Do I need to call her and check? What to do? I know, maybe I should just lie down in the fetal position and suck my thumb…”
Rightly or wrongly, that’s how I imagine shopping for other people. DoorDash is very straightforward. Go to restaurant. Get food. Deliver food. Instacart is going to require *gasp* problem solving. Oh God, I’m already anxious. Moving on…
Driving For Instacart Onboarding Process
The first part of the onboarding process is very similar to what I’ve done before. You get a link to the app and download it:
(*Palo Alto Delivery Inc. is DoorDash)
When you download the instacart shopper app, it looks like the album cover of the first Velvet Underground record. Then you get the usual Independent Contractor agreement and Background Check authorization:
Even though the app says you’ve completed setup, there’s still a lot to do before you can start shopping.
Next, I had to watch a video and answer several questions before I could move forward. This one was about alcohol delivery:
You have to score a full 10/10 to pass. Of course, the app points out your wrong answers and coaches you up to get through, but you still need to concentrate. The difficulty was similar to a learner’s permit test.
Then, I had to wait several days before this envelope arrived in the mail.
Included were my Instacart employee payment card and a lanyard I could use for….actually I have no idea what that lanyard is for. I’ve never needed nor worn it. I put the 16-digit code into my phone like so…
And then Ta Daaaaaaaa, I was ready to go!
Instacart Driver Salary
The IC app walked me through a pre-first shift tutorial, including the two kinds of deliveries:
Got it. Two types of orders. Then the app notes that I get paid by Friday from the previous Mon-Sun work week. For the Instacart week running Monday, February 12 – Sunday, February 18, I’ll get paid sometime from Wednesday 2/21 to Friday, 2/23. That’s a little slower than DoorDash (they pay on Tuesdays), but fine with me.
Scheduling shifts is easy. Instacart staff allows you to schedule during the current week and the following week. As you can see, the app notes that the busiest days are Sunday & Monday, followed by Tuesday & Saturday. Simply click on a date and the app will show availability in one-hour increments from 7 a.m.-midnight.
You can add or subtract hours as you please. Instacart staff requests that you don’t change your schedule less than 6 hours from your scheduled start time. (At DoorDash, you can cancel anytime you want, seemingly without reprimand).
Then, my heart sank:
$12.50/hr?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IF I WANTED TO GROSS $12.50 AN HOUR I’D MOW A LAWN! $12.50 is insanely low. This is ridiculous. I’m going to have a coronary from shopping anxiety while making $12.50/hr! What will my grieving mother say? I’m horrified. Well…all in the name of article research, I guess.
My First Instacart Shift
Finally, I was ready to ready for my first shift, on a Saturday afternoon.
On the day of my first order as an instacart employee, Instacart provided me with some additional advice, including suggestions to wear comfortable shoes, bring a phone charger and remember my payment card. Then it showed me this:
Insulated bag check? I understand the customer service angle for keeping products chilled, though I don’t think individuals place their own groceries in insulated packs. Regardless, Instacart is asking me to prove the existence of my bags or be forced to buy them with my first set of earnings. I don’t particularly appreciate that.
Anyway, I sent Instacart an email with the manufacturer name, dimensions and photo of the bags I use for DoorDash. Side note: DoorDash gave me the small one for free and I later chose to purchase the larger one.
I didn’t receive a response by the time I began my first shift, but that didn’t disqualify me from starting. Within several hours I received confirmation that these bags were considered acceptable.
Finally, Saturday 4 p.m. arrived. I was running a few minutes late getting ready to go. I assumed it was similar to DoorDash, where sign in time are exceptionally relaxed. At DoorDash, if you haven’t signed in 30 minutes (!) after your scheduled start time, you’re provided a gentle reminder to begin your shift. Only after you’ve failed to sign in 60 minutes after your scheduled start time will DoorDash cancel your shift.
Not Instacart! Without touching my phone, at 4:01 a loud tone came through my phone. It was Instacart with the following important message:
Time to shop!
Will I have a good experience?
Will I have to problem solve?
Will I freeze up when I can only find the 10 oz Zippy Jalapeno Yum Chips when the customer clearly wanted the 14 oz Zippy Jalapeno Yum Chips?
Will I make more than $12.50/hr?
One thing’s certain, the experience has been the most interesting of my modest side-hustle career.
Readers, have you driven for Instacart? What questions do you have for Dash about Instacart? Let us know in the comments!
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-Dash @ RSG