CNN: People are luring Instacart shoppers with big tips - and then changing them to zero


Well-known member
Dec 11, 2018
In late March, Instacart worker Annaliisa Arambula accepted a grocery order that came with a big tip: $55. The store was just down the street, everything the customer wanted was available, and the order seemed to go off without a hitch.

But an hour later, Arambula checked her earnings on the Instacart app and the entire tip was gone, with a message saying the "customer modified the tip post-delivery." She ended up making just $8.95 from Instacart on the order.

"I was flabbergasted. I couldn't believe it," Arambula told CNN Business.

Some people are dealing with that by offering big tips, as high as $50 or more, to entice Instacart workers to pick up their orders. But some of those people have turned the tactic into a bait-and-switch, offering up the big tip and then taking it away as soon as the person who risked their health to get them their groceries has made the delivery.

Before accepting a "batch" -- which can consist of one or a few orders from different customers -- workers can see the items requested, the store location, the payment Instacart provides workers for the job, and the tip being offered. Instacart allows customers to change a tip for up to three days. Some workers told CNN Business tips can make up half of their income or more.

"It's very demoralizing," said Arambula, who lives in the Portland, Oregon, area and has worked full-time for Instacart since June 2017. "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." Arambula's husband is currently unemployed and at high risk for Covid-19 because he has diabetes, so they are relying on her work for Instacart to pay their bills.

An Instacart spokesperson told CNN Business the vast majority of people in March adjusted their tip upward or did not adjust their tip after delivery. Moreover, the spokesperson said, the company recently removed the "none" tip option for people, so users who want to tip nothing must manually change a tip to $0. The spokersperson said this could deter users from doing so. People can also leave feedback and rate a worker in the app, something Instacart claims typically happens if and when a person removes a tip.

Jenifer G., who became a "full service shopper" for Instacart about a month ago and asked to be identified by her first name and last initial for fear of retribution, said she has already experienced a handful of bait-and-switch tippers in Pennsylvania. She said one person originally put a $32.94 tip on a 27-item order from Sam's Club, only to replace it with a $0 tip after delivery. Another person changed a $13.31 tip on a 38-item order from a different store to nothing after delivery.

"It's a crapshoot," said Jenifer G., who noted half her earnings come from tips, either in cash or through the app. "These are affluent communities that I'm delivering to. There's almost no need to not tip, especially because not only is this a convenience for you but we're in a pandemic right now."

An Instacart spokesperson said that tips are always left up to a customer's discretion and would not comment on specific instances of tip baiting occurring. In an email to Instacart customers provided to CNN Business, the company encourages people to "please consider tipping above and beyond to reflect the extra effort of your shopper."


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