Let's face it, there is little information on how to properly tip Instacart Shoppers. The food delivery industry in general is not very transparent about its pay structure.
But right upfront, let me say: $2 is never enough. Ever!
Neither is the 5% Instacart suggests. Keep reading to find out why!
Assume since there is a tip option at checkout, it's not just a nice little extra for an already well-compensated shopper but it's to make up for Instacart's lack in pay.
In fact, Instacart recently announced that it would reduce its base-pay by about $1.50 per order. That's already taken effect in my area where the Instacart base-pay has been $9 per order since I signed on in 2019 and is now around $7.50 per order.
Neither amount is enough to make a living anyways but I just thought I'd mention this change upfront. I'll get into Instacart pay later on.
Since this pay is a recent development, some examples on this page will still use the $9 base pay per order until I collect more screenshots in the coming weeks.
Don't get me wrong, Instacart is a great way for many people to get their groceries but there are just a few things I wish were more transparent like how much Instacart pays and how much customers should tip.
Just think of Instacart as the platform to connect you with a shopper for hire, nothing more. And as such, you're responsible for compensating that shopper you've just hired
I know, you don't have much say in who that shopper is but we also have no say in who we're shopping for.
As a long-time Instacart shopper, I'm providing you, the customer with some more info so you can decide what works for you and your budget.
Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to signup or purchase any products or services through those links.
As the customer, am I responsible for compensating my shopper?
Essentially yes. Take it up with Instacart if that sounds too ridiculous to be true. I'm just giving you the facts so you can decide what to do.
But yes, Instacart is part of the tip-based industry, without tips Instacart shoppers wouldn't make a living.
Who am I to tell you what to do?
I've shopped over 1,200 orders with consistent 5-star ratings so I've decided to put together some information to help you, the customer understand what goes into your Instacart order so you can decide how much to tip.
Yes, you can decide how to go about tipping your shopper, again I'm just giving you as much detail as possible.
If you haven't signed up to order from Instacart, you can do that here but I'll link to it again at the end of this page.
This page is the result of quite a bit of research
I've talked to dozens of customers and fellow 5-star shoppers over the years and the consensus is that Instacart as a company has some blindspots when it comes to its most valuable assets: its customers and shoppers.
I shopped full-time all of 2020 and met some incredible customers who valued that I went out when they couldn't so this gig has been rewarding in terms of the people I've met and frustrating in terms of having to deal with Instacart's sneaky tactics.
I completely understand that Instacart's business model where the customer is expected to pick up Instacart's payment slack is strange but for the purpose of this page, I want to solely focus on the fact that Instacart is indeed part of the tip-based industry.
I see so many comments on social media saying "oh I don't tip because Instacart should pay you more","get a real job" or "I pay a premium to Instacart and you're so entitled to want big tips". Well as you'll soon see, that premium doesn't get passed on to the shopper.
I totally understand customers' frustrations but they're not really the focus here.
If you're using a service like Instacart, you do have some responsibility to understand what goes into your order.
As the customer, you have a choice
You can choose to play the Instacart game or opt out as can I but let's assume we're both playing the game so let's focus on how to tip your Instacart shopper to make up for some of Instacart's major shortcomings.
I'll show you in more detail how much Instacart pays for the average order so you can see how much (or little) we'd make without tips.
I will also get into detail about what constitutes a good tip but I'm mostly here to let you make your own decisions based on the information provided.
And there'll be plenty of information from real-life examples.
I'm a regular Leslie Knope!
While some shoppers will always take no tip orders, I've met shoppers from all different backgrounds over the years, who all agree that this job is not something you can do long-term without good tips.
I completely understand that the degree of quality varies from shopper to shopper and that you've probably had your fair share of moldy produce or questionable replacements delivered.
I'll say it right here: You can always decrease your tip for bad service and increase it for great service. I'm actually all for that. Generally, the bigger your tip, the better the shopper but recently Instacart has allowed some pretty bad shoppers access to high paying orders, which is another one of Instacart's drawbacks.
I've created this website to help Instacart shoppers understand what it takes to be a good shopper and to help customers understand what goes into their Instacart order to highlight the importance of tipping.
So without further ado, here is your guide to tipping on Instacart from a long-time shopper.
In a hurry?
Don't worry, I've got you covered. I often like to know the nitty gritty when I'm researching but sometimes I also just want to get the Cliffs notes ('memba those?)
No? Well, here's the information you need to help you tip on Instacart in a nutshell.
Since you're choosing to play the Instacart game, it's important you have some of the information that follows.
Instacart in a nutshell
Instacart is part of the tip-based industry; Instacart shoppers wouldn't make a living without tips.
Without tips, we'd make under $10 an hour (truly only between $3.50-$4.50) for the average 40-60 item grocery order and that's before gas and taxes.
Instacart shoppers neither work for Instacart nor the stores at which we shop.
We are independent contractors and are treated as self-employed come tax season (hello hefty tax bill).
Instacart pays us between $5-$7.50 (on average as base) per order, depending on what part of the country we live in and that usually includes mileage AND the shopping part.
Instacart is not an hourly schedule sort of job. Any shopper logged on to Instacart will see available orders in their area, meaning we compete with hundreds if not thousands of other shoppers over one good order. The fastest to hit "Accept" gets the order.
In general, assume that your order will take the shopper an hour, whether the majority of time is spent driving to the store, shopping, checkout or delivering.
No, $2 for an Instacart order is never enough even if you just have one item.
And no, the 5% tip off your total Instacart suggests is also not enough.
