Who am I talking to? Both Instacart shoppers and customers who are considering ditching Instacart for one reason or another (low pay, weird replacements, you know your reasons!).
Well Instacart is certainly a great idea and has helped millions of customers get their groceries delivered without having to leave their house. Some of its practices are however icky to say the least.
As a long-time Instacart shopper I don't love the fact that Instacart often groups three customer orders together to save money on paying its shoppers or groups orders at different stores where a shopper pops into one store to shop and then into another all the while the other customer's order is baking in their hot car for maybe an hour (obviously not as much an issue in the winter).
Yes, Instacart "requires" us to show proof that we have insulated bags but even insulated bags don't withstand the summer heat for prolonged periods of time. They're just meant to keep a customer's order cool while driving to deliver, not while shopping at another store.
If you're an Instacart customer, the replacement suggestions, price hikes and fees are also a bit sus as the kids say.
I guess that after having shopped over 6,000+ orders on Instacart and Amazon Prime at Whole Foods, I've seen a few things.
My main gripe is sticking customers with weird replacements.
I personally don't make replacements on Instacart without confirming with the customer first and if I don't hear back, I just refund because I've learned that customers are brand loyal and just because they didn't take the time (ahem) to select a replacement or Refund on the app doesn't mean I get to gamble with their hard-earned money.
Quick sidenote: all the customers I've talked to over the years are high tippers so they value a shopper's time and service.
These are the customers I'm talking to in this post. The ones who have relied on Instacart for what it provides but who'd just like a bit more quality and consistency for the money they're paying.
No, these aren't wealthy people by any means, they just value the service so if you've been tipping $2 on Instacart, you're probably not going to pay for a personal grocery shopper on Dumpling.
But I digress!
As an experienced shopper, I have had many long-term Instacart customers who wished they could request me to shop for them every time and overall lament Instacart's prices and fees.
I thought there had to be a better option for those willing to spring for a personal grocery shopper.
No that's not a very niche food delivery service focused on just one item but a platform that allows shoppers to become small business owners by starting their own grocery delivery business using the Dumpling platform.
I decided to give it a go and signed up.
Shortly after signup, I received my Dumpling business credit card (the Boss card) that functions like Instacart's payment card, which I swipe at checkout and is pre-loaded with money. So far so good.
Unfortunately, Dumpling is just a platform with some coaching to get your business started. You have to find your own customers and being somewhat of a weirdo (or just German or maybe both), I can't imagine poaching customers the next time I'm shopping on Instacart.
Thus, I recruited a friend and neighbor who agreed to be my guinea pig customer on Dumpling.
She had previously used Instacart and was distraught by what was delivered to her doorstep (well, someone else's doorstep really but that's just part of the Instacart experience) so she agreed to order from me using the Dumpling app.
The first thing she noticed was that I didn't show up in our zip code. There was another shopper that did show up but I had to send my neighbor my personal Dumpling link for her to book me.
I e-mailed Dumpling (they essentially have a concierge feature on their app where you can send in your questions and the response was very prompt and thorough).
It turns out, I hadn't completed all the onboarding courses on Dumpling University to show up in their search fucntion. I'm actually pretty thorough about reading things but I must have overlooked that part when I first signed up.
The next issue was that the store my neighbor wanted to order from did not have its inventory listed on Dumpling. I messaged Dumpling about this and someone replied very quickly saying that not all stores are available on Dumpling but that the customers could still order using a regular grocery list.
I didn't love that because the store my neighbor wanted to order from has been about 75% (if not more) of my income on Instacart so to convince Instacart customers to switch to ordering from me on Dumpling without that store's inventory was gonna be a major issue.
People like convenience and even though Instacart has some drawbacks, the app is pretty solid in terms of stores' inventory.
If you've ever made a grocery list, sometimes it goes something like "thing I liked last time, I know it when I see it"...that's just where selecting everything on Instacart and having a picture (albeit often one that doesn't quite match) is a bit easier. But as a professional shopper you can probably handle "package of Purdue chicken breast".
For the purpose of documenting my first order on the Dumpling app, my neighbor settled on ordering from Aldi since she was able to pick from the store's inventory on the Dumpling app.
On Dumpling, I'm able to set my own schedule so she was able to book a time that worked for both of us.
I didn't get a notification on Dumpling to get started on my shopping (Instacart screams at you to get started after some time has passed), it just showed me the order in the app and the time frame it was to be completed. I'm German so I was inherently not gonna be untimely. I left a little early (obviously) because I also wanted to also film my experience.
Then, I did what I had done thousands of times before, I walked into Aldi and started shopping from the list.
The list on Dumpling is an actual list that you check off as items are found, which is vastly different from Instacart and Amazon Prime, where items have to be scanned in to make sure they're correct.
While this could trip up a new shopper, I'm on Dumpling as a professional shopper because as stated (so very Germanly), I've done this thousands of times so I know what items look like. One of the items wasn't available so I messaged my neighbor customer about a replacement on the app.
She didn't immediately reply as is common across all shopper apps (ahem again) so I decided to offer a replacement knowing she wanted some sort of sorbet ice creamy thing.
The replacement apparently did not pop up on the chat until after I made it and it also required me to add the name and the picture manually so that was annoying. I do like the automation on Instacart even though items don't always scan correctly, they do for the most part.
