Instacart Is Changing Its Tipping Policy to Curb Customer Tip-Baiting, but Customers Can Still Bait Tips

Clark resident Jen Valencia shops for an Instacart customer to supplement her income.
Clark resident Jen Valencia shops for an Instacart customer to supplement her income.
Photo: Michael Loccisano (Getty Images)

Instacart says it has revised its tipping policy to stop tip-baiting, a practice where a customer lures an Instacart shopper with a large tip to pick up their order, but removes the tip after the groceries have been delivered. This practice became increasingly problematic at the height of the covid-19 crisis due to an increase in demand for personal shoppers, and Instacart is just now responding to Shopper complaints.

According to TechCrunch, the company says it’s reducing its tip-adjustment window from three days to 24 hours, and will allow Shoppers to cash out their tips sooner: 24 hours after they complete a delivery. Instacart will also waive cashout fees for anyone using a Visa card until the end of July 2020.

But Instacart isn’t completely removing the ability for customers to withdraw tips. Instead, customers who remove tips after delivery will be required to leave feedback, and Instacart says it will deactivate a customer’s account if they remove too many tips. Gizmodo reached out to Instacart to see if this would also apply to customers who filled in the feedback box with gibberish just to bypass the system, but Instacart has not returned Gizmodo’s request for comment.

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TechCrunch notes that tip-baiting occurs in less than 0.5 percent of orders. But Instacart employees went on strike at the end of March 2020 to demand that the company make changes to its tipping policy. Striking workers also demanded that the company provide personal protective equipment, an additional hazard pay of $5 per order, and expand covid-19 sick pay.

The company’s lack of response to tip-baiting following the Instacart strike prompted four Democratic senators, Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown and Chris Van Hollen, to call for an FTC investigation into Instacart at the end of May. Customers were offering large tips, sometimes $50 or more, to get Shoppers to pick their orders over others, and then immediately withdrawing them. Instacart told CNN Business that most people adjust their tips upwards or not at all after delivery.

The announcement of Instacart’s new policies comes only a week after Democratic senators sent their letter to the FTC.

Staff Reporter, Reviews at Gizmodo. Formerly PC Gamer, Maximum PC.

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DISCUSSION

I seriously considered revoking my tip on my last order...but I didn’t. I got 5 baking potatoes, all with very visible rotten spots, an avocado with a thumb through the side, and was missing several items my receipt showed I was charged for. I received not a single text asking about replacements, and at least a dozen unapproved substiitution, despite “do not replace” being indicated on most items. Things I had ordered in small packages were replaced with Costco sized family packs that I could not afford. My strawberries were moldy, and that was clearly apparent looking at the carton. An “on sale” 6 oz sirloin steal was replaced with a 16 oz grass fed organic steak that cost $26 instead of the $5 the sirloin should have cost. 2 12 packs of soda were kept by the shopper. Yes, I contacted Instacart for refunds on damaged goods, but was stuck with family sized items that I will be unable to use before they go bad. I did rate this shopper very low. But I did not withdraw the tip, despite the fact I probably should have.  But I wonder how many cases labled “tip baiting” are really closer to what happened to me.