Small tips to high gas prices: Vancouver Instacart shopper says pay is deteriorating

Mar 18 2023, 12:12 am

In the nearly two years Jackie has been a shopper for retail company Instacart, gas prices have increased while her pay incrementally decreases, she said.

Instacart is a grocery delivery company, and “shoppers” fill out online orders placed through the app and are paid through the company for their deliveries.

“It’s never been really great, but it definitely was better. And now it’s slowly but surely getting stingier and stingier,” the North Vancouver resident told Daily Hive.

We have agreed to omit her last name for privacy reasons.

Jackie says Instacart was a great way to make some spending money, as working for the app-based company as a buyer and driver was helping her financially.

Jackie is on disability and says the money she earns through the deliveries helps her pay for everyday things like meals. 

But over time, she’s noticed “there’s just no rhyme or reason at all to [Instacart’s] payment structure.”

“Sometimes you have to wait around until you get an order where somebody’s tipping more because based on the base pay it’s so awful. You really want to hold out for the ones that have a decent tip,” she explained. 

However, waiting around for a decent tip is a challenge in itself. 

“There’ll be one [order] and you’re going 14 kilometers and the base pay is $7, and they’ll be like a $3 tip or something,” she said, adding that it’s not enough to make ends meet. 

For example, this week, Jackie shopped for two customers simultaneously and delivered their groceries to two different addresses, which took about two hours to complete. 

“Then I got paid about $24,” she said. 

According to Instacart, it offers batch minimums between $7 to $10 for full-service batches and $5 for delivery-only batches. 

“The Instacart batch payment is determined by a number of factors, including the number of items and units in the batch, the weight of those items, the anticipated time and effort it will take to shop and deliver the batch, and the expected time and distance it will take for a shopper to complete the delivery,” the service clarified with Daily Hive. 

Instacart adds its upfront about its earnings structure by telling customers what the expected mileage is to deliver a batch, the Instacart payment they will receive, and the expected customer tip for the batch.

“As part of their total batch payment, we also guarantee Canadian shoppers will earn $0.40 CAD per km they drive from the store to delivery on every batch,” it added. 

As of Friday, the cost of gas in Vancouver is $1.789 per litre. So unless people delivering for Instacart are driving an electric vehicle, “It’s not that great,” Jackie said. 

“If you don’t have an electric vehicle, it’s just not even worth it, to be honest,” she said, adding that’s especially true “if you’re gonna rely on it as your only income.”

In March 2022, Instacart introduced a one-month temporary $0.40 fuel surcharge on customer orders which was directly given to shoppers fulfilling their orders. The program was extended several times until finally evening in mid-June 2022.

Jackie is pleading with Instacart users that order groceries to consider all the work shoppers like her do for them because shoppers like her depend on tips to earn a fair wage for their work. 

“We’re leaving wherever we’re at, driving to the store you want us to go to, gathering all your items, paying for them at the checkout, bagging them, loading them into the car, driving them to your house and then sometimes going up driveways… [sometimes] hauling [bags] up, and then people tip either nothing or your tip two bucks.”

Submitted photo

Jackie is calling on Instacart to “pay more fairly” and is urging it to inform customers of current gas prices and suggest suitable tips based on the orders. 

“If somebody’s gonna have somebody doing their shopping for them, they can certainly afford to pay a little bit for a tip… it’s almost insulting sometimes,” she said. 

Last year, Instacart said it launched several updates that encourage higher tips from customers “and have resulted in more earnings from tips for shoppers.”

“In terms of overall earnings, shopper earnings in Canada increased at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and have stayed higher than pre-pandemic levels since March 2020,” Instacart reports. 

Nikitha MartinsNikitha Martins

+ Dished
+ News
+ Venture
+ Transportation
+ Urbanized
+ Grocery