7 Reasons You Should Tip Your Instacart Shopper At Least 15% to 20%

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links (hosting fees aren’t free, ya’ll!), but all opinions are my own.

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?


I ended up getting another cart for this order.


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.


This is me driving my own vehicle while I deliver groceries for Instacart.


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.


This order ended up being more than $500 worth of groceries.


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?

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Do you think Instacart shoppers deserve tips? If so, how much?

14 thoughts on “7 Reasons You Should Tip Your Instacart Shopper At Least 15% to 20%

  • May 29, 2018 at 9:30 am

    I didn’t even know Instacart service was a thing! This does sound like a wonderful service and I totally agree about the tips! Anytime you use a service for convenience, you pay more because of convenience so if you can’t handle paying more with the tip, then shop yourself! I waited tables for awhile so I get it!

  • May 29, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    Where are you located? I’ve never heard of an InstaCart Shopper. I’m NY based by the way 🙂

    • June 1, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      I’m in the Midwest. I know that Instacart is available in most parts of New York, but I’m not sure which stores it covers there. It covers Costco, Sam’s Club, CVS, grocery stores, etc. here.

  • May 30, 2018 at 7:24 am

    Wow, as far as I know we don’t have Instacart shoppers here in our country. I can definitely use this type of service being a busy work-at-home mom myself. With everything that you do, you definitely need to be given the right amount of tips.

  • May 30, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    When I am shopping with my hubby, our cart would normally look like that. Now, not anymore since I am doing the shopping 😉

  • June 1, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    I have heard of Instacart but haven’t used their services. I will definitely tip well when I try it for the first time!

  • June 2, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    I used Instacart for the first time today and rated the shopper 5 stars. 24 items tipped default rate. I didn’t shop for myself as you all put it because I filed bankruptcy and have no car. Have you carried 100 lbs of food on your back and shoulders nearly a mile of walking plus inefficient bus service? Didn’t think so. Instacart isn’t just a luxury for some people. Many of us live on fixed incomes. I tip what I can and reward good customer service with reviews. Your attitude kinda sucks. Not all default tips are an insult.

    • June 4, 2018 at 4:03 pm

      I’m sorry you feel my attitude “kinda sucks”, but my post was not a personal attack on you or anyone else. None of us know your circumstances, and Instacart is a luxury service for many people. Many people don’t realize that Instacart shoppers aren’t hourly employees, nor do they understand how hard we work – which is why I wrote an article explaining what we do.

      And actually, I have carried tons of heavy food – including 24-packs of water – while walking more than a mile. I live in a city without public transportation, and even Uber/Lyft are fairly new here. I once walked 7 miles on a 115-degree day – with two kids in a bulky double stroller – to pay rent on time. After that, I grabbed groceries and carried them on my arms while lugging the heavy stroller back to my home.

      I know what it’s like to struggle – that’s why I tip well. Waitresses, Instacart drivers, etc. work to keep their customers happy, so I do whatever I can to make sure I tip accordingly. If that means ordering a cheaper dish at a restaurant than I wanted or buying few items during a delivery, then that’s what I do. I’m not saying you have to live your life the same way.

    • August 22, 2018 at 11:57 am

      You reward good customer service with reviews??? So do you give a restaurant a good review and conveniently not tip or just tip the waiter 5%? I don’ think this young lady needs to carry 100 pounds of food for a mile on her back to earn the tip that she deserves. Clearly you wouldn’t carry 100 pounds of food on your back for yourself even do to your unfortunate circumstances. Looks like you would rather so conveniently have ordered your little 24 items online and have someone else deal with it and then give a shitty tip! Her article is to educate people on how she earns her money. Many of us have no clue that instacart shoppers dont get paid hourly or a percentage of the order total.

  • June 25, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    wow your article made me cry..yes it all true girl im instacart myself and i do all that just to make sure customer is happy …!!!!

    • September 2, 2018 at 4:58 pm

      Awwwww thank you, Ann! I’m sure your customers appreciate you! 🙂

  • September 3, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    I am an instacart shopper and agree with everuthing you wrote and appreciate that you put that article out tgere. Almost every order i took was in top floor apartments with several trips being nade due to the cases of water soda beer etc.. and the ebd result is usually 5% tip after an hour of hard work. After gas i might make 7.00 which is less than minimum wage.

  • October 6, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    I think you forgot to mention few other things, like I use my own cell phone and service, which sometimes sucks as connection in the store, so I go in and out of the store to update the app. Instacart is not paying for gas, parking (and downtown can be expensive), tickets we might get as we drive around and rush all the time. You are lucky with large orders, I get few items and I still spend the same gas to deliver the order only to get paid few dollars, as people think few items don’t deserve a tip…and I can go on, how Instacart makes money at the expense of their shoppers.

  • October 27, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Thanks for explaning how little you were paid for the amount of work. Most folks assumed Instacart drivers have an hourly pay + mileage and tip is just on top.

    To be honest, I think the whole service industry should be changed. These days, I really feel like everything need to be tipped. I went to pick up a to go order from a restaurant, and the guy ask for a 15% tip. Like you, they’re paid too little and I can see its too hard for folks to make a living. IMHO, owner of these service industries should start paying the employees better, so they can have a steady and predictable income to count on. When employees are happy, they provide good service. Good service — > happy customers, and happy customers –> repeat business. Sometimes, I feel like customers are stiffed with the bill and need to tip, but that amount should have been part of your pay, anything tip should be icing on the cake.


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