Explain how instacart shoppers work and how that explains odd outcomes
April 21, 2020 8:02 AM   Subscribe

How do instacart shoppers work? Do they scan items on their phones to "check out" or do they stand in line? Do they scan every item or just those that they are substituting? Do they pay themselves and then get reimbursed? Why do I get things for free and things I didn't order and this is not reflected on receipt? (oh, also, how do they get paid?)

So I've been using instacart for 5 or 6 weeks now, getting a delivery on average every 6 or 7 days. I've noticed the following odd happenings:

1. I text shopper and say "I couldn't add X, but I really need it. Can you add it?" They add it and bring it. It does not show up on my receipt. I don't think I paid for it. Do they end up paying for that out of their tip? Did instacart pay for it? Did no one pay for it?

2. I order Xand it's not available. They substitute Y, which absolutely doesn't fit my needs. I go into the app and indicate I'd like them to refund that thing instead. when the order arrives, it includes Y. My receipt does not show that I was billed for Y.

3. I order X. They bring Y, which might be a slightly different thing -- the wrong size -- or in another case was something different all together. The receipt indicates I paid for X, not Y. Sometimes Y is more expensive, sometimes less.

If you have knowledge of how instacart shoppers work, can you explain why these things are happening?

Also, I don't have any usable cash right now, but I'm wondering if once this is all over I might try to tip them in cash (leaving ziploc taped to the door) so instacart doesn't clawback their base pay. Is that a good idea, bad idea or what? I can't seem to find any clear answers online about instcart shoppers are paid. I tip generously of course, but do it via their app.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Shopping (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This article from Bon Appetit has some of the answers, like they use an Instacart branded Mastercard to pay.
posted by soelo at 8:48 AM on April 21, 2020


re: "I might try to tip them in cash"

This is a good idea, because in 2019, Instacart was found to have been stealing shoppers' tips by applying them to the "base pay", meaning if a customer tipped more, Instacart would pay them less. Instacart says that they have remedied this, but since I have no way of knowing whether that's actually true, I always err on the side of tipping in cash.
posted by rogerroger at 11:11 AM on April 21, 2020 [3 favorites]


I don’t have specific answers to your questions, but I can tell you I worked for Instacart in 2016, for two hours. That’s how long it took me to figure out that they were a mess. The app had four of us in the same store, pulling the same order, at the same time. It was the most disorganized company I’ve ever worked for, and that’s saying something.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:28 AM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]


They adjust the charge to your card later to reflect actual purchases, you should check that total and make sure it makes sense.
posted by fshgrl at 11:44 AM on April 21, 2020 [3 favorites]


Wait, that article from Bon Appetit says that the shopper and the driver are two different people. Who gets the tip, then? And does tipping in cash screw the shopper over?
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:25 PM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Wait, that article from Bon Appetit says that the shopper and the driver are two different people. Who gets the tip, then? And does tipping in cash screw the shopper over?

I think this varies by supermarket? For my first week of confinement I was in my own condo and it was different shopper and driver. The app told me the name of the shopper and driver and made clear it was differerent. I don't know how the credit card tip is divided. Now I'm isolating at my parents' house and the shopper and driver are the same person.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2020


I think most of the time, the shopper and driver are the same person. In some markets, I'm guessing mostly urban areas, the shopper is an actual Instacart employee (not contractor) whose job is to pick items and hand them off to a driver (who is an independent contractor) for delivery. I think in those cases, the tip goes entirely to the driver, since the shopper is paid actual wages of some sort.

I was trying to be better informed on how all this works as well and found the Instacart subreddit (which is mostly Instacart workers) really interesting to page through.
posted by yeahlikethat at 3:32 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


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