Interesting so far, n'est-ce pas? You can already see how your tips make a world of difference between an Instacart shopper making below minimum wage per hour and someone actually making a living.
As I said, I will show you quite a few examples of real-life Instacart orders.
If you're like me, you like to understand the ins and outs of something before you're fully convinced.
Stay tuned for that!
But here's some more info before those of you in a rush, rush off!
What about just a few items?
Ah yes, the dreaded "but it's just a few items" excuse.
While I love what I do, I'm not your loved one popping into a store for you on my way home.
I'm a professional shopper and need to be compensated for my time, effort and the cost of gas.
Again, I understand there are terrible shoppers and you've been left scratching your head about some items in your order.
However, that doesn't warrant not tipping.
The process for me is the same whether I'm shopping for a tiny or big order.
It's drive to the store, shop, stand in checkout, put items into car and drive to deliver.
Yes higher item orders will take longer in the store but everything else is pretty much the same.
Instacart recently announced that it would reduce its base pay for smaller orders so not only are shoppers getting screwed on Instacart's end but customers also think smaller orders are no big deal and don't require a big tip.
Here's a tipping tip for the dreaded few items:
A minimum tip of $5 for 1-9 items (I'm talking bare minimum), assuming those items aren't heavy or add up to a total of $100.
A minimum of $8-$10 for 10-20-ish items
A minimum of $10 at big box stores like Costco for 1-9 items.
Again, if you just have a few items, you can either wait till you need more or if it's really urgent, you need to pay for that urgency.
What about regular orders with 30+ items that add up to $100 or more?
For most orders above $100, the restaurant standard of 15-25%+ works and that's what many customers who value the Instacart shopper's service tip.
You can also try tipping half your item count when ordering from your run of the mill grocery store. So $15 if you have 30 items, $25 if you have 50 items, $30 if you have 60 and so on.
Anything else before you go go?
Actually yes, if the above wasn't compelling enough, I'd like you to remember one more thing.
Think of Instacart as just the platform to connect you with a shopper for hire, nothing more.
It's like you're looking for a plumber on something like Angie's list (yes I get it, it's now Angi, which is sus and not the best example but just humor me).
Once the plumber shows up, you're not gonna say oh but I found you on Angie's list so I'm not gonna also pay you for your services.
It's like a recruiter finding a candidate for a company and that company saying oh we already paid the recruiter to find you so we won't pay you.
I know you get the point!
While Instacart is grouped into the food delivery industry, we're actually more like personal shoppers with delivery (using our own vehicle) as part of our job.
What it really comes down to
At the end of the day, how much you should tip your Instacart shopper depends on a variety of factors including your own income, the area of the country you live in (rural vs. urban), your item count and what store you're ordering from.
But mostly, it depends on how much you value the comfort and convenience of outsourcing your grocery shopping because you don't want to or can't do it.
Again these are just basic factors, we'll get into more detail if you'd like to read on.
Should you tip cash instead of tipping on Instacart?
Cash is great as an extra but never as the main thing.
It goes back to the fact that we see your tip ahead of time and a no tip order will not get picked up. At least not until hours after it's supposed to be picked up.
We can see if you tip ahead of time and it'll say no tip so your order won't take priority and once it does get picked up, you'll either get a bad shopper or you're already miffed about your order taking so long, you won't wanna tip.
I like getting cash tips as a little reward for having done a great job but as a customer know that if you're planning on tipping cash, you're doing yourself a disservice since your order will show up as a no tip order upfront.
OK great, anything else?
Well, if you think the above info was helpful, you may go off and place your Instacart order since you now have the basic information about tipping on Instacart. If you haven't given Instacart a try yet, you can sign up here.
Skip to my related pages to find out more about how to make ordering on Instacart a smoother process and whether Dumpling grocery delivery is for you.
I also have a relatively quick YouTube video if you'd like to give it a watch.
Otherwise, we will now get into the nitty gritty of how much Instacart pays and what orders look like on my end for those of you who want the ins and outs of how Instacart works!
Who am I to tell you what to do with your money?
Please allow myself to introduce myself (yes Austin Powers again!):
I'm Nadja (like Nadia) and I've shopped over 1,200 orders on Instacart.
Overall, I've been a full-time gig economist for the better part of six years (really since 2013....eek!) and I want to share my experience with other gig workers as well as customers so I can help each side understand the gig economy.
Prior to working as a gig economist (yea it's kind of a fancy made up word I've come to enjoy), I worked in corporate America in management consulting, specifically organizational process improvement for nearly a decade.
This experience has helped me look at my food delivery work with a critical eye in hopes of bringing improvements to the gig worker and customer experience.
I aim to improve customer experience by giving shoppers the information (read: training) they need to do a good job and improve the gig worker experience by providing customers with the information they need to properly compensate their shoppers.
You mean Instacart doesn't provide training?
Sure, there's some generic "training" stuff on Instacart but it's glamorized (like that one hour delivery pitch on your end) and doesn't have any of the gritty real-life scenarios I've come to encounter.
Instacart allows anyone off the street who can pass a basic background check to become a shopper but most don't make it because it's actually quite cutthroat if you want to make it long-term.
Truly bad shoppers don't make it past a few orders but since new shoppers join almost daily, you could get one, which is why you've probably ended up with weird replacements and moldy produce.
As I said, part of my mission with this website is to provide new Instacart shoppers with some real-life training to improve the overall customer experience since that's not really Instacart's focus.
How much does Instacart pay its shoppers?
...and does the Instacart shopper see the tip beforehand?
