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Instacart Tipping Etiquette: Should You Tip Your Driver?

Instacart Tipping Etiquette: Should You Tip Your Driver?

Last updated: March 30, 2020
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The unavoidable chore of grocery shopping has occupied our days after work and interrupted weekends since the beginning of time (or, at least, the beginning of grocery stores!). Whether you don’t own a vehicle, don’t have enough time, or are physically incapable of performing the task, grocery shopping can be quite an inconvenience.

Lucky for us, grocery delivery services like Instacart have come along and made our lives a little bit easier. Now, for a small fee (usually around $4), we can simply open the Instacart app, fill our grocery list, and groceries are delivered to our doorstep by an Instacart shopper.

But what about tipping your drivers? Is tipping mandatory or is it just a nice gesture towards the hardworking drivers of Instacart?

At the checkout screen, the default tip amount is five percent of the order total, but should you be tipping more than the recommended tipping option?

Let’s take a closer look at what Instacart workers actually do, how they make money, and how much you should be tipping.

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Life of an Instacart Driver

Instacart drivers start their work day by logging on to the app and beginning their shift. While working hours are flexible, drivers’ shifts must be at least two consecutive hours.

This means that when a driver is not getting orders, they must wait around until one comes through. A delivery person will then receive your order through the Instacart app and will drive his or her vehicle to the appropriate store to fill your order.

The shopper will browse the aisles finding your items and checking them off the list. If any of your items are out of stock they will either find a comparable replacement or get in touch with you to find another appropriate product.

After checking out, bagging your groceries, and lugging them to their car, the delivery driver makes their way to your home. Once there, they unload your groceries and bring them to your front door or garage.

Keep in mind that some of these grocery hauls include hundreds of dollars of goods, some of those which are very heavy. Consider the weight of several bags of dog food or endless cases of bottled water.

Not an easy task, especially if they are dealing with heavy cargo, or better yet inclement weather that causes slippery sidewalks or snow covered steps. Don’t forget the fact that many deliveries are set in urban areas where groceries must be delivered to apartment buildings, some of which do not have elevators!

Also remember, you are using a delivery service for a reason. These drivers are making your life easier in one way or another.

So how much are these drivers compensated for the hard work they put in?

How Do Drivers Get Paid?

The manner in which Instacart drivers get paid is not exactly straightforward. A common misconception is that they are paid hourly, which is not the case.

Drivers are independent contractors and are paid on a per order basis. Each Instacart order results in a delivery fee of $5.99. Additionally, for each item you order drivers will receive $0.30.

But this is where it gets tricky. Drivers only get paid $0.30 for each unique item. This means that if there are duplicates of one item, only $0.30 is paid out.

To give you a better idea we will show you two orders that have a lopsided compensation for drivers:

  • 1 loaf of bread + 1 gallon of milk + 1 carton of eggs = $0.90
  • ​​​​15 bags of dog food = $0.30

As you can see, the delivery commissions sometimes do not make much sense for drivers. If an Instacart customer orders heavy items like multiple bags of dog food or dozens of cases of Coca-Cola, drivers will only be paid $0.30 for the “unique” item.

Yet if three different small items are purchased, it will be triple the payout. Therefore the more unique items in an order, the better payout for the driver.

Seems unfair in a way, but drivers are still able to make a decent income delivering groceries to customers. However, there are quite a few expenses that drivers are not compensated for.

What Drivers Don’t Get Paid For

Now that we know how Instacart employees are paid, let’s count all of the things they do not get paid for.

First and foremost, drivers are by no means compensated for their time. If an order takes 30 minutes or three hours, the pay is the exact same. This even includes time spent waiting in the car for the next order, which is not compensated for.

Also, consider all of the time wasted pulling tickets at the deli or sitting in the back of the grocery line during peak hours. Or what about those days that have inclement weather, when the rain slows down traffic or the snow virtually stops the commute. Regardless of how much time is wasted, the pay remains the same.

Then there are the more functional expenses, like the fuel required to drive to customers’ homes and the wear and tear on their vehicles. While they are aggressively depreciating their vehicles, none of these cases result in compensation for the driver.

Hopefully you are beginning to see that Instacart drivers rely heavily on tips to make a living. Which is why you should think twice before deciding how much you leave as an additional tip.

