Instacart Signals It Has Shoppers’ Backs

Instacart has rolled out some changes recently designed to protect its shoppers from some of the worst consumer behaviors on the platform.

Why the newfound concern for shopper welfare? Perhaps it’s a reflection of the competition among gig platforms for the best drivers, dashers, or shoppers. Hard to say, but these measures do seem overdue.

In April, for example, Instacart took measures to blunt the impact of tip-baiting. This is the practice of enticing a shopper to accept a batch with the promise of a large tip. The buyer then zeroes out the tip after the order. Apparently, this is often for no other reason other than not wanting to pay the tip.

Who does this?

Here is how Instacart addressed the issue, in its own words.

Instacart’s first-of-its-kind tip protection offering will protect shoppers from customers who remove a tip without reporting an issue with the order. This protection will apply when a customer zeroes out their tip after delivery without reporting an order issue. Instacart will cover the amount of the zeroed-out tip, up to $10, to ensure shoppers are not adversely affected. While having a tip zeroed out after delivery is exceedingly rare, Instacart wants to ensure that shoppers are supported in the event that this happens.

Instacart does say tip-baiting is rare. But we wonder if it’s really that uncommon. It seems to happen often enough to merit this action. And Instacart hasn’t fully solved the problem. It doesn’t seem to have an answer for consumers who make up a reason for revoking a tip, even if that reason is bogus.

But it does at least acknowledge the problem exists and represents unacceptable consumer behavior.

Keeping Ahead of Karen

Protecting shoppers from Karens (and Kens?) seems to be the order of the day.

This week Instacart rolled out a new, “reimagined” customer rating system. The new system seems largely designed to make ratings fairer. This is key since ratings are a huge factor in the number and quality of batches a shopper is offered, fairer.

One way Instacart does this is by excluding more ratings from consumers who consistently give shoppers ratings below 5-stars. Apparently, Instacart has realized these consumers are the problem. Even if the consumers themselves don’t realize it.

The new system also provides shoppers with more granular performance data in their dashboard. And it gives them the opportunity to give batch-level feedback. This means they can request no more batches from Mean Customer X.

“Our reimagined ratings system was developed in close collaboration with the shopper community to better support their needs,” said John Adams, Vice President of Shopper & Fulfillment Product at Instacart. “It’s incredibly important to us to nurture a community built on best intent — deepening the trust between shoppers, customers, and all of us at Instacart. By delivering on shopper feedback to make the customer ratings system even more fair, accurate, and reliable, we’re taking another step in ensuring that shoppers feel heard and supported through their experience.”

There is a context for these new pro-shopper policies. The immediate post-pandemic period has been hard on Instacart. The company recently cut its valuation from $40 billion to $24 billion. And it struggles, along with so many others, with the labor shortage. Plus, Instacart has drawn the ire of gig worker advocates for practices deemed….well, just read what the Gig Workers Collective said about them.

“Over the last five years, Instacart has been relentlessly gutting shoppers’ wages, exploiting its improperly classified workforce, and outright stealing shoppers’ wages and tips on its path to a highly anticipated public offering.” 

So we can see why Instacart could use some good PR. The company needs to show that it’s taking its shoppers’ side in the face of abusive consumer behavior.

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