I believe it's important for you the customer to actually see how
much Instacart pays on average to help you figure out how much to tip.
As I said before in the Cliffs notes, Instacart pays betwen $5.50-$7.50-ish per order depending on the area of the country.
This usually includes mileage pay AND shopping unless the distance is above 16 miles. We'll get back to that in a moment.
As an Instacart shopper, I get to see how much an order pays including tip. I get to see this before I even accept it.
Here is what I usually see when I first log on. These types of orders constitute most of the orders I see throughout the day.
Screen of available orders I see as an Instacart shopper
In order to see the tip, I can click on the available batch (order) to see how much the person tips.
In this case, I didn't click on any of them because I can already see that they're not worth my while so there's no need to dig deeper.
I can guess that the first one is the usual $2 since the customer thinks "it's just a few items".
The store is 12 minutes from my home. I don't get paid for going to the store, I have to keep track of that mileage to reduce the tax burden come tax season.
Shopping would likely take me about 15 minutes. Checkout is notoriously slow at this store but let's just say it'll take just five minutes.
Driving 14.5 miles from the store to the customer's would take me around 25 minutes in my busy area so we're talking close to an hour of my time for "just a few items."
After gas and taxes, that's not really anything to write home about.
The second one is a similar scenario that would not be worth my while.
The third one has three customers grouped into one order so that's something I generally don't do for a few reasons...
First up, juggling different shopping carts and keeping three orders separate while navigating a store is not fun.
Second, it's likely that only one of the three customers added a good tip. Instacart likes to group a high tipping customer with a not so high tipping customer.
I've done double orders where one customer tipped $35 and the other $2. I'll show you a couple of my own orders that prove this point shortly.
Personally, I don't find that grouping fair because my attention is split equally between a high paying customer and a not so high paying customer.
I don't know which customer is the lower tipping one until after I deliver.
It doesn't really matter while I'm shopping, I accepted the order so I give both customers equal attention, I just don't think it's fair to the high tipping customer.
I also don't like to take three-customer orders because the distances can be longer. In this case, 14.8 miles is not an insanely long delivery distance but I still have to make three different stops and for the total I'll make, it's just not worth it.
I've seen 45-mile delivery distances where Instacart pays for mileage and $1.50 to shop, which is mind boggling.
Juggling cart space, checking out three separate orders and making three stops would take well over an hour, if not 90 minutes in traffic.
Let's see this in action
Yep, here's a three customer order that I clicked on to see the tip. This will further give you an idea of how much Instacart pays.
Example of a three-customer order that shows mileage, Instacart pay and tips
Batch earnings means Instacart earnings. I will continue to use the term order rather than batch.
When divided equally (which probably wouldn't be the case), each customer added around $6 in tip.
Now when you look at the Instacart payment (batch earnings) of $15.96, Instacart only pays about $5.32 per order here, which includes mileage pay for the 19 miles.
So when we further do the math, 19 miles times Instacart's current mileage rate of $.60 is approximately $11.4 for delivery, which leaves about $4.6 for shopping that 3-person order.
Pretty good savings for Instacart since it doesn't have to pay the $5.50-$7.50
base pay per order when grouping orders, which is another reason I don't like to take 3-customer orders.
Also bear in mind that once I drive the 19 miles to deliver, I'll have to see if there are orders in that area that will take me back to my home base or I'll just have to travel the 19 miles home without another order.
The latter is the most likely scenario.
Just like driving to the store, I don't get paid for this return mileage unless I keep track of it in hopes of reducing my tax bill, which is still quite hefty as self-employed.
Instacart often groups orders like this and I generally stay away from the 3-customer one, although I will do double orders, knowing that one of the customers most likely isn't tipping as much as the other one.
Sure, I've had double orders on Instacart, where both customers turned out to be high tippers.
That's of course a lovely surprise but not the norm as you can see here from my real life examples.
A recent double order I completed
I have completed dozens of orders like this and it's of course a pretty good order. In my experience, high tipping customers often increase their tip. This customer increased their tip by $5. Their order was just eight items.
The second customer's order had five items. In this case, customer A tipped 35% off the total, customer B less than 5%.
It took just under an hour including driving to the store, shopping, checkout and delivery to both. Without the second order, I would have made $33.77 given Instacart's base pay of $8.77 and the $25 tip.
The second customer really didn't add anything but extra time and mileage.
I'm honestly not knocking the customer, I didn't even meet them, I'm purely coming from a financial perspective.
Without tips, I would have made $8.77 from Instacart alone for that hour.
You see Instacart just saved a pretty penny by grouping those orders and paying me less.
While I'm happy to shop orders like this, I feel like they just benefit Instacart and lower tipping customers.
Here's another example of a high tipping customer increasing their tip by almost $40. This customer also left a super nice review, which I really appreciated.
See you can always choose a tip that you consider high and increase it for exceptional service.
Customer A's tip of $25 was perfect to begin with, it was almost 30% off the total but the increase let me know that I did a fantastic job. I didn't expect that much of an increase at all.
Again, while the second customer's $7 wasn't terrible, the item count was similar to customer A and in my opinion, the tip should have been at least $15.
While the he $2 tip is probably the most common tip I see, there are also many no tip or oddly insulting tip orders.
In general, I don't accept no to low tipping orders (unless they're grouped with higher tipping ones like the above example) because I've come to realize what it takes for me to make a living and unfortunately, no-to- low tipping orders are not part of that.
I'd make pennies after gas and taxes. Speaking of pennies...check out this example.
