Are Pay Cuts, Fake Bonuses, Reliability Strikes the Future of Instacart?
With several controversial and ethically questionable moves from Instacart this year, it’s quite obvious that they are not looking out for the Instacart personal shopper and that “profits over people” are their concern.
- Confusion between tipping and service fee, resulting in a pay cut for Instacart shoppers
- the base pay for full service shops and delivery only batches continues to shrink weekly
- less freedom for changing or editing hours
- Fraudulent complaints or complaints for delivery-only orders leads some to miss out on ratings-based $100 weekly bonuses
Where’s the tip Instacart?
Prior to September 16, customers could easily hit the TIP button and reward their hard working personal shopper. Then at the end of 9/16, Instacart found a way to save the company and turn a bigger profit at the expense of the personal shoppers who are literally the “back-bone” of the company. The change from tips to the service fee was promoted and marketed as a “positive change” for Instacart shoppers, but anyone with common sense could see that it was a disgusting attempt to confuse the shopper into paying a “Service Fee” skipping the “Tip” option and putting money back into Instacart’s pockets. The brilliant Instacart Shoppers figured out a work around by informing customers on how to save money on the service fee and instead tip their hard working personal shoppers. It’s now our responsibility to professionally inform our customers if we want to receive a tip. Extra “Tips” for Instacart shoppers:
- Give wonderful customer service and add your personal touch. Make the customer remember you.
- Quickly explain to the customer how they can save money on the service fee which doesn’t go to their personal Instacart shopper, and show them how to tip if they choose. Professional flyers are circulating which are great tools to show the customers.
- Most important, inform the customers that they have an option to go back into the App and still tip on the current order if they choose!
- Be aware that Instacart Managers have used scare tactics against talking to customers about tips and by doing so they may become deactivated. This is up for debate since we’re “Independent Contractors.” I haven’t been personally warned, so I continue to speak with all customers.
Customers also want the option to tip Instacart shoppers since they have the ability to affect the quality of the service. Without the tip, there is no incentive for shoppers to provide better service, hence why customer WANT to tip. I have been told this by multiple customers who want to tip. If they get bad service, they remove the tip after the delivery, which was a good incentive for good service. However, that is not the case.
If you want to read more about the slow evolution of Instacart over the past 8 months, you can refer to the below posts:
How low will you go Instacart?
Over the past few months, Instacart shoppers have seen the base pay per batch continue to drop each week. For example: On Sun 2/19 the batch pay in Hollywood was $8.50, Sun 2/26 it was $8.25, Sun 3/5 it was $8.00 and this Sun 3/12 we find ourselves at $7.95 per batch! As you can imagine, this causes Instacart shoppers great anxiety not knowing when the base pay will level out, or how low Instacart’s bottom dollar really is? I find myself cringing as I’m choosing my hours with early access Sunday Mornings when I discover yet again, that I will be paid less per batch than the previous week to perform the same job. A fellow Instacart shopper emailed Instacart Shopper Happiness inquiring about the pay cuts and after several back and forth exchanges, the truth became apparent. Since Instacart is no longer profiting as much by confusing shoppers into paying the “service charge,” they are lowering our pay each week to recoup the loss. Below is part of the email exchange between an Instacart shopper and Shopper Happiness:
In reality, the majority of our customers “do appreciate this behavior” and are upset with Instacart for trying to pull the wool over their eyes and confuse them into paying the “service fee” in lieu of tipping their Personal Shopper.
Also, there has not been “clarification” over the “Service Fee” vs “Tip.” The tip button is still difficult to find on the next page. If there was clarity, Instacart shoppers wouldn’t have to explain this process to customers and hand out fliers! I used to work less hours and make more money.
The pay for “Delivery Only” batches has drastically decreased as well. When the new pay system went into effect last September the DO batch pay was $7.00 in Hollywood, and as of 3/16 DO batch pay was only $3.70! In the LA market delivery distance can be vast, and if you’re delivering bags of groceries miles up Mulholland drive into the Hollywood Hills and not tipped, you actually lost money by the time you factor in gas and time! However, if you receive a nice tip the batch was to your advantage. The hope is that your daily average ends up on your side.
I now find myself working more hours and sometimes not even making what I used to prior to the changes. A lot of Instacart shoppers escaped the hamster wheel with previous jobs and careers, but now we feel as if we’re back on the wheel but still classified as “Independent Contractors.” I started this job so that I could focus on my passions and supplement them by working part-time. Now I feel that I have to work full time, to possibly even see the same results and it’s beginning to take time away from my main goals.
