‘A punch to the gut’: Instacart worker baited by fake tip

Oregon

Some personal shoppers say customers promise big tips but then change them to zero after getting their groceries

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Food and grocery delivery apps have made social distancing easier but some delivery workers in Portland say they’re being scammed by app users. 

Annaliisa Arambula is a personal shopper for the Instacart app. She told KOIN 6 News she spends up to 60 hours a week delivering groceries. 

Like most delivery apps, Instacart pays for a personal shopper’s mileage but Arambula said they rely mostly on tips. 

Annaliisa Arambula is a personal shopper for Instacart, April 9, 2020. (KOIN)

So a couple of weeks ago when a customer needed groceries from a store near Arambula’s house and offered a sizable tip of $55—she quickly accepted the job. 

“There was really no issues,” Arambula said of the request. “It was a shopper’s dream: everything was in stock, everything they wanted was there in the quantities and the sizes they wanted.” 

But the job was truly too good to be true. 

Shortly after dropping off the groceries, Arambula checked the app and her entire tip was gone, with a message explaining the “customer modified the tip post-delivery.”

“It was just like a punch to the gut,” she recalled. “It was really baffling to me that somebody could do that, especially knowing the climate we were entering into and the risk because so much was unknown about the virus at that point, too.” 

Arambula is the breadwinner in her home. Her husband has health issues that prevent him from working—which means she has to be extra careful when she returns home from work. 

An Instacart shopper at a grocery store. (Instacart)

“I try to get changed away from them—get my clothes to a washer and shower before I even have any kind of physical contact with either my husband or my kids.” 

Arambula said Instacart promises to provide personal protective items to shoppers during the COVID-19 pandemic but she hasn’t received any gloves, mask or hand sanitizer. A customer recently tipped her with cash and some masks.

“I’m taking a big risk and a lot of people say, ‘Well, just don’t do it,'” Arambula said. “Well, as a contract worker, I don’t have the same protections as a W2 worker.”

Instacart shared the following statement with KOIN 6 regarding Arambula’s experience:

“This is a very rare occurrence on the Instacart platform. In March, customers either adjusted their tip upward or did not adjust their tip after delivery on 99.5% of orders. Over the last month, 97% of all orders included a tip and shoppers also on average received a 30% increase in earnings from customer tips as a result of this feature and increased customer demand. We recently released a new customer tip default setting which allows customers to save their default tip based on their last order. The new customer tip default feature leverages order recollection technology, which remembers a customer’s previous tip and automatically sets it as their new default tip for all future orders. For example, if a customer tips 15% to their shopper for great service, their next Instacart order will automatically default to a 15% tip as well, versus defaulting back to the previous 5% default tip. We also removed the “none” option in the customer tip settings, requiring customers to manually change their tip to $0 if desired and making it less likely that a customer will remove the shopper tip altogether. Additionally, if a customer lowers the tip below 5%, the default will reset to 5% to ensure shoppers continue to have a baseline tip amount. This new feature has already had a significant, positive impact on shopper earnings. Tips continue to be separate from any Instacart earnings paid to the shopper and, as always, 100% of all tips go directly to the shopper. 

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