Example of weirdly insulting tip on Instacart
I feel as though Instacart should have had a prompt saying "Did you mean $20 instead of two cents?" but that's just me.
I used to think that a no to low tipping customer could be convinced to increase their tip after a job well done but that is rarely the case and by rarely I mean virtually never.
So yes, I know when you're not tipping ahead of time and I won't take the order since it wouldn't be worth my time, effort and gas expenses.
I have nearly as many five-star reviews as I have completed orders so I do know my worth.
There are quite a few good shoppers out there but you won't see them taking a no/low tip order.
That order will go to a much less experienced shopper who has not yet figured out to stay away from low paying orders or how to pick good produce.
Overall, not tipping continues the cycle of bad experiences for both customers and shoppers.
Can you give a real life example of how much you as an Instacart shopper make weekly?
Yes, here are two weeks from my income on Instacart. Again, Instacart uses the term batch earnings for its pay to me.
The first week is high (from January), the second not so much (from June).
On a side note, for me $400/week is average. I also do DoorDash and UberEats for extra $$.
Regardless, Instacart's pay (again shown as batch earnings) before customer tips is similar for both weeks, which shows you that Instacart pay is consistent.
Consistently low that is.
Here's the $1,007 week broken down. Bear in mind, the Instacart payment is before we take into account gas, taxes and mileage to the store and back to my home turf after I deliver, which again, I have to keep track of myself for tax season.
Weekly Instacart pay example
If you do the math here, my Instacart earnings were $331.35 for that week so:
$331.35 divided by the ~28 hours I worked, would come to $11.8/hr.
$331.35 divided by 21 batches (orders) would equal $15.7/order.
Now let's look at it with the Instacart earnings plus tips:
$1,007 divided by 28 hours is about $36/hour.
At $1007 divided by 21 batches (orders) equals about $48/order.
Huge difference, right??
For most shoppers, this week would have been more like a $600 week because many take lower tipping orders, which is still better than if they only relied on the Instacart payment.
So even if you look at my smaller week this summer, my Instacart earnings are still very similar when broken down.
Weekly Instacart pay example with fewer orders due to demand
Here, my weekly total was just $125.89 due to demand.
Here, Instacart paid $41.42 so:
$41.42 divided by the ~5 hours is a little over $8/hr
$41.42 divided by 3 batches (orders) $13.80/order
If we're looking at the Instacart batch earnings with tips:
$125.89 divided by 5 hours is ~$25/hr
$125.89 divided by the 3 batches (orders) it's about $42/order.
Demand has been down in my area.
This happens often and is another reason shoppers rely on higher paying orders because we never know if there'll be another decent order that day or even that week.
It's not a scheduled job and we compete with hundreds or even thousands of shoppers for any one order at any given moment.
I hope this was part helpful to help you understand the difference a good tip makes.
Does tipping a lot guarantee you'll get an experienced shopper?
Unfortunately, it won't really. You will get a decent shopper but Instacart doesn't have a solid algorithm so pretty much any shopper can get any order unless their rating is truly atrocious.
If you give a shopper a 1-star rating, you could even end up with the same shopper again.
I've had many customers ask if they could request me and also know of fellow shoppers whose customers had the same requests but that's just not how Instacart works.
Sure, I've had some of the same customers over the years but it was just pure coincidence that I was online when their order popped up and I happened to have the fastest reflexes to hit "Accept".
That's just the way it is on Instacart. Part of it is somewhat exciting but it can also be extremely frustrating.
What else to consider when tipping
After 1,200+ orders I've seen some things. People ordering several cases of water without tipping much at all because well, it's just a few items, after all.
Instacart's got you covered. Need something atrociously heavy within an hour? Great, we'll send someone, don't even worry about it.
Would you still order 15 cases of water if you had to go and get them yourself and lug them up three flights of stairs? Maybe, but you'd probably complain about it.
So how much is it worth that you don't have to lug that water? Here's an example I encountered when looking for an order. I was curious to see the details.
In this case the person ordered 15 cases of water from Sam's Club. As you know, items are bigger at big box stores so while this seems like it's just one item, it's really quite a bit more intricate than that.
Item count counts! That's 15 cases of water right there! At Sam's club no less...meaning biggies!
Yes, Instacart added a good bit for heavy pay and the customer tipped close to 10%
However, considering I have to navigate Sam's Club with 15 cases of water, then loading them into my car (hoping they'll fit), driving 14.2 miles and unloading them to the person's doorstep, this order is actually ridiculous.
Instacart truly has no limits so as the customer you have to be the one with a conscience.
When ordering, do consider the types of items you have. As I said, Instacart knows very few limits when it comes to allowing customers to place orders and unsuspecting shoppers will take them, thinking Instacart has their backs.
I could bore you with hours of screen recordings that have orders similar to this but I shan't.
Oh but I don't order bottled water
That's not the point. The point is that you don't have to leave your house to go into a store, look for stuff, stand in line, load and unload the bags from your car, someone else does that.
Like I said, I love what I do but I can't do it for less than minimum wage, which is what I'd make if it were up to Instacart.
Again, I'm not your loved one who'll reluctantly grab some items on the way home from work. I do this for a living and while I absolutely love the freedom, I need to be compensated for the work.
Let's move on!
You need to consider what type of store you're ordering from, is it your local grocer or a big box store 20 miles away?
On Instacart's part, the pay is mostly the same with the base of $5.50-$7.50 and then $.60 added per mile for whatever doesn't fit into that base pay.
