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instacart, On-Demand

Here’s a glimpse into how much Shoppers at Instacart are earning, as well as insights into the delivery rates for the week of November 20, 2017.


For the week of November 6-12, the average Shopper across our sample earned $13.99 per hour, before deducting expenses. Shoppers worked an average of 29 hours per week, with a maximum of 81 hours. 


There is a wide pay range depending on the city and zone that a Shopper works. Expenses can reduce Shoppers’ earnings significantly. Most Instacart Shoppers are designated as independent contractors and are responsible for paying for their gas, car wear-and-tear, auto and health insurance, and workers’ compensation, as well as incidentals such as parking and tickets.



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Total Earnings per Hour Before Expenses (National Average)

Total earnings per hour includes delivery commissions, bumps, and tips.


*Average earnings/hour is calculated before Instacart Shoppers pay for expenses such as gas, wear-and-tear on their vehicles, or insurance, which Shoppers are required to pay themselves. The 2017 standard IRS deductions is $0.53 per mile. 



Hours Worked per Week (National Average)


The Low Down on Tips

Tips made up on approximately 18% of a Shoppers pay or $2.77 per hour for the average Shopper. Tips vary significantly across our sample size, from as little as  38¢ per hour to as a high as $8.49 per hour.




Tips as a % of Earnings

Deliver Rates by Instacart Zones

For the week of November 20, 2017, here is a sample of various Instacart Zones. Mondays are one of the highest paid days of the week and average $8.36 for full-service shopping and delivering an order.


For delivery-only (i.e. orders that were already prepared at the store), Shoppers receive $5.13 on average for each delivery they make.  The upcoming rates that Instacart pays Shoppers varies significantly based on region and day of the week.


Full-Service Rates


Delivery-Only Rates

Full Service Rates by City/Zone


Delivery-Only Rates by City/Zone

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To have access to the most up-to-date reports and insights, add your earnings and delivery rates for Instacart in your city.

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“In aggregating Shoppers’ stories, we’ve discovered a pattern of troubling and systemic issues with Instacart’s relationship with its front-line workers.” 

There is a toxic relationship brewing between Instacart, the $3B grocery delivery startup, and its Shoppers who are responsible for delivering its groceries to customers.  Instacart’s business model depends on tens of thousands of shoppers across the US, designated as independent contractors.  We’ve heard from hundreds of these Shoppers over phone interviews, social media, and the dumpling community.  In aggregating Shoppers’ stories, we’ve discovered a pattern of troubling and systemic issues with Instacart’s relationship with its front-line workers.

Shoppers would like to see Instacart dramatically improve their poor behavior.  Here are some of the more troubling issues we’ve heard:

  1. Misleading “service fees” 

  2. Privacy concerns with the Instacart Shopper app

  3. Physical injuries to Shoppers assigned to deliver commercial orders

The situation is emblematic of the growing disconnect between Silicon Valley’s elite and the working class – and Instacart is a case study.  We predict this will result in negative consequences for the company, and is perhaps an early indicator that Instacart will be the next to follow Uber’s dramatic shakeup.  Are Instacart’s founders and investors going to fix Instacart’s problems before it’s too late?  Shoppers have important recommendations for them.  We hope Instacart is listening.  Let them know what you think.

Apoorva Mehta, Brandon Leanardo, Max Mullen

Board Members & Observers
Jeff Jordan, Michael Moritz, Mary Meeker, Hrach Simonian

Andreesen Horowitz, Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins, YCombinator, Canaan Partners

Costco, Whole Foods, Safeway, CVS, BevMo

Misleading “service fees”

Instacart charges a 10 percent service fee that Shoppers believe is purposely misleading customers into thinking that it’s a tip for their Shoppers.  In fact, the service fee is paid to Instacart, while the tip amount defaults to zero.  To tip Shoppers, customers must complete a hard-to-find, multi-step process.  This issue is so important that Instacart recently settled a class action lawsuit with over 31,000 workers and agreed to clarify the difference between service fees and tips, as reported in Recode and Techcrunch.  Despite legal action, Shoppers tell us that Instacart’s deceptive service fee practices continue.  “Shady company,” “deceptive,” and “unfair business practices” are descriptions we hear from frustrated Shoppers about this issue. 

