Some customers play bait and zero tip tricks on Instacart shoppers

Discussion
Photo: @ksenia_she via Twenty20
Apr 17, 2020
George Anderson

While much of society has come to see people who work in stores and deliver groceries to our homes as a lifeline in this time of pandemic, there are others who not only do not seem to value these workers but have preyed on their need to make a living. Reports across the country have come in about consumers offering large tips to Instacart shoppers only to pull the gratuity once a delivery has been made.

The way the Instacart system works is that the company’s shoppers can see details of the order — items to be bought, store location, what Instacart will pay for the delivery and the customer’s tip amount — when it comes in. Workers accept orders, shop for the items requested in a designated store and then deliver them to the homes of customers. In numerous cases since COVID-19 has forced Americans into their homes, however, shoppers see that promised tips vanish once a delivery has been made.

“It’s very demoralizing,” Annaliisa Arambula, who delivers for Instacart in the Portland, OR area, told CNN. “I don’t pretend to be a hero, like a nurse in a hospital … but I literally am exposing myself [to coronavirus] and when I return home, exposing my own family to the possibility of transmitting this disease. When you know that it’s somebody who’s just doing it to game the system and to get their order when they want it, it’s really frustrating.”

Instacart has said that it has made changes to its system, removing “none” as a tipping option and putting in a default amount that customers can change. The delivery service provider told 11 Alive in Atlanta that tip baiting happens in fewer than one percent of the orders it receives.

An Instacart shopper in the Atlanta area identified as Shika said that tips paid, in general, have actually gone down since the pandemic forced people to stay at home.

“The store is out of pasta or taco seasoning or something, and so, the more items I have to replace or refund, so at the end of it, I’m looking at fourteen dollars for two hours of work,” she told 11 Alive.” I have never had this many complaints in the three years I have done Instacart, and I don’t know if it’s for free groceries or refunds or whatever.”

There’s no doubt that tensions are running high in some places around the U.S. as retailers and third-party services such as Instacart and Shipt try to keep up with the unprecedented demand for home delivery of groceries. Many Americans who have not purchased groceries online before are doing so for the very first time. Twenty-eight percent of online grocery shoppers made their first purchase in March, according to an Acosta study.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How should delivery services handle customers who appear to be trying to game the system? What have your personal delivery experiences been like since the coronavirus outbreak began?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Bad times can bring out the worst in people or the best. Unfortunately, these are (hopefully limited) examples of the worst."
"If Uber and Lyft can “rate” customers as well as drivers, why can’t Instacart do the same?"
"In these times with demand for a service that is so high, I think that Instacart could certainly institute a flat tip that is required for its shoppers."

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23 Comments on "Some customers play bait and zero tip tricks on Instacart shoppers"


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Ben Ball
BrainTrust

If Uber and Lyft can “rate” customers as well as drivers, why can’t Instacart do the same? No one who really needs or wants the delivery service is going to risk having their order languish at the bottom of the list — or not be picked up at all — due to having stiffed on a tip before.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust
Suresh Chaganti
Co-Founder and Executive Partner, VectorScient
5 months 12 days ago

Good point, Ben. I also hope Instacart fixes the issue by providing a backstop to comp the shoppers when customers change their mind and stiff the shoppers. Also increase the delivery fees. These steps need to be in place only for the next few weeks, to support additional pay.

Kevin Graff
BrainTrust

Perfect solution, Ben. That would certainly improve everyone’s behavior.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Is this a real problem though? I think everyone could agree at least 1 percent of customers, if not more, can be rotten. Ban them and move on.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust
I think it’s despicable to bait and switch the tip but let’s face it, some people just aren’t honest. My grocery delivery experience has been somewhat disappointing. Can’t get a slot from my preferred vendor, Peapod, in their two-week window so I settled for Instacart with limited store options of Shaw’s or BJ’s which were nine days out. I ordered a ridiculous amount of product and was disappointed in some of what I received. I thought the substitution or lack of it was somewhat ridiculous. I ordered special eggs and cheese but didn’t get any of these staples. With so many items on my list I couldn’t keep up with the interaction required during the picker’s trip. That being said I got most of what I wanted but still needed to go out to replenish what was missed. I believe this delivery service won’t go away but will be automated with micro-fulfillment in dark or semi-dark stores very quickly over the next several years because the new normal will be fewer trips to the grocery… Read more »
David Naumann
BrainTrust

This is a real problem and there isn’t an easy solution. Ideally, once a customer submits a tip, they should only be able to increase the tip for great service. If the experience with the shopper was bad, they can give the shopper a bad review and report it to the delivery services company. Delivery service shoppers are exposing themselves to more risk by shopping in stores and the money isn’t great. Having tips removed from the order after the goods are delivered is like stealing from the shopper.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is really scummy behavior from a minority of customers.

If a tip is offered before the order is placed then Instacart should not make it possible to reduce the amount or at least should make it hard to change by making customers call in or email in with reasons for the change.

Alternatively, workers should be able to see customers who have reduced tips so they can decide whether to accept an order or not. Some kind of customer rating system may also help in this regard.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

I agree with Ben, the rating system seems like a good place to start.

