6 min read

    6 min read

    Instacart has been plagued by accusations of tip-baiting. It’s been such a big topic that the Senate has now launched an inquiry into the problem – and now it looks like Instacart is listening. Below, RSG contributor Katie Heflin shares Instacart’s announcement, what it means for Instacart shoppers, and her own Instacart tip-baiting story.

    Instacart recently sent out an email letting drivers know they’re making changes to their platform. Is Instacart tip-baiting really over?


    Watch the view below and at YouTube here: Is Instacart tip baiting over?! Instacart changes tipping policy!

    Instacart is listening to us! The latest email from Instacart announces that customers will now have to provide feedback if they decide to change our tip after we have delivered their groceries.

    Instacart has said tip-baiting happens infrequently, but we have heard from many Instacart shoppers – it definitely doesn’t seem like isolated incidents. Unfortunately, this announcement from Instacart does not address when customers lower the tip by a lot – which happens more frequently.

    In the email, Instacart also mentions potentially deactivating customers who are abusing the platform. It appears from the email that Instacart will take a look at the reason why the customer removed the tip and if it becomes a habit, they could be deactivated.

    What is Instacart Tip-Baiting?

    Instacart tip-baiting is when customers offer a big tip for shoppers to accept their order. The Instacart shopper would get excited – sometimes these tips were quite substantial!

    However, unfortunately, with tip-baiting, the shopper would deliver the order and leave and the customer would go into the app and completely remove the tip.

    In most cases, this is completely unfair to the shopper. If customers are mad something was out of stock, or it took longer than expected, it’s not fair to take it out on shoppers who frequently do not have any control about what the line is like for the store or what the store has in stock.

    More Instacart Changes Coming

    In addition to the (potential) reduction in tip-baiting, Instacart is also reducing the tipping window from three days to 24 hours.

    According to the email Instacart sent us shoppers, only .25% of customers adjust their tip after 24 hours, so we’ll see how big of a change this is.

    Instacart is also changing the cash out experience. Instacart is going to let shoppers cash out tips pretty much right away, so if you want a paycheck every day, you can.

    Instacart will also be waiving cash out fees (50 cents) throughout the month of July only.

    My Instacart Tip-Baiting Experience

    I had to make several trips (7-8 trips back and forth) with heavy items like soda. The tip wasn’t huge – $7 – but it would have made a difference!

    A few hours later, I noticed the tip was completely gone.

    Why would people do this when they know you know where they live? Not that RSG condones this behavior at all, but wouldn’t you be concerned about that as a customer? All for a relatively inexpensive tip? Crazy!

    It’s good to see Instacart doing something about some of these problems affecting shoppers. Instacart shoppers are frequently shopping for people who want to remain indoors, healthy for themselves and/or their family members, or for people who can’t go out and shop.

    It makes sense to pay them fairly and not let customers remove tips just so they can get a ‘faster’ order from shoppers who rely on those tips to balance their earnings.

    Is Instacart Tricking Customers, Too?

    Recently, it was announced that Washington D.C. is suing Instacart for unfair and deceptive practices. According to the District Attorney General, Karl Racine, “Instacart tricked D.C. consumers.” 

    What’s the trick? Instacart made it seem like the 10% service fee consumers were paying would actually be the tips going to the shoppers. Instead, this fee went to Instacart directly. Another issue is that the company did not pay D.C. tax on that money. 

    “It [Instacart] was lying to consumers,” said Racine. “And indeed monies that consumers believed were going to workers were instead going to the company’s bottom line.”

    This left drivers wondering why they were not receiving tips, while consumers thought tips were already being handled within the app. 

    The 10% service fee is no longer listed on their app, removing that confusion. However, drivers do complain of reduced earnings per order, likely meaning the company is taking more money to make up for the lack of the service fee. 

    D.C. is looking to recoup those service fees for the time period affected, namely 2016 to 2018, and have it paid out to active drivers on the platform during that time period in D.C. 

    Earnings Strategies

    The following are tips and tricks from Instacart drivers and their experiences. 

    • Don’t drive too far away from where you live – keep your distance short to minimize your time driving. This will help you earn more per hour!
    • Focus on a few stores and get to know them really well – this will increase your pick speed and your hourly rate. Not every store is laid out the same way!
    • Play to your strengths – don’t know the spice aisle so well? Don’t accept orders that ask for a lot of spices, as this will cause you to spend more time searching and less time throwing things in your basket and heading out!

    Mistakes to Avoid

    Try to avoid these rookie mistakes when driving for Instacart. See the full list on our article 7 Mistakes Beginners Make With Instacart.

    • Accepting huge wholesale store orders – Shopping at places like Costco and Sam’s Club can be trouble if not done right. My limit is only 8 items and 10-15 units (so they can get 8 items, and 3 or so of each item).
    • Shopping for businesses – 90% of veteran Instacart shoppers refuse to do it – and there’s a good reason why. Businesses don’t tip and they treat you like an unpaid intern. They’ll demand you bring everything up, put it in a certain location, ignore you and not tip.
    • Accepting triple or large double batches – I personally don’t like triple batches or even large double batches. I like to get groceries one at a time and make deliveries one at a time. It can be stressful to organize and even deliver large, multiple batches and watch out if you have frozen food!

    What do you think about this announcement from Instacart? Do you think it will fix Instacart tip-baiting?

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    -Katie @ RSG with additional reporting by Paula Gibbins

    Harry Campbell

    Harry Campbell

    I'm Harry, the owner and founder of The Rideshare Guy Blog and Podcast. I used to be a full-time engineer but now I'm a rideshare blogger! I write about my experience driving for Uber, Lyft, and other services and my goal is to help drivers earn more money by working smarter, not harder.