We placed an Instacart order to see for ourselves.  During the checkout process, Instacart automatically sets the service fee to 10%. The fine print says the service fee is intended to “competitively pay all Shoppers working with Instacart.”  However, the Shoppers we spoke to didn’t receive the service fee directly.  Confusingly, Instacart also labels the tip field as optional, though doesn’t mention that the service fee is optional too.  Other food delivery companies such as Doordash clearly label and explain their fees, in addition to adding a default tip during the checkout process.

Instacart’s service fee, in our assessment, is purposely deceiving customers – it funnels shoppers’ tips to Instacart’s revenue, creating the facade of better unit economics for Instacart investors at the expense of their Shoppers.  And given the previous legal action and current Shopper frustrations, this is a huge risk for the company.

Recommended Changes:  Shoppers would like to see Instacart improve their deceptive service fee and tipping practices.  Instacart should study industry best practices for more transparent and ethical treatment of tips.  Also, add a default tip amount to the main checkout page and rename the confusing service fee as “Instacart Service Fee.” Let customers know that this fee is not a tip.

Comment from Instacart Shopper on

Instacart’s confusing service fee and tip options.  Source:

Doordash clearly shows service fee and tip information.  Source:

Privacy concerns with the Instacart Shopper app

Instacart’s Shoppers are concerned with the company’s treatment of their personal information.  The Instacart Shopper app requires that Shoppers share access to their location “Always” and that they enable “Background App Refresh.” So, to work for Instacart, they force Shoppers to grant access to their personal information, always, and at Instacart’s discretion.  This is making some Shoppers uncomfortable.  Not surprisingly, the Instacart Shopper app is not available for download from Google or Apple’s app store.  Uber and Lyft’s driver apps are both available there, so we wondered why Instacart was so different. 

After research, we learned that the only way to start shopping for Instacart is to bypass the app stores and to install the app directly from Instacart’s Shopper website.  By default, Google Android and Apple iOS prevent these types of apps from running.  “Install Blocked” is the message Android prompts during the Shopper app install process.  To complete the install, a new Shopper must complete a multistep process granting “Instacart Inc” special access to their personal device and data.  Once Instacart’s app is installed, it requests users to turn on “Background App Refresh” and “Allow Location Access – Always.”  However, Instacart’s app is more persistent than others.  Their app only functions when these tracking-features are enabled.  Disabling either one immediately locks the Shopper app.  In comparison, the Lyft driver app operates without Background App Refresh and with location-tracking enabled only while using the app. 

Instacart tells Shoppers that the “Background App Refresh enables many time-saving features…”. However, their privacy policy reveals a different story. Instacart states they are logging personal details, including “pages that you navigate to and links that you click.”  Also, they track your device location ‘when the app is running in the foreground and background.”

One Shopper was surprised to see a message appear on their home screen that said, “InstaShopper Arrived at Home.” What else is Instacart doing with Shoppers’ personal information?  Why is Instacart so persistent in tracking shoppers while not using their app?

Recommended Changes:  Make the Shopper app available in the app stores, just like many other on-demand companies.  This provides Shoppers some protection from software that has not passed Apple and Google’s privacy standards.   Also, allow Shoppers to turn off background app refresh to protect their privacy during and after working their shift.  Allow location only while Shoppers are using the app. 

Source: Instacart Privacy Policy, Oct 2017

Instacart’s install directions.  Source:

Instacart Shopper’s app prompting Background App Refresh.  Source:  InstaShopper app

Physical injuries to Shoppers assigned to deliver commercial orders

Instacart recruits new shoppers with playful images of grocery shoppers delivering flowers and a single shopping bag to homes   However, Shoppers tell us that they are increasingly required to deliver commercial and batch orders to businesses that exceed Instacart’s published weight limit. Instacart requires that Shoppers have “the ability to lift 40 lb with or without assistance.” However, our checks reveal that Instacart offers items that exceed this weight.  In the order below, we could add 50 lb bags of sugar and shortening to Instacart.  The total delivery weight was 1,000 lb.  Instacart Shoppers are not trained or equipped to handle these heavy orders, nor are they allowed to decline such orders without repercussions. 