I’m still an independent contractor, right?
One of the greatest advantages of an Instacart shopper prior to the scheduling policy change was being able to edit your hours at anytime. Prior to the policy change, you would receive a “reliability strike” for canceling a shift less than 48 hours, but you could always edit your schedule anytime. If I was scheduled for a 10am shift and woke up to find my child sick, or we wanted to sleep in and have breakfast together, I could edit my shift to start a few hours later without receiving a reliability strike. Post scheduling policy change, you can now cancel a shift up to 24 hours without receiving a strike. However, any edits to your schedule less than 24 hours would then land you a strike as well! We no longer have as much flexibility. This was extremely frustrating and it made all of us feel less “Independent.” Last week an email was sent out informing us of another scheduling policy, but this one is more to our advantage. Now shifts can be canceled and edited up to 6 hours before your shift starts without receiving a strike! Finally a change that actually benefits the IC shopper!
Jumping through hoops for your $100 Rating Bonus
Each week, Instacart shoppers have a chance to earn a “ $100 Five Star Bonus.” The requirements are quite ridiculous and at times this bonus can seem elusive. Since Instacart charges unknowing customers the “service fee” and continually pays us less per batch, the money for our bonus comes from this fund. It’s in Instacart’s best interest if they don’t pay us a bonus for the week so they make us jump through hoops to earn it. Shoppers in a specific “zones” who are rated in the top 25% will receive the bonus. You typically need to have a perfect 5.00 star rating or in the 4.7-5.0 range. If shoppers in your zone had a bad week as well, bonuses will be given at a lower star rating. I’ve only earned the bonus with a perfect 5.00 rating and so far my record has been every other week to only once a month! I’ve gone the entire week with a perfect 5.0 Star Rating to wake up Monday morning and find my rating at a 4.94 with no explanation! Instacart doesn’t provide the info or feedback regarding who gave the rating or even WHY unless you call Instacart Shopper Happiness to inquire. Sometimes there isn’t even an explanation, but you will find the customer gave you a rating under 5 Stars. We have absolutely no control over many aspects of earning our bonus.
There are other factors that play into earning the bonus that are totally out of the IC shoppers hands as well. The “Delivery Only” orders shopped by “ In Store Shoppers” earn the Instacart full service shopper (FSS) who is delivering the order the same rating as the person who shopped the order! So if the “In store shopper” forgot to include any items, if the customer claims anything is “damaged” or if the customer didn’t like the communication they had with the In Store Shopper while shopping for their batch, the rating is shared by everyone involved in the order. Also your delivery could be part of a larger, multi-store order so if the other FSS screws up, you get dinged for it too, and vice versa.
Recently, there have been numerous fraudulent claims made by customers in order to get items refunded from their orders. They mark an item as “damaged” or “missing” and the Instacart shopper takes the brunt of their greed and loses $100 that week! At this point I just do the best I can, cross my fingers, a few toes and look the other way in hopes of earning my bonus!
Insider advice to saving your rating bonus
I received some sage advice from an Instacart Happiness Team member when calling in to inquire about losing yet another $100 bonus due to a ridiculous customer complaint! I was informed that once the customer locks in your star rating, any complains or items marked as “damaged” or “missing” won’t affect your star rating for the bonus. However, many customers mark these items before giving you the rating. This makes total sense, because comments have appeared on my app day after an order and my rating didn’t decrease. The customer decided to try and get a refund, but since they already gave me a 5 star rating I wasn’t affected. Instacart Shopper Happiness member suggested I inform my customers that if they notice anything is wrong with their order to please not mark it in the app, because it will affect my star rating for the week thus resulting in a $100 loss, but instead please call Instacart and take care of any issues over the phone. Apparently, if complaints are made this way and not marked by the customer in the App, it won’t affect our star rating. This is quite a mouth full to give customers on top of the “service charge” talk, but it a great tool that could help retain many bonuses.
We’re still here…
Overall, this gig economy job still works in my advantage, as well as numerous others. There will be days when I can work a short shift and still make a nice chunk of change, while working around me and my child’s schedule and building my business. I still have total freedom to choose the days I work and length of shift. I can even cancel or edit now up to six hours. I along with my fellow Instacart shoppers are keeping a close eye on the batch pay cuts, ease of customer tipping, and anything else Instacart may try to throw in our “Independent Contractor” laps. Only time will tell if this gig remains profitable, so stay tuned..Have more questions about Uber or Lyft? Head on over to our Rideshare Driver Training Course!