As we've established, Instacart mostly pays for mileage and not so much for the actual shopping part. If you do the math on many orders, the actual pay to shop is around $1.50, the rest goes to mileage.
Let's go through some of the different stores on Instacart and what to consider when tipping at each of them.
I'll give you some more examples of orders I recently completed to highlight what I would have made without some of the very generous tips.
Different types of stores on Instacart
Most towns in the US have at least one grocery store, which makes ordering from your local grocer a breeze on Instacart. I personally shop many Instacart orders at a grocery store closest to my house, about ten minutes away.
I have come to know the employees, some of whom do Instacart on the side so they are quite helpful when I need help finding items.
There are another four or five grocery stores 15 minutes away, which I'm also able to get to quickly if an order pops up at those stores. I know the ones that are notorious for out of stock items so I stay away unless it's a particularly enticing order.
Most of the orders I shop are grocery orders with the occasional big box store sprinkled in as well as Aldi, which we will get to in a moment.
At grocery stores, the restaurant tipping standard is particularly useful for the standard 40ish item order. A higher % gets more important the higher the item count.
Ten percent off a 10 item order that totals $20 makes zero sense.
If you live in the same town as the store or within 5 miles and have a 40-ish item order, the restaurant standard of 15%-25% is perfectly fine.
Since Instacart doesn't truly limit customers by mileage, you're often able to order from grocery stores a few towns over, which is particularly convenient since you don't have to leave the house to travel a relatively far distance for your favorite items from that store.
So if you're not within 5-miles of the store you're ordering from, you'll have to start considering the restaurant standard tip and maybe increase it to a higher percentage to include the mileage.
I'll most likely have to backtrack from your place back to my home turf.
I know I've mentioned this at least thrice but I don't get paid for that part.
Let's take a look at my own examples from the run of the mill grocery store in my town.
Here's an example of a very recent 40-item order I completed. The tip was about 20%. The order took 55 minutes.
Recent Instacart order showing Instacart pay and total earnings with tip
It had some deli items that required me to stand in line and mingle with some very chatty retired folks.
Totally fine. I knew I was being compensated for my time and while I'm very task-oriented, I do take time to say hello to chatty customers or some of my favorite employees who've helped me a great deal over the years.
Deli lines at the grocery store are often quite long...so if you're ordering deli items, especially on the weekends or before major holidays, throw in an extra few bucks.
I'm happy to brave a slew of retired people knowing I'm getting compensated!
In general, your item count matters at run of the mill grocery stores just as much as it matters at other stores.
Many customers add 30 items but 80 units, meaning a few items more than once.
So while you added one type of Campbell's soup, you want 20 cans of it so please do consider that as well. Things can get heavy quickly.
As you saw in the Sam's Club example, the person had one item (a case of water), 15 times.
Many customers I've talked to order for the week but some also order twice a month or even just a month. The latter makes for some very big orders.
I've shopped 80+ item orders and the customer told me that was it for the month.
Hats off to you for being able to plan; I'd always forget something if it were my order.
Oh maybe that's why there are so many orders with just a few items...it all makes sense now!
Just like in my order example, the restaurant tipping standard of 15-25% or higher works for orders above $100 not so much for orders under $20. There, it doesn't make sense to use the restaurant tipping standard unless you tip 30% or more.
If you place a big order once a month and tip $50-$70, that's really not a huge monthly expense but it allows your shopper to make well above minimum wage for that order.
Even if you place a smaller order weekly, $20-$30 really shouldn't be a pain since you're paying someone's salary.
Like I said before, you can think of Instacart as the platform that connects you with a shopper, whom you'll have to compensate because the shopper's "employer" does not.
I will show you that no matter how few items are in an order, many orders take about an hour to complete no matter what store, be it driving to the store, deli wait-times, checkout or delivering.
Big box stores
While grocery stores are common and exist in most towns across the US, that's not the case for big box stores like Costco and Sam's Club.
They're not on every corner so you most likely live farther away from a big box store than you do your favorite grocery store.
Thanks to Instacart, you can order from a big box store that's 30+ miles away to get your favorite items.
Guess who's gonna have to brave the crowds on a Saturday and then drive those 30+ miles?
You guessed it, your Instacart shopper.
30 miles you say? That can't be right. Well, check it out. The usual $2 tip since it's just a few items.
Costco order with a 30-mile delivery distance and a $2 tip
In this case Instacart is paying $18 for the 30 miles (30 x $.60) and $1.50 to pop into Costco (has anyone ever really just popped into Costco real quick? Asking for a friend here...) and shop for the few items.
I'm 20 minutes from Costco and it usually takes me 10 minutes just to walk from the parking lot to the back where the produce is.
That's 30 minutes, plus the time it takes to grab these items and stand at checkout. Then I don't even wanna know how long the 30 miles would take me on a Saturday afternoon.
Once I deliver this order, I'd most likely have to backtrack to my home base since the order would take me way out of my area and I probably wouldn't be able to find another order that would pay at least partially for me to come back to my home base.
You'd think that these orders are one offs but they're unfortunately the majority of orders I see on Instacart each day.
Maybe not the 30 mile delivery distance but certainly the $2 tip.
Here's a double order at Costco with just a $2.84 between two orders. But why??
Probably because it's just a few items! I'm still wondering if each customer tipped equally or if one customer tipped $0 and the other all of the rest...
I guess we'll never know.
OK on to something more cheerful.
Let me show you a Costco order I recently completed (on a Saturday no less!).
I was close to the store so overall, it only took me 10-ish minutes to get to the store but the whole process took about an hour from start to delivery.
