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Working for Instacart in Minnesota

Updated on August 22, 2017

What is Instacart?

According to Instacart's shopper website, "Instacart is an on-demand grocery delivery service." They offer a variety of independent contractor and employment opportunities. The focus of this article will be Instacart's Full-Service Shopper position. As a Full-Service Shopper, you are an independent contractor, not an Instacart employee. I have been a Full-Service Shopper with Instacart since January of this year. The following is only my personal experience in the St. Paul zone of Minnesota.

Money!

Of course I should cover the most basic question first. How much money can you make?

The following table breaks down my earnings from January through July on a weekly basis. The first column is the number of hours I worked during that week, the second column is my total earnings for that week, and the third column is the total earnings divided by the number of hours to provide an approximate hourly wage. Instacart does offer referral bonuses and bonuses for having perfect ratings from your customers in a week which can increase your earnings exponentially.

Your earnings are also dependant on the daily rate that Instacart sets. The rates are set on a weekly basis and vary by day. From what I've seen the rate per order, or "Delivery Commission", ranges from $10 to $13 and depends on demand for shoppers. On top of that you receive $0.40 for each item in the order and potentially a tip from your customer. There are also certain stores, large orders, or long driving distances that will give you an extra "bump" in pay for an order. For example, if you are shopping at Costco you will receive an extra $4 for that batch. The Delivery Commission and Delivery Bumps are subject to change without notice.

As you will see in the table, I shop on a part time basis. Individuals who shop full time would have higher earnings and a potentially higher approximate hourly wage.

Earnings

The above table does not account for expenses and Instacart does not take out taxes given that you are an independent contractor.

Bear in mind that once I minus expenses and estimate taxes I've earned approximately $1,750 in profit out of the $7,807.55 I've made in total. My expenses include a vehicle lease payment, car insurance, cell phone bill, and fuel and mileage deductions. I have also deducted the cost of a cooler (required by Instacart), insulated bags, a plastic bin, and a collapsible dolly cart. I use these items for larger orders and delivering to apartment buildings. Instacart provides nothing because you are an independent contractor.

After everything, I am writing off about $700 per month for various expenses. I consider this higher than an average person and it is due to my car payment. If you own your vehicle you'll have more profit. I track everything using a QuickBooks app that I pay a monthly subscription for. The QuickBooks app also estimates my taxes and automatically tracks how many miles I drive.

The Customers

In case you were curious about what types of customers you will be encountering, here is a very crude break down.

  • Half of the people you are delivering to are not able to shop for themselves. You are frequently shopping for elderly or handicapped individuals and this can be rewarding.
  • Another quarter of the customers can be unpleasant. They are rude, picky, and sometimes just downright unreasonable.
  • The remaining quarter is made up of decent human beings who are understanding and fairly laid back.

Generally, I don't run into unpleasant customers. I would consider this a weekly occurrence on average. Usually, you run into customers that are extremely particular about what they want, and they expect their shopper to read their mind. Ultimately, if you are selective about the produce you get and check all expiration dates you should have happy customers 95% of the time. Again, this is specifically for the St. Paul zone. Other zones in Minnesota and other states are definitely going to vary.

The Instacart Shopper App

While the extra income from Instacart is the biggest pro for me, the Instacart Shopper App would be the biggest con. There are frequent app crashes that Instacart will deny ever happened. There are many "glitches" in the app including pricing discrepancies. A price discrepancy is when the price of an item shows up in the app as far below its price at the store. For example, there was an entire month where a five pack of brats was in the app at $1.50 per pack. The brats were actually $5.99 a pack. I could write an entire article about how much I despise the shopper app, but I'll just press on.

To start, please be aware that the shopper app must be downloaded directly from Instacart and is not available in any app store (Apple or Google).

Secondly, Instacart is completely dependent on the mobile application to provide service. If the shopper app stops working, regardless the reason, you are a sitting duck.

After multiple calls and emails to Shopper Support, I have been told that there are "obviously" issues with my mobile carrier and it's not their app. Also, they like to talk about how they have "log of outages" and that my particular "crash" was not on their log. I'm not a coder and I imagine that it is extremely difficult to make a mobile application work smoothly on all the various operating systems that people use, but the most frustrating part for me is that they constantly deny that there are any issues at all when there very clearly are.

Below are the two most common error screens that I have come across both on and off shift. These are only the errors I have seen multiple times and these are not the only errors that occur. The app will freeze and crash on a weekly and sometimes daily basis seemingly without any sort of pattern as to why.

Note: I currently have an LG G6 (Android) phone and am using Sprint as my mobile carrier. I also used the Instacart shopper app on my previous phone, an Asus Zenfone 2 running on the StraightTalk network. I've had the same issues with both, but they are slightly more frequent with Sprint. I have no guesses about how this app functions on an iPhone.

Shopper "Support" that Doesn't Support

My second con for Instacart is "Shopper Support".

When you have issues while on shift there is a Shopper Support number that you are supposed to call. When calling, expect to be on hold for 5-10 minutes minimum. I was on hold for 30 minutes on one occasion. As far as I can tell, Shopper Support is hastily trained entry-level employees that are given a list of appropriate responses and they cannot assist you outside that list. I have not been able to successfully contact Shopper Support by phone when I am not on shift.

Emailing Shopper Support can be just as frustrating as speaking to them on the phone. You will receive an automated response after each email you send, but will not have a response from an actual person for days. When you do get a response, it will be copy and pasted straight from the shopper help section of the the shopper app. In most cases, that response won't answer your question or solve your issue and you will have to email again.

Conclusion

I have had many bad experiences working for Instacart due to the shopper app crashing, unpleasant customers, and not being able to resolve issues through Shopper Support. As with almost everything, there is good and bad to this. It is not all bad. For me, the extra income is necessary to make ends meet and so I put up with the issues as best I can. I do some Uber and Lyft driving so that I don't have to do Instacart as much. You will make more money doing Instacart than Uber or Lyft if you are looking for something part time. I am also a very introverted person so delivering groceries is far less intimidating and stressful that having strangers in my car even with all of Instacart's faults.

If you are considering becoming an Instacart shopper, you must be able to accept that you will not receive any assistance from Instacart. If issues arise while you're on shift, you will be receiving the lowest possible amount of help from Shopper Support. You'll be on your own. If you are not good at teaching yourself to use new technology or troubleshooting, Instacart may not be right for you. If you are a perfectionist (even a little bit) Instacart will test the limits of your patience very quickly.

I strongly suggest that you do as much research as possible so that you know exactly what you are getting into and what other options you have in your area. I have found YouTube videos about Instacart, but I have yet to find any that are specific to Minnesota. There are also a fair number of articles like this one.

Thank you for reading and I hope you found this article helpful or at least informative.

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