If you’ve been considering becoming a shopper of sorts, you have a couple of choices.
You can go the Instacart Shopper route or become a Whole Foods Shopper aka Amazon Prime Shopper.
Or if you don't like the idea of spending all your time in a grocery store shopping, you can become a food delivery driver for Amazon Flex at Whole Foods or elsewhere or deliver for UberEats, DoorDash or Grubhub.
Go here for my comparison of UberEats, DoorDash and Grubhub, here.
I'll link to that again at the end of this page.
But for now, let's compare being an Instacart Shopper to being an Amazon Prime Shopper at Whole Foods Market.
The Amazon Prime shopper role hasn’t been around that long and came right after Amazon took over Whole Foods.
There’s still some confusion about what it’s called but for the purpose of this, I’ll just use Amazon Prime Shopper vs. Instacart Shopper.
Fun fact: Before Amazon took over Whole Foods (a puzzling takeover to this day), Whole Foods actually used Instacart as their shopper platform. I remember those days because, well, I'm ancient. Sigh.
So while Amazon Prime shopper vs. Instacart shopper may seem like a random comparison, there’s actually some history that makes it worth comparing.
Which one you choose will depend on your preference.
I’m a long-time Instacart Shopper but since the gig economy took a turn in my area this summer (2022), I decided to become an Amazon Prime shopper as well since I was already well-versed in the shopping arena.
Still, there were quite a few unexpected differences when I first started as Amazon Prime Shopper.
Some huge differences to be exact, so read on.
I’ll start with what being an Instacart Shopper entails since that's been my jam for 3+ years. I have tons of info on this site about being an Instacart shopper and how to be a good one, which I'll link to in related pages.
I don't want to clutter up this comparison so everything additional and relevant will be in the related pages at the bottom of this page.
OK without further ado, let's take a look at Instacart.
When you sign up to become an Instacart Shopper, you will be considered an independent contractor (self-employed) for tax purposes. This means you’ll get a form 1099 from Instacart to file your taxes.
You will have to keep track of your mileage because Instacart only pays for mileage from the store to the customer's not to the store or from the customer's to the next store so you'll have to be diligent about that so you don't lose out on money.
You’re not a W2 Instacart employee at any point.
Ah the freedom! Well, sorta.
Being an Instacart Shopper has some big advantages over being a Whole Foods Shopper if you’re someone who loves doing stuff on their own without a team or supervisor making sure you meet your metrics.
In fact, you can pretty much ignore Instacart's metrics aside from ratings of course, which is quite liberating.
You do have to squirrel away money for tax season as self-employment taxes are quite hefty
It's been quite a few years since I signed on to be an Instacart shopper but once there was availability in my area, the process was quite easy.
There's a background check and you obviously need to submit your license and car insurance details since you'll be using your car to deliver orders.
Other than that, you don't really need much to get started.
There's some canned training but since Instacart is in hundreds of thousands of stores, it's pretty generic and you'll really have to just get out and start shopping in your area to get good and to start making actual money.
So in other words, there's no real training other than real life training and some generic stuff on Instacart.
That's not really a big deal, you'll get the hang of it within a couple of weeks.
Bear in mind that you use your own phone to shop on Instacart. You just download the app and voila, you're all set.
I will link to the Instacart signup page at the end of this page as well as other related pages.
Being an Instacart Shopper, you have freedom to design your own schedule so you can go out when it’s busy in your area rather than being bound by a set schedule like you are as an Amazon Prime Shopper.
More on that in a moment.
Don't get me wrong, you're severely bound by demand on Instacart so there are periods of few or really low paying orders that make you want to pull out your hair.
On the other hand, you’ll have no supervisor or teams and for the most part no onboarding or training.
In an ideal world with high demand on Instacart, you simply log on to the app and you get to look at orders (batches) in your area.
But don't take too long to look at an order since you’ll be looking at the same orders as hundreds, maybe even thousands of other Instacart Shoppers in your area so you have to be quick to accept a good order.
