Instacart Shopper Review: What it’s like to shop for Instacart

For the past few months, I’ve been making extra income as a Full Service Shopper for Instacart. I have a full-time job, but with student loans and hobbies to finance, I wanted to see whether or not shopping for Instacart was a good fit. I’ve always enjoyed grocery shopping, so I decided to give it a shot!

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Becoming a Shopper

Before getting into the details about being a shopper, let’s learn about what it takes to first become one! The application process is super quick and simple. It takes about 5 minutes to complete the initial form. After providing the basic information, you’ll be asked to download the Shopper App and provide more information about yourself. There’s no need for a cover letter or resume, which is a major plus!

Once your application is complete, it will take time for Instacart to review and accept (or reject) your application. You’ll also ned to pass a background check–this is the longest part of the application process. You can pick up hours before the check clears, but they may be cancelled if the check doesn’t clear in time. Other than passing the background check, there are a few requirements to becoming a shopper. You need to be 18 or over, have an up-to-date smartphone, a vehicle with insurance, be able to lift 30+ pounds, and have (or be willing to purchase) insulated bags.

The Shopper Experience

Once you become a Full Service Shopper, the fun begins! Your Full Service Shopper experience will depend on whether your zone is an “On-Demand” area or not. You may receive orders when you decide to “Go Online,” or you might select hours and wait for batches to come to you. To avoid confusion, I won’t go over these details, as the app walks you through it depending on your zone. I’ll start at your first shop….

When you are offered the shop, you’ll be able to see what store it is for, and how many miles the customer’s house is from that store. You’ll also see an estimate of the amount of money you’ll make for the shop, and the size of the order. Batches can be denied, but a poor “acceptance rate,” may impact the amount of batches a shopper is offered.

The app walks you through the first batch. It will talk about ways to select the best produce and find replacements for possible missing items. This is a little annoying if you know how to shop, but Instacart just wants to make sure you’ve got the skills to select the best items for the customer. The app provides you with the customer’s shopping list– right down to the brand, so there’s no guesswork. As you locate items, you’ll scan their barcode (or occasionally snap a pic).

If you cannot locate a certain item on the list, maybe because it is out of stock, you can either check to see if the customer has pre-selected a replacement, or you can easily text them within the app. Once the items are in your cart, you’ll head to the checkout and follow the in-app instructions, depending on the store. There may be a customer card to scan (such as a Costco membership card). Then you’ll use your Instacart credit card to complete the purchase. Once checkout is complete, the delivery address becomes visible.

Next, comes delivery! Once you’ve placed the shopping bags in your insulated bag or cooler, head to the customers house. Upon arrival, ring the doorbell or knock on the door and hand the groceries to the customer. Instacart is technically “store to door,” so you do not have to go into the customer’s home. I have only gone in on a couple of occasions when the customers were clearly elderly and in need of assistance. You then swipe to complete delivery and wait for your next batch. Done!

The Income

This varies depending on multiple factors. Your speed, the size of the order, the weight of the items in the order, customer tips, “peak boosts,” and driving distance to name a few. Since the time I began shopping, my “active” hourly rate (counting only the hours where I’m actively shopping or delivering a batch) is $23/hour. This does NOT include the many hours where I’ve been available for shops, but none have come in. I spend my time waiting at home, doing whatever I feel like doing, so this doesn’t make a big difference to me.

Income from a side gig with Instacart can help you save up quicker for a big (or small) purchase, or help to pay down debt.


Pros

  • Flexibility – Choose your own hours, no minimums required! The more hours you shop, the earlier you’ll hit “early access” for priority access.
  • Payment options – if weekly deposit isn’t frequent enough, many zones have an instant cashout option.
  • Bonus opportunities – You can earn bonuses for good ratings ($3 for every 5 star rating). There may also be bonuses specific to your zone (I earned an extra $14 last week for finishing 7 deliveries… This week I could earn $124 for 24 deliveries!)
  • Tipping (can also be a con)- I’ve received a few surprisingly good tips-sometimes in the app, sometimes cash.
  • App functionality- I’ve never had any issues with the app while I’ve been working. It is always easy to communicate with customers and use the app to fulfill batches.
  • Performance Feedback – Instacart times shoppers on a per-item average. I love to race to beat my time while still fulfilling order with 100% accuracy. Many say that speed means nothing in terms of getting more shops, but I get excited when my name is at the top of the zone leaderboard!

Cons

  • No guarantee of orders or income – I’ve gone many shifts with zero or very few shops. As Instacart becomes more widely known, this should change. There is no hourly rate just for being “on the clock.” No orders=no money.
  • Tipping- Customers are not required to tip, and Instacart’s payment alone isn’t always very enticing. It also stinks that customers can reduce their tip after delivery (even for great service).
  • Can’t Rate Customers- Most of my customers have been fantastic, but I’ll admit I’d give a few 2/5 stars and rather not shop for them again. You can call Shopper Happiness if you have a bad experience with a customer and Instacart will no longer send you orders from that customer.
  • Taxes- You’ll want to keep track of how much you’re making and what might be owed at the end of the year. If you make over $600 with Instacart, you’ll receive an income form around tax season.
  • Vehicle Wear & Tear- Wear on your vehicle is something to consider, as well as gas money. I’ve heard from other shoppers that you can count gas and miles as business expenses at tax time, but I haven’t had a tax season with Instacart yet to try that myself.

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