An Instacart Shopper shared another recent example where she was obligated to deliver 600 pounds of sugar to a business.  After she called Instacart to express concern over the weight, she was threatened by “Shopper Happiness” with deactivation if she didn’t complete the order.  Instacart is her primary source of income, so she complied.  This Shopper sustained a neck injury fulfilling the order.  However, since Instacart designates its full-service Shoppers as independent contractors, the company did not provide her with medical or other assistance as a result of her injury on the job.  These large bulk orders appear to be pervasive across Instacart – see many examples of the large orders Shoppers have received on Instacart. 

Recommended Changes:  Shoppers would like the option to decline heavy or commercial orders without repercussions or “reliability incidents.” For Shoppers that do accept large orders, provide adequate training and equipment such as weight belts, dollies, and delivery trucks to appropriately handle such freight.  Provide additional compensation for Shoppers that do deliver these bulk orders.

A 1,000 lb test delivery from Instacart.  Source:

Instacart’s aspirational portrayal of shoppers.  Source:  Instacart Press Kit

The reality of being an Instacart Shopper.  Source:  Instacart shopper

Let us know what you think about Instacart’s behavior.  Also, share your ideas to help Instacart improve at – a community of workers united to improve their workplace.  This blog represents the sole opinion of dumpling.


Commission Details, instacart, On-Demand

We polled Instacart Shoppers for details on their commission rates for the week starting on November 5, 2017. As each day has different payout amounts, we asked Shoppers to share the commission details provided for their city on Monday and Tuesday, which are typically on the high and low ends of the payout scales respectively.

We had over 160 responses from Instacart Shoppers across the US. Many cities/markets contain multiple zones, each with their own specific commission payouts. For these cities, we took the average of all the different inputs. The number of respondents is included at the end of the city name. Here’s the data and some of our initial observations.

There is a wide range of variability for delivery rates between different markets.


All markets have different commission rates between Monday and Tuesday, however, some markets have greater differences than others.

There can also be wide ranges of delivery commission rates within different zones in a single market.


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instacart, On-Demand

Instacart, an on-demand grocery delivery service, recruits new shoppers with images of a single shopping bag and flowers being delivered to a residence. The customer is portrayed as a new parent that needs last minute items before cooking dinner. However, the reality of what’s being delivered and who it’s being delivered to is often a very different story.

Online communities for Instacart Shoppers are filled with discussions and pictures of bulk deliveries that Instacart demands their shoppers deliver. In many cases, the customer is not a parent getting ready to cook dinner, but rather, local and national businesses.   These commercial customers use Instacart to stock up on supplies they need to run their business. These supplies can be large and heavy bulk items and are often in large quantities.




There are many challenges with these large bulk orders

Weight and Lifting

When shoppers sign up to work for Instacart, they are required to check a box stating that they can lift 30-40 pounds. Many of these orders, however, include items that exceed 50 pounds such as bags of sugar, salt, and other items.   Often, there are multiple units of these heavy items, increasing total weight to hundreds of pounds. Instacart Shoppers are not provided training for heavy lifting or provided heavy lifting equipment such as dollies, weight belts, or cargo vans. Instead, shoppers are equipped with a shopping cart and their personal car. Many orders also require long hauls up many flights of stairs to deliver to the end customer. There have been numerous, documented instances of Instacart Shoppers being hurt on the job. As independent contractors, however, they don’t receive any help from the company. Worse yet, shoppers are punished with reliability incidents from Instacart for not accepting the next order after an injury. And during recovery time, injured shoppers lose Early Access eligibility, which hinders their ability to pick up new shifts after they heal.


Wear and Tear on Shoppers’ Cars

Working for Instacart requires a vehicle. Nowhere in the Instacart vehicle requirement, however, is any specification for the size of the vehicle or whether it can fit these large orders into the car safely. To complete their orders, shoppers often have to fill their car to the brim with these heavy and large items, creating unsafe driving conditions and adding wear and tear on the shoppers’ vehicle.

Compensation for Large, Batch Orders Needs to Change

To add insult to injury, Instacart doesn’t pay shoppers based on quantity, weight, or any other measure of effort. Instead, Instacart generally pays shoppers 40 cents per item type. For example, 198 units of 1-gallon waters weighing 1700 pounds counts as one item type. An Instacart shopper would receive 40 cents for this water delivery, the same amount they’d receive for delivering a single Snickers candy bar. This is something that Instacart should fix.