As an Instacart Shopper, you’ll accept an order (batch) at a (hopefully) nearby store, you’ll either drive to that store or go in if you were waiting for an order to pop up while in the parking lot of the store.
You’ll go in, shop, message the customer in case there are out of stock items, stand in checkout or choose self-checkout, pay with the Instacart-provided card (you’ll get that sent to you once you’ve passed your background check and are accepted by Instacart.
There's also an Apple pay option but not all stores take that for Instacart. You're at no point using your own card to shop for Instacart.
Then, you take a pic of the receipt, load the bags into your car and deliver the order to the customer.
Then you do it all again with another order.
Sometimes there’s quite a gap from one order to another due to the aforementioned availability and demand issues. But that’s about it.
You get to choose what orders you want to take.
There is no acceptance rate on Instacart but you do have keep your cancellation rate under 15%.
This means you should generally shop and order when you've accepted it unless you're really in a jam and can't make it to the store.
You can expect to see double or triple orders where you shop for two or three customers at the same store or double orders for two different customers at two different stores.
You’ll have to juggle cart space and make sure you have insulated bags with ice packs if you’re shopping at two different stores, especially during the summer.
Other than that, you’ll just follow the above process of checkout and delivery, just to different customers.
Instacart is in thousands of stores across the country so you’ll have to pick some stores nearby and get to know them in order to become faster and deliver good customer service.
I personally don't do retailers like Sephora, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. because they offer free delivery or curbside so I don't get why I have to buy someone's mascara but that's just me.
I prefer to stick to groceries at grocery stores and a couple of big box stores like Costco and Sams' Club, which I do only on occasion.
So yes you can choose from a ton of stores but again, you have to make sure you don't have to drive too far to the store or have a far delivery. It's all about developing your own strategy so you actually make money and don't waste it on gas.
Instacart pays for mileage from the store to the customer but that's often included in a relatively low base pay and you won't get paid for mileage from the customer's to the next store or home. You'll have to duke that out come tax season.
Again, I’ll leave links in related pages about more detailed Instacart pay, etc.
But on average across the US, Instacart pays between $7-$9 per order (batch), which is quite little so it’s important to choose higher tipping orders. A regular grocery order can take up to 90 minutes just shopping so you can see how that $7-$9 for that time isn't really sufficient.
Instacart is part of the tip-based industry so your income will vary depending on your area and customer tips but that $7-$9 Instacart (batch) pay is pretty standard across the US before tips.
A good order for me is where the total $ is equal to or higher than the item count with a delivery distance under 10 miles but that's just me and my area.
It'll be different in more rural areas, etc.
I've made as much as $1,000+ a week on Instacart shopping just 20 orders but also as little as $120 shopping just a couple of good orders.
That's where you'll have to be able to handle those types of fluctuations without getting discouraged.
Here is what the homescreen on Instacart looks like.
It'll show you available batches nearby (and sometimes super far away so know your area) and here you can see that some orders have one, two or three customers grouped into one (batch) or at two different stores.
None of these orders are worth my while. After three years of shopping on Instacart, I know none of these are worth my while but if you're curious about the details of a batch, you can just "click" on it to see the details as shown here.
As you can see, a three customer order does not pay three times that base pay of $9 (in my area), it just pays slightly more and includes that mileage.
So if you do the math, you end up making just under $7 to shop and a little over $5 to deliver for a total of $12.10 in Instacart (batch earnings).
With that little tip between the three customers it's not worth it at all.
This order could take you close to two hours if you're a new shopper since you have to drive to two different stores and shop for quite a few items.
Not worth it at all.
I never do 3 customer or orders at two different stores. They're never worth my while but I know some areas have less demand so you gotta do what you gotta do to make money.
Still, don't ever take no tip orders.
They're not worth your while and teach customers that it's OK to not tip.
If no one took no tip orders, customers would someday learn that it's not OK but alas Instacart Shoppers take these crappy orders all the time.
Here you can see a no tip order with that $9 base pay that includes the 8.7 miles.
Meh to that!