Example of Costco order with just "a few items"
See, I told you most orders take that long even though I'm considered a relatively fast shopper at around 60 seconds per item.
The tip here is obviously fantastic but it also shows you that without tip, I would have made $9 an hour before taxes and gas with just the Instacart pay.
However, with tip, I hit the jackpot.
This is not to brag, it's just to point out the fact without tips, I wouldn't be able to make a living whatsoever.
The customer increased the tip after delivery since I corresponded with him about some unavailable items and offered suggestions.
It was "only" 7 items but since it's Costco, you never know how long it takes just to navigate around the store and stand in checkout lines.
Does this mean you need to tip close to $70 for a small-ish Costco order? No, but now you know how that it's important you don't just tip $2.
Even $5 is never really enough at big box stores since it takes a while just to get to the store and navigating the store itself even for just a few items takes a while.
I'd really say a $10 is a must for small orders at stores like Costco.
As you can see, Instacart's base-pay isn't higher at big box stores unless there are heavy items like cases of water involved.
Again, maybe just wait till you need more items to place a bigger order if you don't want to tip $10 each time for a smaller order or pay for the urgency.
The restaurant tipping standard of course works for big box store orders as well.
I know the total is often in the hundreds so do you necessarily need to tip 25% off your $400? If you can, sure but I'm not a monster so I'd say 10-15% will do, depending on the item count.
Well, and Lidl.
While I don't have a Lidl nearby, I am from Germany so I'm familiar with Lidl even though I've never actually shopped there on Instacart.
I'm going to talk about Aldi here but if you have a Lidl nearby, similar rules apply.
I've completed hundreds of Aldi orders and am always baffled by the fact that it has the lowest tipping orders on average.
Below is an example of a $2 tip that popped up as a potential order (as if) the other day, followed by a recent order I actually took.
Again, I'm not bragging about getting the occasional super high-tipping order, I'm just trying to illustrate just how little I'd make without tips by comparing similar orders I see pop up vs. orders I actually shop.
I know I've already shown you examples of my weekly income but I think it's important to have a breakdown by store as well.
I've taken 80+ item orders at Aldi, one just a few weeks ago but the customers tipped between $55 and $70.
Just like at regular grocery stores, once you get above the 65-item count, you have to keep adding $.
This order would actually take two full hours at the store including bagging.
You can see Instacart added a few additional bucks up front in hopes that an unsuspecting shopper would think it's a good order. It's not...
Big Aldi order with a low tip
Honestly, this order would only be worth my while with a $45+ tip.
Sorry, there is just no other way to say this but if you need that many items from Aldi and can afford them, you can afford the person who shops, bags and lugs those items around for you.
If you think about it, this order is probably for at least two weeks if not a month so spending a minimum of $45 on the person that will make it all happen really isn't that much.
Item count matters at Aldi because of the bagging aspect so please do consider that.
Again, the restaurant standard is fine at Aldi but since the order total for something like a 50-item order is lower than it would be at your regular grocery store, consider adding just a few extra dollars or opting for a 25% tip.
One of the reasons you're saving money by shopping at Aldi is because they have no one to bag groceries.
It's just an assembly line of focused cashiers tossing your items into the cart.
After checkout, your Instacart shopper has to sort through all the items, often having to inspect them for damage and then bag them in a designated area.
I see so many 80+ item Aldi orders with no tips or the oh so common $2 like the one above that I have to ask...why though?
Personally, I am able to fly through Aldi when shopping but I then have to bag, which takes 15+ minutes for big orders so I'm not quite sure why customers ignore this little factoid when tipping.
Aldi is also notorious for being out of items so if you tie your tip to your total order and I have to make many refunds, it affects said total.
The bottom line: Please pass some of your Aldi savings on to your shopper!
Here is an Aldi order I recently took that had 50 items (and 68 units) and took 1 hour 18 minutes from start to finish including driving to the store, shopping, bagging and delivery.
Recently completed Aldi order showing total pay
Again, it proves my point that most Instacart orders take about an hour and the previous example with the 84 items and a $2 tip was completely insufficient.
Had this been one of many no to low tip Aldi orders, I would have made under $9 an hour before taxes.
I really just wanted to provide these examples to show the stark difference between what I'd make if I relied on just Instacart pay vs. Instacart pay plus a great tip using similar orders.
I'm truly not expecting you to bankrupt yourself to compensate your shopper, I'm just trying to show you how important it is to tip.
Aka, I'm harping...hard!
Retailers and other specialty stores
Just like big box stores, retailers like Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Michaels and Best Buy are not on every corner. In Bed, Bath & Beyond's case, they're not on any corner any more.
I personally don't shop at retailers all that much since many of them offer free shipping (some even have same day shipping).
I don't quite understand why I have to go to the store and shop for your soap dish or sneakers that are most likely not available.
That's just me though.
Here's a Bed Bath & Beyond (RIP) order that's slightly higher than the $2. It's still 10 random items I have to find at a relatively large store.
Example of Bed Bath $ Beyond order
Honestly, even an $8 tip would have made this a slightly more enticing order.
Here are a few more stores that have way too many $0-$2 tips with far delivery distances:
Dick's Sporting Goods (no comment)
Total Wine and other liquor stores
Petco (I get it, you love Fido but also don't forget who shops and delivers so Fido can be happy)
Speaking of Petco, here's a recent order I took that took about an hour to shop for and has a couple of other components I mentioned before.
Example of recently completed Petco order
First up, you have one person with a similar item count not tipping enough (no that $2.18 is not an OK tip).
