It takes a special kind of asshole to promise your grocery delivery guy a big tip, to snatch him away at the last minute. But as we reported in 2020, tipping is a real problem for Instacart — and the company has introduced a new policy claiming it will protect some of those tips.
Here is the policy right away the company’s press release†
Instacart’s first-of-its-kind tip protection offering will protect shoppers from customers who remove a tip without reporting an order issue. This protection applies when a customer sets their tip to zero after delivery without reporting a problem with the order. Instacart will cover the amount of the zeroed tip, up to $10, to ensure shoppers are not adversely affected. While it’s extremely rare for a tip to be zeroed after delivery, Instacart wants to make sure shoppers are supported in the event that this happens.
While that sounds kind and generous at first glance, I wonder what Instacart is not tell us about tip-baiting – because if it really is that simple, those bastards are going to drive a semi-truck through its giant, eye-catching loopholes.
First, Instacart doesn’t have to pay these tips as a customer is doing report a problem with their grocery delivery. Do we think the kind of asshole who scares their delivery guy at the last minute doesn’t come up with some bullshit excuse too? That gives Instacart a huge out.
Second, what’s stopping a group of people who hate Instacart? force the company to pay a lot of tips out of pocket by intentionally omitting a reason for tips? I’d be extremely surprised if the company doesn’t have ways to prevent that, ways that might make this offer less generous than it looks.
But I’m not sure, so I asked Instacart about both possibilities. This is what spokesperson Charlotte Healow sent me:
If the customer reduces their tip to $0 without reporting any issues with their order, we’ll cover the cost of the tip they removed (up to $10).
This applies to all orders where a tip has been completely removed after delivery, with no reported issue with the order – it does not apply to orders where a tip has never been included.
Some of the order issues a customer may report include their order never arriving, their items spoiled or damaged, or items missing from their order.
We’ve taken several anti-fraud measures to ensure that customers don’t falsely report issues with their order, request refunds, or remove tips without a valid reason. If customers are found to be engaged in fraudulent activity, they will be removed from the platform.
This includes customers who consistently remove their tips after delivery for no valid reason, as we shared earlier in June 2020.
Instacart tipped in a small way earlier in 2020 by giving tip baits just 24 hours to lure (which still seems like a long time?) This week’s move is definitely a bigger step, and it comes with a Another addition that employees might also like: If you as a customer give your delivery person five stars, you will now actually be asked to tip or increase your tip.
Forgive my overall skepticism, but I think it’s extremely justified with Instacart and similar companies, which have been found to effectively steal their employees’ tips, lobby their employees with promises that they’ll break immediately, blatantly and now boldly move forward in a world of instant delivery, which, as we already know, can have disastrous consequences for the workers involved.
Instacart, in particular, is currently under pressure to show investors some growth: While it is the leading grocery delivery company, it was recently forced to lower its valuation, and the WSJ profiles its current challenges in this story† Bloomberg‘s Brad Stone recently wrote about how both it and its rivals are all coming under pressure?†
Update, 4:30 PM ET: Added comment from Instacart.