As I said, prsonally, I don't pay attention to too many of Instacart's metrics. I rarely listen to Instacart's super weird and random replacement suggestions when the customer doesn't have one nor do I care too much about speed.
Sure, you want to be relatively fast so you can do a few orders in any given day but don't sacrifice accuracy or good customer service just to meet Instacart's metrics.
The only thing you should worry about are your ratings because in my experience providing good customer service results in increased tips after delivery and good customer service is what matters most to me.
I am not an Instacart employee, therefore I don't care about its metrics designed to make the company money. Again, that's the freedom in gig work, where you're not really bound to ridiculous metrics or supervisors hovering over you to make sure you meet those metrics.
You do have to worry about your customer ratings and your cancellation rate as I mentioned before but I'll say it again.
Your cancellation rate is the rate at which you drop orders (batches) AFTER you’ve accepted them.
Generally, you should shop an order you’ve accepted unless you’re stuck in serious traffic or some other reason as to why you really can’t make it to the store on time.
Your cancellation rate should be well under 15%. Mine is around 8% so I’ve cancelled where I needed to but mostly, I finish an order I accept.
That's pretty much Instacart in a nutshell.
Let's take a look at being an Amazon Prime shopper at Whole Foods.
So yes there’s still some confusion among customers and shoppers about the naming so let’s keep calling it Amazon Prime shopper.
Even though you’ll be shopping at a Whole Foods store and will be employed by Whole Foods, which yes is part of Amazon but in many regards still tries to remain independent at least when it comes to the name.
Be aware that there are some Amazon Prime locations that are warehouses designed for Prime Shopping but the majority of Amazon Prime Shoppers will shop at an actual Whole Foods store so that's what I'll be discussing here.
In order to become an Amazon Prime Shopper at Whole Foods, you’ll have to find openings on Whole Foods’ website in the Career section.
That in itself can be a bit confusing. When I signed up for Instacart, it was super easy but for Amazon Prime, I kinda went around in circles and ended up on some strange sites that were apparently legit but I ended up finding shopper openings on the Whole Foods website.
I think part of it is also the naming confusion but once I applied, I got a response fairly quickly from a recruiter at Whole Foods.
I had to fill out quite a bit of paperwork and that's where the difference between being an Instacart shopper vs. Amazon Prime shopper was really apparent.
This is where things got to be quite different from being an Instacart Shopper. The Whole Foods onboarding is extensive since you’re an actual W-2 Whole Foods (Amazon) employee.
Yes unlike with Instacart where you virtually have no obligation to Instacart, being a Whole Foods Shopper means you are a Whole Foods employee, a real W-2 employee albeit part-time (not to exceed 29.5 hours per week).
As such you're part of a team including a supervisor.
This is where things differed from Instacart as well. I had to take some online training to learn about Whole Foods, which was worth about 5 hours in training. That was before I ever even set foot in the store to shop.
After completing the training, I was scheduled to come in for more paperwork. This took 6 hours where a Whole Foods employee went over Whole Foods' core values and how the store works in every area.
Nothing to do with shopping just yet, just food safety training and certifications and more about Whole Foods' culture, etc. No real mention of Amazon. And yes I got paid for all that. A whopping $15 an hour, which is the Amazon Prime Shopper pay across Whole Foods.
I didn't even meet the Amazon Prime shopper department until my third day. One of the Amazon Prime shopper trainers then took me around to show me how the pick path works and then we finally did an order together.
I was shown how to bag while shopping (another difference from Instacart) and how to seal and stage an order for pickup or delivery.
One of my days was an eight hour day of training and then shopping on my own with a supervisor sort of lurking.
After a full day of training as an actual shopper, I was able to shop on my own. It was strange because I have my way of shopping as a 1,200+ order Instacart shopper with consistent five-star ratings so my ego was slightly bruised when I was told I couldn't really chat with customers on the app (my main way of pulling in some crazy tips on Instacart) and would have to make replacements for every out of stock item after confirming with a store employee that the item was indeed out of stock.
