Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links (hosting fees aren’t free, ya’ll!), but all opinions are my own.
UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2019: Instacart has changed their pay structure several times since I posted this, and this article isn’t even a year old. I’ll update the earnings part of this article soon.
Hate grocery shopping? You’re not alone, which is why many consumers delegate this hated errand to friends, family, or Instacart shoppers.
Unfortunately, many people don’t appreciate their Instacart shoppers. They stand in their doorways, arms crossed, watching as shoppers lug cases of water, gallons of milk, and bags of dog food up their driveways. They bark out commands, like “Put these on my kitchen counter” or “Set these next to the fridge,” and many of us honor these requests – even though we are only obligated to bring the bags to your front porch.
We carry in bag after bag with a smile, then thank you for using Instacart. As we head back to our vehicle, we mark your order as delivered and nervously refresh the Earnings tab in our app to see how much you tipped.
The amount is often $0.
Sometimes there’s a tip, but it’s usually 5% of your grocery total. That’s because Instacart recently changed the customer app so it defaults to a 5% tip. Prior to this, Instacart didn’t recommend a specific tip amount.
Sounds good, right? Yeah, not so much. It’s standard to tip 15% to 20% for services, so it’s insulting for Instacart to make customers think we only deserve a 5% tip when we shop and deliver for you. Here’s why you should tip at least 15% to 20% next time you request grocery delivery services from an Instacart shopper:
We’re Providing a Service for You
When you go out to a restaurant, you should tip at least 15% to 20% of your bill. When you get your hair done, visit a nail salon, or have your hair cut or colored, you should leave a similar tip. Pizza delivery drivers also get tips in this range.
So why would you think Instacart shoppers don’t deserve a tip? And if you do tip, why would you think Instacart shoppers only deserve a meager 5%?
Instacart shoppers put a ton of effort into each order. We’ll discuss this more later, but just keep in mind that we typically handle every step of your order unless you’re in an area with ISS (in-store shoppers). Here’s how it works:
- We receive your order
- We drive to the store (yep, that’s right – we don’t work for the store you order from)
- We carefully select each item on your list
- We offer comparable replacements when an item is out of stock
- We unload your groceries
- We pay with an Instacart debit card
- We bag your groceries unless we’re lucky enough to get a bagger
- We load your groceries into our vehicle
- We drive your groceries to your home – which is sometimes 20 miles from the store
- We unload your groceries and carry them to your front door or garage
That’s a lot of work, which is why many people hire us to do their shopping. Don’t you think that deserves more than a 5% tip?
We Aren’t Hourly Employees
Customers often ask me about my hourly rate of pay because they want to apply to become Instacart shoppers. I laugh and explain that I don’t receive an hourly rate. I’m an independent contractor, not an employee, so I get paid per order (or “batch” as shoppers say).
I usually earn a delivery fee of $3.00 to $3.30 per batch (rates vary by day, and they change often), plus $0.30 per item. However, I don’t get paid for multiple items unless they’re different.
If you order an apple, an orange, and a banana, I’ll get $0.90 plus the delivery fee. If you order 10 cases of Ice Mountain bottled water, I get $0.30 plus the delivery fee. Totally unfair, right?
We depend on tips to make a decent living, and that’s common in the service industry. If you don’t tip your Instacart shopper at least 15%, your shopper might lose money driving to your home. Which brings me to my next point…
We Don’t Get Reimbursed for Gas
We drive to your house for free. Yeah, I get a $3.00 to $3.30 delivery fee, but do you think that really covers gas? Not if I drive my van to your home that’s 20 miles from the store and then deliver a second batch in the opposite direction. Instacart loves giving us 2 or 3 orders at a time in completely different cities.
Oh, and we don’t get paid for wear and tear on our vehicles either. We aren’t driving company vehicles – we transport your groceries in our own cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs.
We Strive to Keep You Happy
We work hard to deliver 5-star service every time we shop for someone. If you order produce, we carefully inspect your apples to make sure they’re unblemished. We check for mold on the bottom of your raspberries and blueberries. We choose avocados that aren’t too green or too black.
Then we head to the deli and patiently wait for the clerk to slice your turkey breast just right. We make sure you have exactly 7 pieces of Swiss cheese, and we don’t order 2 pounds of potato salad when you only want one.
We carefully check expiration dates to make sure your 23 cartons of yogurt don’t expire within the next few days. If a can of soup is dented or dirty, we search for a better one. We place your eggs, bananas, and bread in a safe spot so they don’t get damaged.
If something is out of stock, we scan a suitable replacement. If there isn’t one, we call or text to see what you want. We may also text just to introduce ourselves or ask if you need us to add anything to your order before we pay.