In these times with demand for a service that is so high, I think that Instacart could certainly institute a flat tip that is required for its shoppers. However, tipping off of the dollar value of one’s cart seems a little off in that scenario – perhaps a flat tip based on the time it takes to fulfill and deliver would be better received. This way people buying high ticket items aren’t penalized and it would discourage people from buying just a few items at a time.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Appalling! Rate the customers like the ride share companies do, then FIRE them. However, retailers and delivery companies need to make adjustments to their systems, for example, increasing the service charge to include a reasonable gratuity, say 15 percent.

Shikha Jain
BrainTrust

Even beyond the small group of customers that is probably awful overall, those shoppers that are putting their lives at risk should be protected because their livelihood depends on it. While many customers recognize this and hopefully are tipping above and beyond, there are still levers that Instacart can pull to be protect their workers. Minimum dollar amount tips for each order makes sense. These minimum dollar amounts should scale based on the size of the order since there is likely a correlation between size and time spent shopping for the groceries.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

DISTURBING.

We received two orders before Instacart totally crashed and burned. Each time there were minor mistakes that given the situation were totally acceptable. We tipped generously.

Bad times can bring out the worst in people or the best. Unfortunately, these are (hopefully limited) examples of the worst.

The situation is exactly like Annaliisa Arambula said, “I don’t pretend to be a hero, like a nurse in a hospital … but I literally am exposing myself [to coronavirus]…” I hope all people remember and respect that.

Lastly, this is yet another corporate failure allowing the possibility of no tip until their eyes were forcibly opened by a widespread problem. Wake up corporate management!

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Simple. Lifetime ban. Passport revoked. Any previously earned merit badges or gold stars revoked. Prime and Netflix memberships revoked. Emblazoned with a scarlet letter on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Ban these people. I have no tolerance for this. Instacart should automatically add a non-negotiable tip to the order that is fair to both the customer and the shopper. And still give the customer a place to add an additional tip if they like. Instacart shoppers are doing what we choose not to do and they should be compensated for putting themselves out there.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
5 months 12 days ago

Imagine if Instacart or any other brand valued customers not just on their spend, but on their behavior towards employees and their tips. It would create alignment between customers, the brand and the brand’s employees. The trifecta of loyalty.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

A tip offered at the time of order placement shouldn’t be allowed to be changed. If there is a dispute over the order, then Instacart needs a dispute resolution method to solve that. I’ve done a few Costco deliveries which are Instacart, and given the circumstances everyone is in, I waited for delivery slots once and the order was five days out. More recently it was all like clockwork with only a two day wait. I do wonder how much Instacart is marking up the order (I get the services fees — but they do say prices can be higher than in-store) as it sure does seem a noticeable amount more expensive than my usual in-store Costco run. Point being I suspect that there’s room in there for Instacart to make this right for their employees/gig workers.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Why isn’t Instacart simply requiring a tip range to be selected before the order is sent out? This guarantees that a minimum tip is always included, and eliminates a bait and switch scenario.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Asking someone to risk their lives by shopping for you, then stiffing them on a tip, is a special kind of evil.

Al McClain
Staff

I agree with having a minimum tip for the shopper and banning problem customers, perhaps after this issue happens more than once, since there could have been an issue a single time. My own experience with Instacart here in southeast Florida has been very good. Yes, there have been delays, substitutions, and mistakes. But overall they have done a great job and are bringing groceries to our front door, literally saving us from the possibility of getting sick, or worse. I have found that the shoppers have done a solid job. Thanks, Instacart!

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Surprising Al. The shoppers here in Jersey have been fine, but the company itself is an abomination. I understand the overwhelming demand, but when employees [shoppers] asked for more protection and threatened a strike, the smug CEO bragged about having 300,000 applicants in the pipeline. If he’s got a need to be that indifferent towards the very people that make him his living, he’s got a need to make sure the web site works and he can deliver to customers, or at least have a very manageable/transparent queueing system. Especially with, as Peter Charness points out, jacked up prices.

Al McClain
Staff

Hi, Ken. My favorable comments about Instacart relate only to my personal experience. I certainly agree that their shoppers should have masks, gloves, and whatever PPE they need. Just checked the app, and they are offering delivery here within 5 hours today, or within about ten different two hour windows tomorrow. Yes, the prices and fees are high, but considering the circumstances, I can deal with that, and the fees are disclosed in the app before you check out, although the percentage of the markup is not.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

I agree that a lifetime ban for these shoppers is appropriate because their behavior is awful. Anything else? Yes. The Grocery Gods will not be happy. What goes around comes around.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Throw their ***es off the platform. Immediately. Permanently. How can there even be a question about this?

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

A rating system for customers is part of the solution. I think part of the challenge is that consumer expectation is too high right now for the price charged. Is personal shopper service now supposed to have an “essential service” level of reach and availability? I personally don’t use them right now because there are elderly and immune-deficient audiences who absolutely need this. The personal shopper is at a much higher risk of getting sick given they have to spend so much time in the store and managing substitutions for basically minimum wage per hour.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Bad times can bring out the worst in people or the best. Unfortunately, these are (hopefully limited) examples of the worst."
"If Uber and Lyft can “rate” customers as well as drivers, why can’t Instacart do the same?"
"In these times with demand for a service that is so high, I think that Instacart could certainly institute a flat tip that is required for its shoppers."

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