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Instacart workers request 22-cent tips in protest

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InstacartInstacart is a grocery delivery company that relies on contract workers called “shoppers” to pick out and transport items to customers.Facebook/Instacart

  • Instacart shoppers are rallying against a new payment policy structure that they say has resulted in cuts to their earnings.
  • These shoppers are urging customers to leave the minimum tip on an order and then tip in cash once the order has been delivered.
  • They say that this ensures that they receive the full value of the tip, rather than it being absorbed into what Instacart pays them. 

Instacart shoppers are rallying against a new payment policy change. 

A new petition put forth by over 150 shoppers — the employees who pick out and deliver groceries for Instacart — urges customers to leave a $0.22 tip on orders and instead tip in cash after an order has been delivered. 

These shoppers say that under the new payment structure, which was announced late last year, their earnings are now subsidized by customer tips, which can result in them earning less. 

“Customers’ tips are essentially being paid to Instacart rather than to the workers ourselves,” the petition reads. 

It continues: “If customers don’t tip up front, Instacart pays more. This essentially works like a tip penalty, where instead of being ‘extra,’ tips are just used to make up for not paying workers decently in the first place. Using tips to subsidize Instacart’s costs hurts workers and customers alike.”

If customers tip after the order has been received, shoppers receive the tip on top of any earnings they made on the order. 

Read more: Instacart workers are threatening to boycott the company over a payment policy change that they say has cut their wages

“Their main directive is to pay us as little as possible,” Matthew Telles, who has worked as an Instacart shopper since 2015, told Business Insider of the new payment policy in December. “They really do not care about us at all.”

Telles published a fiery blog post directed at Instacart’s CEO Apoorva Mehta on November 24, calling for the company to adjust the way it pays shoppers.

Instacart said it launched the new payment structure in order to make the process more transparent for its shoppers. Unlike before, shoppers can now see a preview of the items requested, how far they would need to travel to deliver the order, and exactly how much they would be paid for the job. This gives them the chance to see exactly what they would be receiving before they accept or reject the work.

“We are very upfront about the precise details of the batch to give the best possible view to a shopper before they are committing to doing anything,” David Hahn, chief product officer at Instacart, told Business Insider in December.

However, the fees have also changed. Under the previous system, shoppers were paid a flat delivery fee — which varied by region — in addition to $0.40 per item shopped and the customer’s tip.

Under the new system, the flat delivery fee has been removed and replaced with a “Batch Incentive” fee, which varies by order and is determined by the order’s number of units, the type of items, the overall weight of the order, the trip length, and the location. Shoppers also receive a $0.60 per mile commission. The total amount that Instacart pays shoppers is now called the “Batch Payment.”

“Before, we were treating all batches the same way, and shoppers were saying, ‘That doesn’t seem right, that’s not always aligning the pay with the effort,'” Hahn said. “We have now tried to incorporate all these different inputs into that overall batch pricing.”

But shoppers say the Batch Payment fee is typically low — sometimes as low as $1 or $2 — and that it seems very random to them.

A spokesperson for Instacart strongly denied that shoppers are earning less under the new system and said that the vast majority of shoppers appreciate the level of transparency under the new system.

“We value our 70,000 dedicated shoppers and appreciate all of their feedback. In 2019, we will continue listening and collaborating with the shopper community to create the best and most fulfilling opportunities for shoppers everywhere,” a spokesperson for Instacart told Business Insider on Thursday. 

This isn’t the first time that Instacart has come under scrutiny for its payment and tipping structure. In 2016, it removed tips and replaced them with a service fee, which went directly to the company. The tips were later reinstated, but shoppers said they were too hard for customers to find in the app. Then, it 2017, Instacart admitted to accidentally withholding tips from shoppers.

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