Where Do Your Tips Go?

If you’re wondering where your tip goes, 4 answer is simple: your Instacart driver. Instacart drivers now receive 100% of your tip, but this was not always the case.

Instacart has played around with its tipping compensation model over the years, all the while ruffling the feathers of its employees.

At one point, Instacart removed the option to tip individual drivers and replaced it with a default 10% service fee, essentially pooling driver tips. Instacart claimed the move was intended to create fair and competitive wages across markets and ensure that income wasn’t tip dependent.

For example, a driver in New York City may earn up to $20 an hour but a newer (and smaller) market driver may only be taking home $10 an hour for the same work.

On paper this seemed to make sense, however, the move enraged productive drivers as they saw their wages drastically drop overnight. In some cases, worker wages decreased by up to 40%.

After the backlash Instacart brought the tipping option back but still left the 10% service fee as the default. The default tip amount was set to 0% and was by no means easy to find.

It required users to click on the service fee tab, which was already set at 10% by default, and then manually change the tip amount from 0% to the new amount.

The new format still did not satisfy drivers and confused customers who assumed the service fees they were paying were the equivalent of tipping their driver.

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Finally, Instacart revamped its checkout process (again) and now has driver tipping front and center. The option to tip is presented to customers as they are completing their order and clearly states that 100% goes to drivers.

The default tip is set at 5% but can be changed to any amount. One last caveat, the optional service fee that before was set at 10% by default is now a mandatory 5% charge.

How to Calculate an Instacart Tip

So now you know that 100% of your tip goes to your driver. Are you still unsure what the appropriate tip amount is? First let’s see how tips are calculated.

The percentage you decide to tip is derived from the products you purchased. It does not include taxes and fees, delivery, and the service fee.

Screen Shot 2018 10 15 at 11.18.35 AM

Looking at the screenshot above you simply take the subtotal (purchased products) and multiply it by 5% (or whatever amount you decide to tip). Luckily Instacart does the math for you. Simple enough.

But what if your delivery driver did a great job and you want to reward excellent service? Here are a few pointers for proper tipping etiquette.

Like we mentioned before, the tip amount is set at 5% by default. But let’s be real here. If you were to tip a waiter or waitress 5% in a restaurant for a job well done, would you be able to go home with a clean conscience? Probably not.

So why is this type of service any different? We recommend raising your tip to at least 10% to 15%.

When looking at different types of service jobs, the general theme seems to be that a 15% to 20% pre-tax gratuity is a nice way of rewarding good service. In regards to delivery services, 10% seems to be the minimum, or at least two dollars.

If you had a driver that went above and beyond all expectations, by all means raise the tip to 20% or 25%. Nobody says you have to stop there!

Why You Should Tip Your Driver

The most obvious reason you should be tipping your driver a fair amount is the fact that they are working hard to complete a job that you do not want to do yourself.

You signed up for Instacart because it has made your life more convenient in one way or another. This is likely because you do not have enough time to grocery shop, are physically incapable of doing so, or perhaps you just absolutely despise going to the grocery store to hunt everything down.

Whatever the reason, Instacart shoppers do all the heavy lifting (literally), and make your life easier.

Pay It Forward

At the end of the day when you consider all the hard work Instacart drivers put in to make sure your order is perfect, it only seems right to leave them an appropriate tip.

The tips Instacart drivers receive add up and can potentially make up a good portion of their income. It is important to remember that this service is very similar to other industries, where you would typically leave a tip in the range of 15% to 20%.

Whether or not you believe in karma or just want to be a generally nice person, tipping your driver is the perfect way to show a sense of appreciation for a job well done.

There’s nothing better than rewarding nice, hard working people who go the extra mile to make your life easier.

View All Comments (1) Add A Comment

  1. Elaine Keefe Says:

    It appears that in my area the shopper and the driver are not the same person, and I’m trying to figure out how to make sure they each get a tip. If the shopper gets the tip I make via the app and I then tip the driver in cash, that would work out. Does the shopper get the tip that I make via the app or does the driver get it? (I would ask the driver, but because of the coronavirus I’m having the driver leave the groceries outside my door, so we don’t have contact, and I leave the cash tip in an envelope taped to my door).

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