Why Instacart Shoppers Are Striking on Thanksgiving
For the past week, Instacart Shoppers have been gearing up to strike on November 22nd and 23rd. Two months ago, Instacart announced that they would be removing the customer’s option to tip Instacart shoppers directly. Instacart changed the tip option to a service fee option. Instacart will still be able to profit from our tips (now service fee) and the Instacart shoppers will not get any of it. Instantly, this caused a lot of anger among all Instacart shoppers.
Instacart Service Fee Hurts Customers and Shoppers, Only Instacart Benefits
Here is a list of reasons why Instacart shoppers and customers would suffer alike:
- Lower Pay for Instacart Shoppers: All Instacart shoppers get half of their earnings in tips. Some shoppers who delivery to more generous customers get closer to 60% of their total income in tips.
- Higher Base Pay Doesn’t Make Up for Tips: Instacart announced higher base commission on FS and DO orders, but after doing the math, most Instacart shoppers will be getting at least a 30% cut in pay. Some Instacart shoppers would be getting over 50% pay cut.
- There is no incentive to deliver quality service: The reward for good service was a tip, so shoppers would often provide better service in hopes of getting a tip. About 80% of customers tip (I noted 90%) so this tactic by Instacart shoppers work in getting more and better tips. Without tips, there is no control by the customers over their orders. Instacart shoppers will now be paid mostly in base commission which doesn’t change regardless of how the order turned out. Instacart shoppers will no longer have an incentive to provide good customer service anymore. The customers eventually realized this and started to complain to Instacart.
- No Tips Favors Speed Over Quality: Since we are being paid by base commission and per item only, there is no incentive to deliver quality service. The payment system favors speed over quality because the faster we shop, the more orders we can get and the higher our earnings are. This can lead to mistakes or cutting corners, like grabbing random pieces of fruit, or not looking for hard-to-find items.
- Instacart is the only beneficiary of the changes: they get to boost their net revenue through service fees by taking those fees from shoppers. My estimates put their increase in net revenue by about 30% overnight because of the changes.
For the few weeks between the announcement and implementation of the new system, Instacart shoppers had united together in various Facebook Groups and started to tell their customers about the new changes. They had also threatened to strike the first two days of the new system. The customer backlash was swift and loud. Many customers called into Customer Service and posted on Twitter and Facebook to voice their concerns. There were a few customers who told me that they would not be using the service if they removed the tip option.
Instacart Fights Back Against the Strike
Once word spread about the strike and Instacart found out about it, they did a few things to break up the strike:
- They deactivated shoppers: Instacart focused on certain metrics, like late deliveries and reliability incidents as a way to deactivate shoppers. This happened in a few cities. These deactivations were in the legal grey area. There were other shoppers who were not part of the strike that had similar metrics in those cities, yet they stayed as an active Instacart shopper. This created a bit of fear among other Instacart shoppers.
- They changed implementation date of changes: they moved the implementation of the service fee option in about half the cities a week later in order to disrupt the protest.
- Instacart hires many new shoppers: they have been anticipating this type of negative response so they started to hire new Instacart shoppers to replace those who quit because of the changes in tips and the implementation of the service fee.
Instacart Lowers Base Pay and Hides Tip Option
Instacart didn’t want to admit that it was the Instacart shoppers who forced Instacart to reintroduce the tip option. Instacart announced that it was the customers that influenced the change, and not the shoppers. They did this to make sure Instacart shoppers did not believe that they had power over the company.
When Instacart added back in the tip option, they hid it under a few layers of menus. They did this purposely in order to ensure customers kept paying the service fee directly to Instacart while giving the option to tip. Some long time customers figured it out and leaves a tip, but now Instacart orders are mostly devoid of tips.
Here are the two things Instacart did when they brought back tips:
- Instacart lowers base commission: the initial email noted that the daily base commission may change. During the first week of the new system, all shoppers realized that the base commission was significantly lower than what was stated in the original email. In addition, the rates were lower for busy days than the quieter days, which didn’t make much sense to shoppers
- They hid the tip option: customers need to change the default service fee in order to be able to tip. In the first week, very few customers noticed the change. Once Instacart shoppers started educating customers, more customers are tipping but customers are still angry over this change.
- Instacart claims service fee goes to shoppers – in one way, this statement is true. However, the service fees are shared among all the shoppers, so it doesn’t go to us directly. In addition, they are moving the revenue around in order to pay us, so essentially what they did was steal our tips and using it to pay our base commission. Here is the article that outlines how they are doing this:
Instacart New Scheduling System Eliminates Full Time Shoppers
The new scheduling system was implemented at the same time as the change to a service fee. Instead of the best shoppers getting the better schedules and more hours, now every shopper needs to pick up hours. This causes a massive rush to get hours on the first day it is available. There are some full time shoppers who qualify for “Early Access.” However, many shoppers noted that there aren’t many hours available even for shoppers who qualify for “Early Access.” Many Instacart shoppers went from working 50 hours a week to barely 10 hours a week because there are no hours available.