This part is truly ridiculous. Instacart wants you to make replacements too but as Amazon Prime Shopper one of your metrics is actually your replacement rate. Every out of stock item must be replaced. The customer then has 3 minutes to accept or decline. If there's no response once you're done shopping, the customer is stuck with that replacement.
Overall, the first few days felt like an assembly line job where it was just about getting orders packaged in record speed rather than worrying about what customers really want.
You'll also have supervisors and team mates but overall, you don't really get hassled by any of them. Instacart is much more independent that way but Amazon Prime is OK for the most part but as with every W-2 job, it depends on the individual supervisor(s).
You have to clock in the back office like all the other employees, then you walk to the Prime area and log in to the Amazon Prime Shopper app with a store-provided phone.
You'll immediately be sent an order so you better have your cart all set up with bags because after about a minute, you'll get a call from a bot reminding you to start your order.
You then shop for the order, making replacements for each out of stock item after confirming with a store employee that the item is indeed out of stock.
You're kind of expected to go into the back to check for stuff, which I sometimes do but you also have metrics to meet like Units Per Hour (more on that in a sec) so while it behooves you to look in the back for your Item Not Found (INF) metric, it's also sometimes too much to dig up an item from the back.
Since you're a Whole Foods employee with a Whole Foods vest, customers will stop you to ask you to either reach items or ask about out of stock items or your favorite recipe. Amazon really gets its money's worth with their shoppers.
Once you're done shopping the order, you go back to the staging area to seal the bags and put them on the shelves, fridge or freezer for pickup or delivery. It's an easy process and the app walks you through it.
You have to bag as you shop so the sealing and staging process isn't all that difficult but it's just something I wasn't used to since on Instacart, you shop like a regular person and then stand in checkout. I guess it's kind of nice not having to stand in checkout at Whole Foods during busy times so the bagging part doesn't really bother me but it just took some perfecting.
Note that while you're shopping an order, you may get interrupted if a customer has arrived for a pickup in the store or parking lot so you have to walk back to the Prime area to leave your current order and mark it as interrupted order. It's quite annoying since interrupts the flow of your shopping.
Then you grab a shopping cart and retrieve the customer's order from the refrigerator, freezer and or shelves. The app tells you all this and it's very easy.
That's obviously not something I've ever dealt with on Instacart. Well, sometimes with delivery only orders I've had to just scan the bags but for the most part Instacart is shop and deliver, not delivery only.
You then wheel the order out to the customer and put it in their car. Sometimes they'll give you a tip but mostly they don't. I've made maybe $30 shopping 400 orders over the last three months so don't expect a tip.
You then come back inside to get sent a new order, sometimes the order you left behind but not always.
And you do it all again and again until your shift ends. Amazon will keep sending you orders even after your shift has ended so it's up to you to sign out of the app, something that counts against your acceptance rate.
You then punch out for the day.
Yes. You’ll be able to pick shifts that are 4-8 hours long two to three weeks out. Here is what my schedule looks like in the app.
Once you sign up, you’re expected to be there on time or else you’ll get a strike and dropping a shift requires you to jump through some hoops and doing it more than a few times will result in termination.
Again, quite different from Instacart where you can accept an order and drop it if you can’t make it and where you can sign on to or off of the app whenever the heck you like.
I honestly hadn't had a job with a schedule since 2013 so being somewhere at a predetermined time was a bit...shocking at first.
As I mentioned, you have to meet your Units Per Hour (UPH) goal. That means you better be fast finding items to fulfill orders in a timely manner. You have to be fast, accurate and find items.
When an item is out of stock, you're required to confirm that it is indeed out of stock and scan a Whole Foods' employee's QR code that then let's you make a replacement. And by let's you make a replacement I mean, you're essentially required to make a replacement for every item unless the customer chose replacement not allowed, which is not always the case.
Yes, aside from your Units Per Hour (UPH) metric, you also have an Item Not Found (INF) metric and a replacements offered metric. Aside from Units Per Hour, the INF metric is ridiculous since I'm expected to look in the back to make sure the item is out and then confirm with a Whole Foods employee that the item is out of stock all while meeting my speed metric (UPH).
