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How to Cope with the New Instacart Hours and Pay

How to Cope with the New Instacart Hours and Pay

Ever since Instacart sent out the “big announcement” e-mail on September 22nd, things have never been the same for an Instacart shopper working prior to this date.  At first there was fear, anxiety and anger over the injustice of taking the tips away from hard working Instacart shoppers, and the speculation of how much income we stood to lose from this change.  Then Instacart shoppers organized, vocalized and plotted a major boycott nation wide that was scheduled to take place right after the new pay change was due to take effect.  Just before the boycott, Instacart sent out another email claiming they would keep the option for customers to tip their hard working Instacart shopper.  The excitement didn’t last long, for little did we know that Instacart did it with a wink.  Once the new pay system took effect in the first markets, we discovered that the tip button was hidden on a different page. The new “service fee” automatically defaults to 10% and it was purposely designed to be mistaken for a tip for customers who didn’t read small print.  And that’s pretty much everyone…


It’s been over a month since Instacart changed the pay structure, scheduling and hid the tip option. Some things are starting to get better, but at this point it appears Instacart isn’t going to budge on their instituted changes.  Instacart Shoppers have organized nation wide and the changes are due entirely to the collaborative efforts of Independent Contractors who demand to get paid what we deserve for providing exceptional service.


Flyers have been designed with a color screenshot of the Instacart App check out page and are distributed by willing Instacart shoppers to customers upon delivery.

(Warning: This hasn’t happened to me personally, but some Instacart shoppers have been warned by management not to hand out flyers or discuss the “service fee.” I will continue until there is an issue. Below is a post about the issue)

I ask each client if they are aware of the new “service charge” and if they aren’t, I pull out the flyer and show them how the service fee defaults automatically to 10%, that it is optional and that it doesn’t go directly to the Instacart shopper who worked on this order.  The key is to tell them that they have the option to go back and still tip on an order AFTER it has been completed if they choose to do so.  I feel this last phrase is what’s earning me the majority of my tips, since uninformed customers already assumed the “service fee” is a tip, and will go back in the App and add an “additional tip” for me.  The overall reaction of customers is shock and anger at Instacart for charging them an additional fee and trying to disguise it as a tip!  Almost everyone is receptive and thanks me for this info. I will usually see a tip appear on that order later in the day. Today, I delivered to a client who thought “service charge” meant it was a tip for me since it says “service.”  I explained, showed her how to tip on the flyer and later today a $31.00 tip appeared!

Paying it Forward for other Instacart Shoppers

Our efforts are working because sometimes if I’m not able to communicate personally with the customer about the service fee or didn’t have a flyer to leave in the bag, a tip still appears on the order!  Most IC Shoppers have the attitude that these efforts are usually paying it forward for our next order as well as helping out the next IC shopper who services that customer.  Overall, our efforts appear to be paying off since tips are appearing more frequently. It’s also becoming more frequent that customers are telling me they already know about the service fee and have already included an “additional tip” upon checkout of their order.

It’s not what it used to be, but a significant enough change for me to continue working this part time independent job as I grow my business.  A few weeks ago, it was getting exhausting talking to each customer about the service fee and I wondered how long I would have to keep up this pace?  I’ve had to accept that it’s most likely a permanent addition to my delivery routine and now that it’s become second nature I really don’t even think about it.

However, we don’t need to let Instacart off the hook since things have gotten a “little better.”  It’s Instacart responsibility to ensure their hard working IC Shoppers can be tipped easily, and without confusion by their customers.  At the end of each shift when Instacart gives you the option to comment on your shift, I encourage all IC Shoppers to vocalize the tip situation or any other valid issues.  I’ve been told by Management that these comments are read.


Scheduling changes also took effect last month, but they are only favor Instacart Shoppers who have “early access.”  There is a weekly or a weekend categories to fulfill, and if you work the required number of hours for either category you gain “early access”  for the next scheduling period.  On Sunday morning at 9:00am local time, Early Access shoppers get to hand pick their schedules.  Fortunately, I’ve had early access since this change started and it’s been wonderful being able to pretty much design the schedule I choose.  However, it’s been a nightmare for my friends and other Instacart Shoppers who haven’t earned early access.  Instacart is typically used as a transition job for people who are busy and have other endeavors in the works, so it can be a challenge for many Instacart Shoppers to keep their early access status.  Even though I would like to work Instacart less to give my business more attention, I have to make sure to work the minimum number of hours to keep the EA privilege.

Instacart Shoppers who don’t have early access pick their hours on Wednesday morning at 9:00am local time, and apparently it’s the scraps left on the table.  Fellow Instacart Shoppers tell me there are only a few hours available and during the day they have to continuously refresh the app and keep an eye on the schedule for extra hours to become available.  It’s a catch 22 to gain early access, since you need to work a number of required hours to achieve it, but there aren’t enough hours to work if you don’t already have early access!  My advice to Instacart shoppers trying to gain early access is to take ANY available hours possible for a few weeks and always accept when Instacart offers you to extend your shift for the day. Instacart definitely needs to send this issue back to the think tank!


Since we are paid a higher delivery fee and no minimum for items, I’m more careful about the batches I now accept.  For instance, If I’m offered a batch with just 3 items and it’s a far distance, I try to not accept since I will be paid the current batch delivery fee for the day plus .40 per item.  Today in Hollywood, the rate was $9.10 for a batch.  I was offered a batch for 1 items (6 Units) and it means I’m only guaranteed .40 for the 1 item even though it’s 6 cases of water, bringing my total to $9.50 for my batch if I’m not tipped!  Not to mention the cases of water were to be delivered to a large office building on the 10th floor!

I decided not to take a risk, so I didn’t accept the batch.  I waited 20-30 min, then got back on shift.  When I returned to shift I was offered a batch with a higher number of units, therefore a higher guaranteed payout. Depending on how long you are on shift for, you can also choose to take a 20 minute break and skip the batch. However, you may not see that option, depending on how long you have in your shift. For my short 2 hour shifts, I never saw the option to take a break.

Be cautious of a few things:

At least we still have the option to exercise our Independent Contractor status if we feel it’s necessary to avoid certain situations.

I will continue to update ways that Instacart Shoppers can continue to utilize the new pay system for the highest payouts as more changes and updates are rolled out.

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