BEAVERTON, OR (KPTV) – Toilet paper and other essential items can be hard to come by these days, so many people are turning grocery delivery apps, such as Instacart, to have shoppers find the items for them, and many customers offer big money to do it.
Some customers, however, are engaging in a practice known as “tip-baiting”–offering big tips to entice Instacart workers to pick up their orders, then taking that large tip away as soon as the person who risked their health to get them their groceries has made the delivery.
In late March, Instacart worker Annaliisa Arambula accepted a grocery order that came with a $55 tip. She says the store was close by and everything the customer wanted was available. She said the order seemed to go just fine, but when she checked her earnings on the Instacart app an hour later, the entire tip was gone.
“After I completed the second shop of the day I looked, and I noticed that my numbers weren't adding up,” Arambula said. “So I went to my earnings tab and saw my customer reduced everything to zero. I was just sitting there like you were just punched in the gut. I couldn't believe it ... a hundred percent of the tip was taken away.”
Arambula ended up making around just $9 from the Instacart order, and she’s far from alone.
“I'm putting myself at risk to complete what once were mundane tasks, but it’s not a luxury service and more,” Arambula said. “It's an essential service for many people now with the climate we are in … it’s demoralizing. it makes you feel like your time is not as valuable as someone else's time.”
To make matters worse, Arambula’s husband is currently unemployed and at high risk for COVID-19 because he has diabetes. She says they’re relying on her work for Instacart to pay their bills, and tips can make up half of her income or more.
On Instacart, shoppers can see the tip offered before the order, but the company allows customers to change a tip for up to three days afterward. A company spokesperson says the vast majority of people actually adjusted their tip upward last month or did not adjust their tip after delivery at all.
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