Units Per Hour grades you on how many units you shop for during an hour. An OK rate is 60+ (really 80+) so it’s about speed less about quality. Since you’re not interacting with the customer (you can but you’re not encouraged to), you’re really just going for speed.
You have a cart you’ll have to truck around the store and you bag as you go along, labeling things Ambient, Chilled or Frozen for staging (or slamming) in a designated area at the end of your shopping.
Once you’re done shopping, you’ll have to count your bags, print labels and put the labels on the bags. Then you’ll put the bags in the designated area either for Pickup or delivery, depending on what the app tells you to do.
Then you do it all again and again. There is a 10 minute break for 4-hour shifts and a 30-minute unpaid lunch break for 8 hour shifts.
While Instacart also has speed and replacement metrics, I've never once paid attention to those since I don't consider Instacart my employer but only a platform to connect me, the shopper with a customer who's looking for groceries so this was also quite a shock.
Not only am I responsible for being super fast, I'm also held accountable if an item is out of stock in the form of the Item not Found rate. I mean if the damn item isn't in the store and I already scanned a team member's code to verify it's out and I went into the back to double check, why do I still have an Item Not Found metric that is apparently super important??
But as always, I digress.
Generally, you’ll start at around $15 an hour. That’s not that much considering the work that goes into being an Amazon Prime shopper at Whole Foods.
You won’t really get a significant raise. One of my fellow Shoppers makes $18 after two years and some of the trainers who are also shoppers make $19 an hour.
You get paid every two weeks (ouch) with taxes withheld so it's less than $15 after taxes. On the other hand, Instacart allows you to cash out your earnings right away and tips two hours after delivery so if you're strapped for cash, that's really a good thing.
While I appreciate that I have a schedule where I know I'll make x amount in x hours, I do like the thrill of being able to snag a $80+ order on Instacart that I know will take me less than 90 minutes so I'll have made four times as much as working at Whole Foods but like I said, I did need the consistency this summer since Instacart was way down in terms of demand in my area.
I will quickly note that since you're a W-2 employee, you accrue time off. Yes! I've already accrued 12 hours, which I can use to get paid for days without having to show up. That's actually quite nice and I have a couple of days off soon where I know I'll get paid. It's not much but it's a nice little extra.
You'll also be able to sign up for Fidelity's 401K through Whole Foods. I did that since it's been 10 years since I last had a job with a 401K and so far I've accrued $300 since October 2021. Again, not anything to write home about but after a decade in gig work of sorts, I decided to sign up.
And you'll get 20% off to shop at Whole Foods...which makes shopping there only slightly more affordable.
Since you're a W-2 employee, the app itself doesn't allow customers to add a tip so some customers will give a little cash when they pick up their order.
This is a huge drawback since it shouldn't be an issue to have a tip function like Starbucks now has.
Starbucks employees are also W-2 employees so there's no real reason the Amazon app couldn't be opened to tips.
I've maybe made $30 in tips over the last three months shopping 400 orders over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's so don't expect to get a huge amount of tips.
On Instacart, I generally look for an order that tips $40 in addition to the $9 Instacart base-pay in my area so again, that's quite a bit different.
An honest pay comparison between Instacart and Amazon Prime is that on average, I am able to make 3-4 times more on Instacart than as an Amazon Prime Shopper since that's fixed at $15 an hour until you get a raise.
But there are some serious issues when it comes to good order availability on Instacart so having that consistent income where you know you'll make money (albeit less) consistently at Whole Foods is quite nice after having experienced a long Instacart drought in my area.
I wanna say that I'm quite grateful for being able to shop at Whole Foods after Instacart and the rest of the food delivery services I'm on took a huge dip over the summer in terms of demand, which was super scary.
I'm not even gonna do a pros and cons, I'm just gonna give you a table that summarizes the differences.
Overall, both companies are about the bottom line but with Instacart you'll just be able to make a ton more $ when things are good since you're able to get tips.
Amazon Prime Shopper