No way for Instacart Shoppers to Decline Large Orders without Repercussions

Most importantly, there is no easy way for shoppers to decline these large, bulk orders without negative consequences. Doing so can result in a Reliability Incident, which is Instacart’s form of a black mark on a shopper’s account. When a shopper receives 5 Reliability Incidents they lose the ability to schedule hours more than a day in advance. This in turn can cause the shopper to lose the majority of their income because available hours (i.e. shifts) are typically claimed much earlier than the day before.  It can take weeks, if not months for a shopper to earn back the ability to pick up hours in advance (Early Access).

In a recent incident, one Instacart Shopper in Las Vegas called Shopper Happiness, Instacart’s shopper support call center, to inform them that she was uncomfortable delivering twelve 50 pound bags of sugar. Even after telling them that the bags exceeded the 40-pound requirement that she signed up for, she was told she risked her account being deactivated if she didn’t complete the order. Since Instacart is the primary income for many shoppers, they are forced to accept these orders or face losing their livelihood.

If Instacart is going to continue to pursue these types of orders, they need to make improvements in two key areas:

  1. Don’t require shoppers to accept orders with heavy items, or large quantities that don’t fit into their vehicles. This should be an easy opt-out process and should not impact their ratings, reliability incident counts, or ability to pick up future batches.

  2. Compensate shoppers fairly for these types of orders. At a minimum, this should include larger commissions for heavy items, which should be per unit, and not by item type.

To see what other issues Instacart Shoppers would like to see changed, or to share your own ideas, click here:



food delivery, instacart
On October 16, an #Instacart Shopper in Las Vegas logged into her InstaShopper app as she always does. She’s an independent contractor, known as a “shopper” for Instacart. She delivers groceries for as many as 70 hours per week for the on-demand grocery delivery service. She expected this to be another order of household groceries. However, this wasn’t a typical day. Her day ended in urgent care, diagnosed with a popped tendon in her neck as a result of heavy lifting, an injury that could take 3 weeks to heal. She was paid a total of $8.20 by Instacart and left to pay her own medical bills. 

When the Shopper received this order from Instacart, it requested delivery of twelve 50 lb. bags of sugar and a 35 lb container of oil for a local business. Concerned about the excessive weight, she contacted Instacart support, known as Shopper Happiness, to express concern about lifting the bags. Even after stating that the 50 lb bags exceeded Instacart’s 40 lb requirement for shoppers, she was told by Instacart that she risked deactivation from the app if she didn’t complete the order. Out of fear of losing her job, she proceeded with the order, delivering 10 of the 12 bags of sugar. The last 2 bags wouldn’t fit in her personal car. 

While pulling the final 50 lb bag of sugar from her car, something popped in her neck. The pain was so extreme, she became nauseated. She couldn’t drive her own car and eventually had to take a rideshare service to urgent care. To make things worse, Instacart issued her a “Reliability Incident” for not completing her shift. A “reliability incident” is Instacart speak for a black mark that can lead to a shopper’s termination.

The Shopper asked Instacart for help to resolve this incident and Instacart’s response was disappointing. She received an email that said these types of injuries are customary for worker’s compensation claims, which will not apply in this instance, and therefore, that she should escalate matters with her own insurance carrier. In addition, the Shopper’s next phone call was escalated to another representative in Shopper Happiness who told her that she was misinformed by the first person she spoke to and that she wasn’t required to lift the heavy bags. 

We see several problems with Instacart’s behavior:

1. Instacart shoppers are signing up to for grocery delivery, not commercial or freight delivery. Delivering 600 lb of sugar typically comes from a delivery service that is equipped and trained with dollies, weight belts, and commercial delivery vehicles and lifts. Rather, Instacart demanded that a 120 lb Shopper who signed up to deliver groceries should do the task of a commercial freight company, though without any training or commercial moving equipment.

2. Instacart requires shoppers to be able to lift 40 lb. This shopper was required to lift significantly more than that, even after contacting Instacart and telling them that there were twelve 50 lb bags that exceeded the maximum weight.

3. Instacart isn’t helping one of their own workers who was injured on the very job they sent her on. 

4. While on medical leave, this shopper will likely lose “early access” to preferred Instacart shifts. Instacart is her full-time job, not a side job. Without “early access,” this shopper will likely not receive enough orders to make working for Instacart viable. 

Why isn’t Instacart helping one of their own workers? What do you think about this situation? Please share with others to make sure Instacart does the right thing for this shopper and improves these unacceptable working conditions.