Second, the earnings for that hour would have just been $9.90, including mileage pay, which Instacart has since nixed.
That's again before gas costs and taxes.
Third, Instacart saved a ton of money by grouping this order.
If you do the math, I got paid roughly $2.50 to shop that order since the rest went to mileage pay.
Again, given the fact that the second customer increased their tip by $30 in addition to an already insanely generous base-tip, I can't complain but I hope it illustrates just how little Instacart alone pays and how it tries to cut corners at ever step.
What about delivery only?
Instacart delivery only example
Instacart has a few delivery only orders where someone at the store prepares the order and I only have to deliver.
Honestly when you know that's the case, I am often OK with just a $3-$5 tip since I just have to pop into the store and grab the items.
Instacart pays me $4-$6 for those orders and they take a fraction of the time unless you live 10+ miles or have a large order with water, etc.
This page doesn't really discuss delivery only. Delivery-only falls into a similar category as DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub orders. Still very tip-dependent but $5-$10 tips go a longer way when you just have to pop into a restaurant or store vs. having to shop, checkout and deliver.
You can check out my tipping guide for delivery-only, here and apply it to Instacart delivery only orders.
Anything else to consider when tipping on Instacart?
We've already established that how far you live from a store matters when tipping as does your item count that includes heavy stuff like cases of water.
Please also consider inclement weather in your area as the roads can be hazardous so aside from extra $, also be patient during those times.
The same goes for national holidays and other events like the Super Bowl that make standing in the deli and checkout lines extra excruciating.
What do most customers tip?
As I said, many customers choose to tip $2 regardless of order size, store or delivery distance.
I could show you screen recordings of hundreds of $2 tip orders I see all week but that would be slightly boring.
I take none of them unless one is grouped with a higher paying order, which we already covered earlier.
By now you know you're not like most customers so you'll tip at least $5 for smaller orders under 10 items, correct?
In my experience, it's not the super rich who tip well on Instacart since they most likely have actual personal shoppers but even some well-off people in multi-million dollar homes choose to tip incredibly little.
Therefore, I don't like to hear when people say that Instacart is expensive so they forgo tipping. Delivering to some more modest income areas has taught me that people who value the service will tip accordingly regardless of their income.
I've chatted with customers in the service industry, who told me they knew the work that goes into doing food delivery, including Instacart so they like to tip extra.
You've shown some very high tipping personal examples, can you show something more normal but still acceptable?
Yes, I've shown you some of the very low tipping orders I see but don't take and and some very generous tipping examples from orders I recently completed.
All this is to show you that the average $2 tip would not allow your shopper to make a living since Instacart pays quite little.
I personally get quite a few of those high tipping orders since I've kept my rating at 5 stars for the majority of my time on Instacart.
In my experience, many high tipping customers increase their tip after delivery because I do put in quite a bit off effort to communicate with the customer to get good replacements, etc.
Now, let me show you some other examples of recent orders that weren't insanely high tippers at 10%-20% but still allowed me to do quite well.
Example of grocery order I completed showing a 15% tip
Here's one that had around 30 items with a 15% tip off the total. It took 55 minutes from the time I left my house to the time I delivered.
It also had some deli items and I was communicating with the customer about replacements for out of stock items so that took a minute.
Here's another 30-ish item one that had some cases of water with a 10% tip off the total.
Another example of a grocery order I recently completed with a 10% tip
It took 40 minutes since it was a Monday morning and I was able to get to the store quickly, shop without a crowd and delivery nearby. This stuff makes a huge difference.
Thanks to the heavy pay for the two cases of water, the Instacart payment was also not too bad.
I made a refund, which affected my tip total but it was negligible.
Many customers I'd consider good tippers use the restaurant standard tied to their order total or just do a flat tip in the ballpark of that percentage that doesn't fluctuate when I refund or add items.
Many of the high tippers would have increased the total since it slipped due to the refund.
Should you tie the tip to the total and allow it to fluctuate or just set a flat tip?
I personally prefer to see a flat $20 not, $19.87 or even $21.30 because I know even if I refund an item, I'll still get compensated for having looked for it. I also go above and beyond looking for items, which isn't something every shopper does.
When I see a flat tip, I know exactly what I'm gonna get regardless of things that are out of my control like store inventory.
The tip tied to the order total usually does not work in my favor since I tend to refund unavailable items rather than replacing them willy nilly with what I think the customer wants.
In the previous example, the customer added items while I was shopping, which increased my tip total.
The refunds for out of stock items usually hit my tip heavier at big box stores where one item is quite a bit higher in price than at a regular grocery store.
A lot of times, customers who see that my tip dropped because I've refunded items, increase my tip again after delivery, especially if they think I did a good job.
This lets me know immediately that I did OK, something I'm always worried about. I know, I'm a bit of a weirdo.
Most customers tie their tip to the total and let it fluctuate based on refunds, replacements and added items. That's totally fine.
I've had many orders that went a few dollars in either direction so it's up to you whether you choose to just do a flat tip or tie it to the total and allow it to fluctuate.
Either way, it's not a deal breaker.
As you know, I love to give thorough examples to prove my point, which makes me a real joy to be around! You can ask my friend to confirm.
Anyhoo, let me show you one of my recent orders, where the customer allowed their tip to fluctuate based on the fact that the store was out of one of their items.
Lower tip after replacement
As you can see, it was a very good double order but the second person ordered 6 of something and the store was out of their items and replacements were scarce.
I flagged down an employee and chatted with the customer about possible replacements.
