As the shoppers traverse the grocery stores, they risk contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
For example, in late March, Instacart worker Annaliisa Arambula took an order promising a $55 tip to go shopping at a store just down the street from her. The store had everything the customer wanted, and the order seemed to have been completed.
The problem started when Arambula checked her earnings on the app to find that the customer had modified the tip post-delivery, and she'd only made $8.95 on that order.
Arambula, whose husband is out of work and suffers from diabetes that puts him at risk to the virus, said she was "flabbergasted" by the turn of events and that people would game the system like that.
But it isn't an isolated incident. People have offered high tips in order to incentivize faster delivery as grocery stores have been out of items more often during the pandemic. Some of them turn it into a bait-and-switch.
An Instacart spokesperson said the majority of orders in March saw tips adjusted upward after the order was completed or no change at all. The company adjusted the service to remove the “none” option at tip selection, so anyone who doesn't want to tip now has to manually change the tip to $0. The hope is that this will discourage not tipping. But the company had no comment on tip-baiting cases.
Other shoppers have reported customers spitefully reducing tips, such as one instance in which a tip was reduced to $0 because the shopper couldn't find toilet paper. The shopper, identified only as Carilyn for fear of retribution, said many customers simply "don't see what [the shoppers] see" while working.
Instacart shoppers announced a strike in late March, protesting the company's protections from the virus and the low pay rates.