We do our best to be fast, courteous shoppers, and we often treat your groceries better than we treat our own.
We Work 7 Days a Week
Days off? What are those?
Many Instacart shoppers work 7 days a week because they don’t make enough money to survive on a 5-day schedule. Those of us who only do this part-time usually have other jobs, so we still end up working nearly every day of the week. Instacart is even available on holidays if you live near a CVS or a grocery store that never closes, so we’re here for you pretty much every day of the year.
We work rain or shine. Have you ever delivered $400 worth of groceries during a snowstorm? I have.
Need groceries while it’s pouring down rain? We’ll bring them to you.
Want ice cream on a 115 degree day? We’ll deliver cartons in our insulated coolers so you don’t have to sweat your way to the grocery store.
We Destroy Our Bodies and Cars to Deliver Your Food
Would you buy 7 cases of Pepsi, 4 packs of water, and 4 gallons of milk if you were doing your own shopping? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop you from ordering all of these things from Instacart. In the same order.
And really, the order I mentioned above isn’t as bad as what some of us get. I once had to call Instacart to have an order cancelled because it contained around 50 packs of soda and bottled water. I couldn’t fit all of it in my van, and I would have earned about $5.00 for the entire order. Remember, we only get $0.30 for items that aren’t multiples.
We aren’t commercial drivers with durable delivery trucks. We’re just regular people who happen to be great at grocery shopping.
Even if you don’t have bulky or heavy items on your list, we still experience hazards at your home. Your home might seem safe to you, but that doesn’t mean we feel comfortable there.
Barking dogs in your front yard? Sure, we trust you when you swear they’ve never bitten anyone.
Ice-covered driveway and steps? No problem, we’ll just crawl to your front door.
Yard littered with toys and trash? Hope you don’t mind while we take a break and ice our sprained ankles.
And I won’t even go into some of the creepy encounters shoppers have had with customers. Let’s just say you should probably carry pepper spray in your pocket if you become an Instacart shopper.
We Remember Who Doesn’t Tip
I’m not trying to threaten you with this statement. I’m just saying that many of us keep spreadsheets or notebooks filled with info about deliveries for tax purposes. We often record driving distances, item fees, delivery fees, and tips. Because of this, we know who doesn’t tip, and we know who tips a couple bucks and treats us badly.
That might be why your order takes 6 hours to get to your home. It’s probably bouncing back and forth between multiple shoppers who are trying to avoid it.
Even if a shopper takes your order quickly, they might just do the bare minimum. If you leave a bunch of detailed requests in the notes but never tip your shoppers, many of them aren’t going to go out of their way for you.
These shoppers aren’t trying to be vindictive. They’re just human, and they want to feel valued. Would you offer to stay late or help with extra projects at your job if your boss treated you badly? Probably not.
But I Can’t Afford to Tip!
I hear this complaint often. Part of me wants to say something like “Do your own shopping,” but the nicer side of me gets where you’re coming from. If you absolutely can’t afford to tip when you have groceries delivered to your home, here’s what you can do:
- Rate your Instacart shopper 5 stars. Shoppers often get bonuses based on 5-star ratings. In my area, I get a $2 bonus each time a customer gives me a 5 star rating.
- Address issues at the door. If you mark items missing or damaged, we can lose our bonus. Give us a chance to refund you before we leave if you anticipate issues.
- Keep your home safe for shoppers. If you can’t afford to tip us, we can’t afford to visit a doctor after your “friendly” dog attacks us or we break our arm on your slippery porch.
- Contact Instacart about fees. If you feel a service fee is too high and it prevents you from tipping, talk to Instacart about your concerns. The company won’t know how you feel unless you tell them.
- Place large orders without a bunch of multiple items. Remember, we get paid per item unless it’s a multiple item. If you order 50 or 60 different items, then we can at least earn a decent payment without your tip.
Please don’t use this list above as an excuse not to tip, though. Tip your hardworking Instacart shopper whenever possible.
It’s Not All Bad, Though
Customers might read this article and think shoppers hate delivering groceries. Some of us just work for a paycheck, but many of us truly enjoy this gig. I love meeting people all over my city, from stay-at-home moms to elderly couples. It feels good to know that I’m bringing healthy food to people that lack time and/or transportation to get to their local stores.
I’ve had customers hug me because they’re so happy to receive their groceries on a cold, snowy day. I’ve listened to recently single customers explain the heartbreak of divorce. I’ve met fluffy cats, friendly dogs, and charming children.
This job is amazing when customers tip well and treat you with respect. If you already treat your Instacart shoppers well, I commend you. People like you are the reason we still work for Instacart.
Feel like you’ve nailed tipping enough to order groceries from Instacart?