The replacement I made was lower in price but came in cans, which were heavier than the original item.
Overall, the effort it took to get that replacement nailed down exceeded the effort it would have taken if the original item was in stock so the fact that I ended up with a lower tip does not make that much sense.
In my case, the customer was thankful I was able to find a replacement so there was no indication I did a terrible job.
Therefore, if you notice this kind of tip decrease, please make sure you add a few extra $$ if your shopper did a great job.
This especially matters at big box stores where the refund of one item could a result in a much smaller tip.
Is the restaurant tipping standard the way to go?
Yes as the baseline if you also consider your item count, heavy items, whether I have to bag, your distance from the store and what the freed up time is worth to you.
All the good stuff I've already discussed before.
Also, please consider inclement weather. I see tons of no tip orders during severe storms.
Always remember: there is a human on the other end willing to go out when you don't want to.
Again, make sure you compensate for that convenience factor as well.
So in short, yes use the restaurant tipping standard but adjust upward for smaller orders that don't add up to $100 and all the other factors already discussed.
Is there an alternative?
Knowing that I make between $5.50-$7 for your order before gas and taxes and also knowing I'll spend about an hour on your order, you can decide how much you'd like me to make an hour with your tip before taxes and gas costs.
You could also tip half of your item count. This only works for regular grocery store orders, not so much big box stores.
So if you have around 30 regular items at a grocery store, tip $15, 60 items, tip $30, etc. I wouldn't just want to get $25 for a 50 item Costco order but it's better than $2.
I do think the % is probably your better bet.
What happens when you don't tip?
When you don't tip, Instacart adds a boost in $2 increments on top of its $5.50-$7.50 base-pay to make the order more appealing and to ensure your order won't be delayed. I've recently noticed Instacart leaving orders without adding a boost for many hours.
Your order will most likely be delayed since it'll sit around for a little while before a shopper takes it.
Instacart generally doesn't go above adding more than $10 for the boost so it will try different ways to get shoppers to take an order, including issuing a promo for the whole store to get shoppers to drive to that store in hopes they'll take your no-tip order.
Many shoppers will take no tip orders because of the boost, encouraging customers to keep their non-tipping ways.
By now you know that tipping is essential but you can see what Instacart does with no tip orders in this quick video or just skip ahead.
Quick video that shows what happens to a no tip order on Instacart
How much would I tip?
Knowing how much Instacart pays, I'd tip as much as I'd be comfortable losing on a bad shopper, knowing I can decrease the tip for bad service and increase it for great service.
For a full service order of 35-50 items, I’d tip at least $25 and would be willing to increase it for fantastic service.
I’d increase my tip by $5 every five items above 50 items so $30 for 55, $35 for $60 and so on, especially if I had items like water or multiples of heavier items like canned goods, etc.
While I didn't talk about DoorDash or UberEats grocery delivery, the same tipping standards apply. Both DoorDash and UberEats pay their even less than Instacart so make sure you use the same standards as I've outlined here.
Do your ratings matter?
Yes, kinda but not really. Highly rated shoppers do see higher-tipping orders pop up first but if we don't then someone not as highly rated will grab them. Instacart recently changed it so that a shoppers with at least a 4.7 overall rating can get access to the highest paying orders.
To put this in perspective, the lowest I've ever gotten is a 4.98 so a 4.7 is literally the bottom of the barrel on Instacart and yet that person can still access super high paying orders.
Instacart metrics now are based on how many orders a shopper shops rather than how many good ratings the shopper has but I suspect it won't be long until Instacart changes this again.
Instacart used to be incredibly cutthroat with its ratings.
If as a Shopper you received one 4-star rating, you wouldn't see higher tipping orders on your screen until you got another 100 five-star ratings to wipe out the one 4-star rating.
Instacart has since changed this but it's still an imperfect process that benefits neither the high-tipping customer nor the 5-star shopper.
There are new shoppers every day so I sometimes have to compete with a new shopper along with hundreds if not thousands of other shoppers over a high paying order.
Yep, any Instacart shopper looking for an order has to compete for the same orders with hundreds or even thousands of other shoppers at any given time and then be lightening fast to accept an order before someone else does.
So my Instacart buddies and I who have shopped thousands of orders with 5-star ratings are competing with a shopper who is logging on for the first time.
Again, even if you are a high tipper, you could end up with that new, inexperienced shopper rather than one who has tons of experience and consistent 5-star ratings.
So should you give a low rating if a shopper isn't great?
Everything you do as the customer really just ends up affecting the shopper, not really Instacart but yes obviously rate according to the service you received.
If you give a shopper a 1-star rating and bad review, you could end up with that person again unless you ask Instacart to block them from being your shopper in the future.
As much as I am in favor of high tips, in my opinion and experience on Instacart, I would prefer if you reduced my tip if you think I did a terrible job rather than giving me a 1-star rating.
We don't see written reviews unless they're 5-star reviews so if you really want to help the shopper, reduce the tip (not to the point where it could be considered tip baiting but enough to send a message).
That will actually get to the shopper and if the shopper is willing to learn, could be much more of a lesson than a 1-star review without reducing the tip.
I know, Instacart can be so whacky! And honestly, it changes the rules all the time so most of us can't keep up.
I just know that I want to keep my rating at 5-stars and provide excellent service.
I hope all this was helpful. Check out some of my other pages below.
Your turn, got any nightmarish food delivery stories to share??
I'd love to get contributions about your most horrific food delivery experience as a customer or maybe you're reading this as a fellow food delivery driver.