Instacart makes changes to tip policy following shopper complaints

Natasha Mascarenhas

Instacart announced today that it is changing its tip policy to protect its growing shopper network from tip-baiting. Tip-baiting, a grotesque tactic, is when customers bait shoppers with a big tip and then reduce the tip to zero after they receive their groceries. It emerged as Instacart’s demand skyrocketed due to the pandemic and people being unable to go to the grocery store.

Instacart continues to say that tip-baiting is rare and that less than 0.5% of orders have tips removed after delivery. It says tip totals have doubled for shoppers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, the policy change shows progress on how the company treats its shopper network, who have been essential as shelter-in-place orders keep people and the immunocompromised from going to grocery stores.

Instacart is now requiring customers who remove tips after delivery to leave feedback, and claims it will deactivate any customer who consistently removes tips. The company also said that it is reducing the tip-adjustment window (the time period for how long a customer can change the tip) from three days to 24 hours.

The smaller window, ideally, would limit the amount of time that a shopper needs to wait for a final tip.

Along with the tip changes, Instacart is updating its Instant cashout feature, first launched in 2019. Shoppers will now be able to cash out tips 24 hours after they complete a delivery for more immediate access to money. The company is also waiving all cashout fees for shoppers using Visa cards until the end of July 2020. Instant Cashout is also expanding to Canada.

The news comes as Instacart’s shopper network continues to grow more disgruntled. For context, the company has announced plans to grow its shopper network by nearly 250% due to demand from the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders. Some shoppers say that aggressive hiring adds fuel to the fire and doesn’t address core problems with Instacart, like bugs in the app, tip-baiting or lack of safety kit distribution.

In March, Instacart shoppers went on strike to demand better treatment, including asking if Instacart could change the default tip percentage back to 10%. The policy change today does not include this change. The default tip percentage is 5%.

Gig workers are essential workers during this time. It is long overdue for Instacart to start making policy changes that treat them like it.

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