Instacart Workers 'Flabbergasted' at Tips Bait-and-Switch

Customers woo Instacart shoppers with big gratuities, lower them after delivery
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2020 7:41 AM CDT
Updated Apr 12, 2020 6:44 AM CDT
Instacart Workers 'Flabbergasted' at Tips Bait-and-Switch
An Instacart worker delivers groceries in the rain to a home in East Derry, NH, on April 3, 2020.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Instacart is an invaluable service for those who don't want to venture out during the coronavirus pandemic to go grocery shopping. As details, the free app works like this: A customer places an online order with stores like Whole Foods, Publix, or Costco, after which the app sends out an alert to "gig workers," who decide whether to snatch up the order based on such factors as how many stores they'll have to go to, how many items they'll need to shop for, and how much the offered tip is. And that last consideration is an important one, as tips can make up half of a worker's income. That's why some Instacart shoppers are fuming at what they tell CNN Business is a virtual bait-and-switch, in which they pick up a job based on an ample tip, only to have the customer lower the tip—or even change it to zero—after the delivery has been made.

"It's very demoralizing," an Oregon personal shopper says, adding she was "flabbergasted" when an original tip of $55 was changed to $0 after she'd completed a job, meaning she made just the $8.95 Instacart payment. "I literally am exposing myself [to the coronavirus], and when I return home, exposing my own family." Other delivery services like Uber Eats also allow customers to change tips, but they usually have only a few hours to do so; Instacart customers have three days. A company rep tells CNN most customers don't do so. Instacart has also had other problems during the pandemic, including an overwhelming order surge, accusations that shoppers are stealing food, and striking workers worried over safety. (More Instacart stories.)

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