Yes out of stock items happen so replacements are at times necessary. I just don't abuse my power to make replacements. When shopping my neighbor's order, one item was out of stock so I suggested a replacement.
The app was yet again a little clunky. I had to take a picture of the item and provide a description since there is no scan feature on the Dumpling app, it's pretty much all manual.
Again that shouldn't be an issue for an experienced shopper so it was fine but it turns out, my neighbor didn't see the replacement in the chat but it popped up later in her invoice.
Again, somewhat strange but I always emphasize communication between the customer and the professional shopper so while it's slightly annoying, it shouldn't be a dealbreaker to not give Dumpling a try.
On Instacart and Amazon Prime at Whole Foods, shoppers are encouraged to make replacements (in Amazon Prime's case it's part of the shopper's performance report to offer 100% of replacements every time, no matter how silly) so if you're a customer on Amazon Prime and you wonder why you always have weird replacements, just select replacement not allowed or your own replacement, same on Instacart.
You always have to take charge of you order since these companies are out to make money.
If you're tired of these practices, it may be time to give Dumpling a try.
Checkout was straightforward, I inserted the Dumpling card and took a picture of the receipt to upload to the app. The app then said charge customer xyz and I hit charge.
Weirdly, there was no start delivery option so my neighbor got a notification that I had finished shopping. That part was also weird because I'm so used to my delivery being tracked from start to finish on delivery apps that I didn't quite know what to do. I obviously knew where my neighbor lives since well, she's my neighbor but had it been a different customer, I would have had to go back into the app, look for the address and then message the customer that I was on my way.
All that is a lot of manual stuff even for an elder millennial like me (ancient really, maybe even a xennial?).
I messaged her saying I was on my way and just delivered the order. We chatted about our experience on both ends and she said that she preferred getting me as a shopper every time and that while Dumpling is not as automated as Instacart, it was worth ordering knowing everything was going to be delivered as she wanted it to be delivered.
Instacart has random fees where you don't really know what you're paying for. Well, most of what you'll pay on Dumpling will go to the shopper.
There is a 5% platform fee, which is based on your grocery total. So if you're spending $100, it'll be $5 that goes to Dumpling for using their app. The shopper can choose to pay that platform fee. I might consider it going forward so the customer just has to pay me and no fees to use the Dumpling platform.
I, the shopper pay a monthly fee to be featured on Dumpling so in my opinion, the platform fee is slightly unnecessary.
The shopper gets to set their own fees.
I set mine to $18 because that's what I would like Instacart to pay per order as base pay (fat chance, it pays $9 in my area and $7 in most other areas of the country). I've since set it to $15 to make sure I actually am competitive against other Dumpling shoppers in the area.
Then there is an optional gratuity in addition to the $18. Again, if you're used to tipping $30+ on Instacart this isn't really a huge difference for the fact that you're getting to choose a professional shopper.
This is my neighbor's invoice after completing the order from my perspective with my earnings listed as well.
It shows how much she paid for the groceries plus my fees for shopping and delivery and then she chose to give me a $20 on top of that.
The prices she paid at Aldi were in-store prices, nothing more.
Notice the platform fee that's 5% of the order total; in her case, the order was just a little over $29 so 5% is not too bad.
Like I said, I'm considering waiving that for future orders but if it's an order above $300 that'll get a little expensive so I'd have to make up for it somehow.
You can see my earnings for that order as well as a processing fee Dumpling charges me. So there are some fees that Dumpling charges that are also a little strange but if you compare it to what you get on Instacart for similar fees and tip, it's probably comparable if not better.
If anyone reading this is a long-term shopper or customer, please feel free to reach out and provide more details about your experiences, I'm happy to add those to this page.
The takeaway here is that Dumpling provides a great platform for experienced shoppers and serious customers who are fed up with Instacart's tactics and inconsistent shopping experiences.
It is a better option than trying to manage potential customers yourself without a buffer that Dumpling provides with its card and platform. Although the shopper does assume all risks if the customer doesn't pay since it's the shopper's business.
As an Instacart shopper, you're never on the hook for anything the customer tries to pull but you're still at the mercy of Instacart when it comes to finding good orders (batches) so to me owning my own grocery delivery business is the way to go since I have completed thousands of grocery orders.
For customers, Dumpling provides a more consistent option than ordering from Instacart long-term because you do get an excellent shopper every time.
And you get to select from the best shoppers in your area. That's not something you get on Instacart even if you're a high tipper.
If you're a high tipper on Instacart who has received inconsistent shoppers or are fed up with Instacart's price hikes, consider looking into a local Dumpling shopper because for the same amount you're tipping on Instacart (or even Amazon Prime for a delivery driver to crush your bread or eggs), you'll get a qualified shopper and you'll pay in-store prices.
As I said, the Dumpling app is a little clunky and its main purpose is really just to connect you with a professional shopper in your area that will shop with care, get you what you want without price hikes. So it may be worth using a clunkier app to get what you actually want without weird replacements.
Please note that this is not a sponsored post and I've only just begun my Dumpling story so it is a developing story and I will update this post as I go along.
Let's summarize Dumpling vs. Instacart.