Why Instacart is making a big change to its tipping policy

How long does it take for an Instacart customer to decide how much a tip a shopper should receive? If your answer is "sometime but not too long after delivery" you'd be right, which is why Instacart says they're cutting the window users will be allowed to change their tips from three days to one. In explaining the change, Instacart said, "Based on our team's research, we've found that only 0.25 percent of orders have a tip adjusted after 24 hours. While we want to ensure customers have flexibility to increase tips, the data has indicated that one day post-delivery is sufficient time for them to adjust their tip." Instacart has also said that most of its customers either don't change their tips or actually give more when a delivery has been completed. The policy adjustment has been viewed as Instacart's response to accusations that some customers tip bait — the practice where Instacart customers offer a large tip and then take that away as soon as groceries are delivered.

The practice of tip baiting has triggered a senate inquiry

The two incidents may not be related, but Instacart's policy changes were announced a week after senators Brian Schatz, Sherrod Brown, Chris Van Hollen, and Elizabeth Warren reached out to the company's CEO Apoorva Mehta to express their concerns over tip baiting. In the letter dated May 29, the senators said: "We note that in February 2019, Instacart announced several changes to how it compensates its workers in response to public outrage that the company (and other delivery companies) used customer tips to offset the company's contribution to its workers' compensation. In making these changes, you said the company was 'putting [Instacart's] shoppers more at the forefront of [the company's] decision making.' Yet, at a time when Instacart shoppers are most vulnerable, Instacart's service is allowing customers to deceive and shortchange shoppers... Shoppers choose which orders to take based on the expected compensation, which is largely driven by the estimated tip. By permitting customers to 'bait' shoppers with high tips that are then revoked, your company's compensation policy enables this deception."

Instacart's tip adjustment window is bigger than its competitors

While the tip policy change is a positive step, the 24-hour window for tip adjustments is still much wider than that offered by other delivery services like Uber Eats and Postmates, which offers a window of between one to 10 hours (via CNN Business). The company also doesn't hold customers accountable if they drastically cut a tip after delivery. What Instacart has said it will do is to require customers who remove a tip after delivery to give feedback and explain why; they also plan to test an option to make this feedback available to shoppers so they know why a tip has been removed. The company further stated that it would consider deactivating the accounts of customers who regularly engage in this type of behavior.

Regardless of why Instacart opted to make these policy changes (along with a safety feature it recently rolled out for its shoppers), we're glad to see they're doing right by the folks who helped them profit during the COVID-19 pandemic. USA Today says Instacart has hired more than 150,000 staffers because of the crisis, and the company has responded to complaints with regard to different service issues by releasing new tools and features.