Disclaimer: I was not compensated by Instacart for this post.
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Pros of Shopping for Instacart
A Little Extra Scratch
A little extra money from a side hustle never hurt anyone.
In the two months I shopped for Instacart, I had $59 weeks (from 2.5 hours of work) and $8 weeks (from one hour of waiting and a cancelled order).
On average, I made $33.45 for working about 3 hours each week.
Don’t expect to get rich with this side hustle, but it can offset a bill here or there, if you’ve got the extra hours to fill.
The best way to make extra money is to get started with the process and then recruit others to it. In fact, my area is currently paying $350 bonuses for recruiting new shoppers.
Now, there are strings attached. The new shopper has to complete the hiring process and a certain number of orders within 45 days, but if they’re truly interested, it should be feasible. I will say, though, that my area is over-saturated with shoppers and it’s hard to get hours, especially if you’re new to the game.
(So much so that I no longer shop for Instacart because I was finding it impossible to get shifts.)
Get Out of the House
If you read one of my other posts last week, Mommin’ Ain’t Easy, then you know a chance to get out of the house is sometimes desperately needed. Shopping for Instacart gives you just that, and if you’re okay with occupying yourself while you sit and wait for orders, this is your kind of side hustle.
As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten a lot of blog posts and social media catch-up’s accomplished while “on the clock” with Instacart. Our local Publix has a Starbucks in the lobby, so I set up shop there with my little laptop and get to work until an order comes in.
You can DJ
There’s also the fact that you get to choose the music in the car while you’re delivering orders. No “Baby Shark” on repeat for this Mama! You can rock out loudly and belt whatever your heart desires. No judgment here, because I definitely did this last week. It’s hard not to sing along with The Avett Brothers.
Cons of Shopping for Instacart
The Hiring Process
Like any job, Instacart does have it’s negatives. The first being that it takes a good while to actually get started in the process.
Sign-up is simple enough, but then the waiting game comes while they process your background check and driving history. Eventually, they’ll say you’re okay to go, but that does put a dent in the time you have to complete your 45-day referral bonus.
As you’re getting accustomed to all the details of this side hustle, it seems there are constant on-boarding processes that pop up. You’ll need to do alcohol training, food safety training, and purchase insulated bags.
Now, the trainings are done online and take about 10-minutes each. Don’t just hit play and ignore them, though. While they seem silly, you will be quizzed before continuing on. Passing these tests determines the kind of orders you’ll receive. Pay attention!
The bag thing definitely upset me. When the alert to purchase bags popped up, I wasn’t ready to invest in this side hustle. I needed a payout first to warrant continuing. So, I did some research:
I could’ve purchased the bags direct from Instacart (four bags through Instacart are going for $26 right now) and been cleared to take large orders as soon as they were shipped to me. However, the bags aren’t a necessity. It just means you won’t get huge orders or Costco orders at first.
Turns out you can purchase 50-can insulated coolers from Walmart for $5 a piece. Three of them is all that’s needed to pass Instacart’s test. You just have to take a picture of the bags, and the tags on them, to prove that they are FDA-approved. So, it’s a $15 investment, but better than a $26 one.
This part is annoying. You will constantly be checking the shopper app to try to get hours. There are about 50 some-odd shoppers in my area, so it’s a battle. Sometimes, hours will inexplicably open up and you can grab them. Other times, you’ll be on a waitlist and passed over, even if you’re next in line.
You can get advance access to upcoming hours if you work a certain number of hours total in the previous three weeks, but that’s near impossible to get to. Unless you are available constantly. If you have a life, or a family, you will most likely not reach that point. I’ve yet to see it, so my hours become available at 9:30 AM on the Wednesday of the week prior.
By then, all the hours have been claimed, so you’re almost always put on the waitlist. I set an alarm on my phone to alert me at 9:25 AM to make sure I’m ready to grab spots on the waitlist. It’s like waiting to get prized tickets to some awesome concert, though the only concert it culminates in is you rocking out to The Avett Brothers behind the wheel of your car.
Like I said before, hours pop up inexplicably, so you’ll find yourself regularly checking the app to see if anything’s available, or if your spot in line has changed.
“We’re Slow Today”
The worst part though, is when you do get hours, and minutes after your shift starts they send you an alert that says “We’re slow today. Would you like to end your shift early?” It’s happened more times than I can count and frustrates me to no end, especially if I’ve already made my way to the grocery store to wait.
Their shopper app is horrible! It constantly breaks or has errors. Today it said I was scheduled for three hours and waitlisted for two, but I wasn’t on the waitlist at all. (Oh, and the shift was slow, so I didn’t get any orders and was finished after an hour.)
Almost every time you open the app you’ll have to update it, too. One day, I spent 45-minutes just trying to get the app to work. I missed an order during that time and they lowered my acceptance rate, even though I didn’t miss it on purpose.
The Heat Map
When you’re on the clock, the app shows a map of your area on your “Dashboard.” The map has little red squares and acts as a heat map. You’re supposed to basically ‘chase’ these red squares to get orders. I usually sit and wait for the red squares to come to me, which sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t. One day I decided to chase the squares and I got nothing. I don’t actually know how accurate the heat map is.
Speaking of the acceptance rate earlier, if you are offered an order and you don’t accept it, your acceptance percentage is lowered and can effect bonuses (though I’ve yet to see that).
One day, I got the same order twice. I didn’t accept it the first time because it was at a store I didn’t know existed and wasn’t willing to hunt out. (It was also an alcohol order at 9 AM, so I’m pretty sure those people made the order the night before or were just completely sloshed that morning). A couple of minutes passed and I got the order again. Again, I didn’t accept it, and thus, was dinged twice on my acceptance rating. The good news is, the acceptance rate resets every week.
Okay, so I mentioned I like the fact that I get to chill in the Publix Starbucks and work on my blog while I wait, but sometimes that’s just awkward. Plus, there’s only so much Rod Stewart you can take on the grocery store playlist. Unless, Rod is your thing, then you’ll love this.
Something else I struggle with is the customer’s perception of me when I deliver their orders. The customers I deliver to are usually housed in extremely wealthy houses and I always feel like I’m being judged. It makes me want to run down my resume and credentials. I just have to remember that this is a side hustle.
They Ask for More, But Don’t Reciprocate
Instacart sends me a message about once a week asking me to extend my shift, usually the day before the shift starts. They give advance warning, but when the shift comes, I almost always get told “We are slow today. Would you like to end your shift early?” Umm, why did you ask me to extend it then?
Hard to Contact Shopper Support
As I mentioned before, it’s hard to get in touch with Shopper Support. They’ve since put a new option in the app that should make it easier, but previously, you couldn’t get a hold of anyone unless you were on an order.
I also once took an order and went to deliver it, to find out the customer wasn’t there. You would not believe the hoops I had to jump through to get the okay to return the order to the store. I had to have the app call the customer, I had to call the customer, I had to call Shopper Support, they had to call the customer. Thankfully, the cashier at Whole Foods knew the drill, but Shopper Support couldn’t tell me if anything worked differently for returns.
As I stated in the beginning, you make money doing this, but not much. You do get paid weekly, but so far, I’m only offsetting my student loan payment. I guess it’s better than nothing. Just don’t expect to get rich or replace another job with this.
Give it a Try
If you want to give it a try, be my guest
and use my referral link. (I no longer shop for Instacart.)
Let me know how it goes, too. Maybe this is just how it works in my area, perhaps you’ll have a better go. Good luck!
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