This type of system works better for occasional shoppers since they are better able to pick up hours during the week. For the two weeks of the system, I was able to pick up similar amount of hours during the week but it was always last minute, so I had to leave my availability open and adapt quickly in order to work a few hours for Instacart. For most people, this is almost impossible to do because if they can’t schedule hours, they may not be able to work.
There is one reason why Instacart is doing this. They are spreading the same number of hours among more shoppers, which makes it harder for Instacart shoppers to organize and have a bigger impact on Instacart operations. A few months ago, there were a few shoppers who shops a large amount of hours. If enough of these full time shoppers organized, they could seriously affect Instacart. By spreading out the hours among more Instacart shoppers, they lower the impact of a single Instacart shopper. As I stated before, Instacart was hiring many more shoppers to replace long time Instacart shoppers who quit. These newer shoppers are less likely to strike because they don’t know how much more money Instacart shoppers used to make. This is a similar tactic that Uber and Lyft uses when they lower fares.
Before the change to the scheduling system, I heard from many more Instacart shoppers that shopped full time (>40 hours a week). After the change, I have only heard of a few shoppers that are still working for Instacart a large number of hours. For the shoppers that need Early Access or more hours, they often are working the less ideal hours, like on Saturdays and Sundays.
The new scheduling system also penalizes shoppers who take a break for a week or two. Instacart shoppers can be sick or traveling and take a week off. However, if they do that, they lose Early Access and then have difficulty picking up hours again. It is a vicious cycle and it is hard to get out of it. In my market of Seattle, it is also difficult to get either enough hours to qualify for Early Access or enough hours on the weekend to qualify. If you take a week off, it can take up to three weeks to requalify for Early Access. Some shoppers depend on this income so having a lower income for three weeks is devastating.
Why Instacart Shoppers Are Striking on Thanksgiving
Much of this introduction frames various reasons why Instacart Shoppers are frustrated with the new system. Below is the summary of the current problems with Instacart:
- Instacart shoppers are getting less hours due to the new scheduling system.
- Each order is paying out much less because of the loss of tips.
- There are still large orders coming through, yet Instacart Shoppers are no longer getting tips for these more difficult orders.We are also not able to skip these orders anymore, forcing us to perform the more difficult orders for much less pay.
- Instacart purposely hide the tip option.
- Instacart lowered the base commissions that further reduces our income.
Instacart shoppers believe all of these changes was to hurt the existing shoppers and to punish the shoppers for organizing a strike. Instacart is also hiring even more shoppers to replace the long time shoppers so that they are less likely to strike. Instacart is just waiting to replace most of the problem shoppers (those that are willing to strike) so that Instacart can continue to collect our tips in the form of service fees to improve their profitability.
Instacart Shoppers Thanksgiving Strike
For the past few weeks of the new system, Instacart shoppers have been organizing again in order to gear up for a bigger strike after the changes. The busiest day of the year for Instacart are the two days preceding Thanksgiving. Instacart shoppers believe that we can really make a difference if they went on strike on November 22nd and November 23rd. The communications have been sent through Facebook and word of mouth for the past two days and many shoppers are much more motivated to strike this time around.
Here are some details about the strike:
- The strike is happening on November 22nd and November 23rd
- Instacart shoppers can participate in the strike by either picking up hours during these two days and not show up, or go on shift during these days, accept the orders and not shop for them.
- Instacart shoppers can also be outside the coverage zone during their shift to avoid a reliability incident (Instacart may start penalizing shoppers for this tactic)
- Shoppers can also refuse to use any rewards cards so that the same groceries cost Instacart more
The Instacart shoppers are looking for the tip option to be much more prominent so that we can be better compensated for our time. We believe that if enough Instacart Shoppers disrupt service, we can send Instacart a message that shoppers are critical to their business and if we are not heard, their business will suffer.
Why Instacart Shoppers Are Much More Likely to Strike
As noted above, many shoppers have been getting less hours and making much less now with the removal of tips. Instacart shoppers went from working 40 hours a week to barely 10 hours a week. Income levels have dropped from $20 an hour down below $10 an hour. I am average about $15 an hour now, down from above $25.
Here are a few reasons why Instacart Shoppers are much more likely to Strike on Thanksgiving:
- Instacart shoppers feel that they have much less to lose now with the lower pay
- Shopping before Thanksgiving is like hell on earth and not getting tips will motivate us to stay home
- Instacart shoppers feel betrayed by Instacart and want to do the most damage possible to the business and its customers
In the weeks after the change, Instacart shoppers have been looking for other jobs. Many of them have went back to driving on Uber and Lyft. Some of them have signed up for Amazon Flex, which actually pay about the same and also get tips. I have been earning the same on Amazon Flex as I did on Instacart and it is significantly easier. I will be doing a followup post for alternatives jobs for Instacart Shoppers.Have more questions about Uber or Lyft? Head on over to our Rideshare Driver Training Course!