Three Ideas on How to Make Instacart Better for Shoppers; Bonus: Be Kind to Grocery Workers

I wonder why they chose a carrot.

I’ve written about my experience with Instacart before, and now that I’ve been doing it since Sept. 6, 2021, I have some thoughts on how the shopper experience could be improved by Instacart.

Increase Batch Pay

  • The batch pay is often ridiculously low and rather insulting, so much so that even with a generous customer tip, it would not be worth doing. It’s all the more insulting when the Kroger (or Meijer) is say, in Kentucky, when I’m based in a northern Cincinnati suburb. I’m not driving that far for $11. Heck, there are ones where, with all due respect to the customer, they’ve actually tipped relatively well, but when the batch pay is still only $8 for a 50-item (and 75-unit) batch, then what the heck? No way. My general rule of thumb is that I try to stay below 30 items for one order and below 50 items if I’m doubling up on an order unless the money is good enough to entice me to more items, which has happened! Time is money and I can’t waste an inordinate amount of time shopping for 50 items for little pay.

Fix the Refund Pay Cut

  • I feel like it’s unfair that I lose a portion of my tip money because an item needs to be refunded when it’s not my fault the item needs to be refunded. Particularly, in the months leading up to the holidays, the holidays and still hereafter, with the supply chain issues and holiday rush, there have been a number of items unavailable at Kroger, even comparable replacements. Or, something that happens, too, which is more a knock on the customers: I can’t get the customer to respond to me to make what would be an obvious replacement in my opinion, but I still don’t want to do something without the person’s input. No input? Refund. Another thing that’s goofy about Instacart’s method on this is that in the app, I can click “can’t find item,” and Instacart will sometimes pop up a message that says, “Shopper X found this item on Monday at 3:00 p.m., check again.” Instacart, it’s Thursday, that’s an eternity in the grocery business. That message is useless.

Compensate Shoppers For Time

  • So, for those who don’t know, when I accept a batch (which is what Instacart refers to as an order up to three orders at a time), I’m timed on my shopping. I presume Instacart has told the person buying the groceries that they will arrive in X amount of time, which is how they then time me. For example, a small order of 10 items may only have a time limit of five minutes. That’s usually plenty of time. Or a big order of 50 items will have 79 minutes. The vast majority of the time, I take pride in the fact that I often have plenty of time left over, if not a more than half the time left over. It would be neat, if you’re going to time me, to give me time bonuses. Anyhow, I do think Instacart ought to somehow take into account two items when considering time: 1.) the deli being extremely slow; there’s been times I’ve waited 15 or more minutes at the deli, thus causing me to go over my allotted time; and 2.) There simply aren’t enough workers at grocery stories right now and that’s causing inordinately long lines at the checkout lanes. In fact, on the same night I waited 15 minutes at the deli, I waited in a wrap-around-the-building sort of line at the checkout. As I said, time is money and whether I’m being faster than the allotted or expected time, or through no fault of my own, I’m exceeding the time, it would be neat if Instacart found a way to compensate me for that!

Now, reviewing this piece again, all three of my suggestions come down to one overall suggestion: Pay the shoppers (me!) more. Which, I mean, yeah! But I do think these things, whether they resulted in more money or not, are negatives to the shopper experience.

All of that said, I’ve really been enjoying Instacart, a lot more than when I first wrote about it and was first dipping my toes into it. It’s genuinely good side money, if you’re someone who doesn’t mind grocery shopping like me. I’ve gotten into a relatively good rhythm. Yes, I still dread the deli and checkout because of time constraints, and yes, there are items hard to find at times, but for the most part, it’s relatively easy.

Also, here are two bonus tips for the people who pay me to shop for them via Instacart: 1.) I don’t understand those who don’t tip, especially on absurdly big orders; please consider, I’m not only doing the shopping for you and checking out, but then I’m putting the groceries in my own vehicle and delivering them to your house, whereupon I take said groceries directly to your front door; and 2.) I defintiely don’t understand the people who live at apartments, where I need to be buzzzed in, and who aren’t ready to buzz me in when I arrive! What do you expect to happen here? Should I just leave groceries outside of the apartment complex?

Be Kind, Rewind Your Attitude

See what I did there? So, here is my promised one last note unrelated to how to make Instacart better, but for which I’ve noticed quite a bit in my time shopping these last four months: Folks, please be kind to those working at the grocery. I will never, ever understand those who berate and yell at the workers, who are often teenagers breaking into the labor market not making a whole lot as it is. Why treat anyone like that? I don’t get it. Even if you’ve legitimately been wronged in some capacity, what does yelling accomplish? What does pestering accomplish? What does making a scene accomplish? Nothing, in my estimation. Consider taking a step back and relaxing.

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