What: Dumpling helps personal shoppers launch their own businesses, providing marketing, payment processing and a variety of support services for a fee. 

Expected pay: set by you

Husl$core: $$$$

Commissions & fees: $19.99 to start, plus a transaction or monthly fee (depending on the plan you choose)

Where: Nationwide

Requirements: 21 or older

Review

If you like grocery shopping but feel you can’t earn a decent living with Instacart, Dumpling is worth a look. The site works a bit like Instacart in that you get a site credit card that you can use to buy groceries and it will help you book clients.

However, where your pay and the availability of jobs is up to the site when you work for Instacart, with Dumpling, it’s up to you. With this site, you work for yourself. The app is simply a tool you can buy to launch and operate your own business.

With Dumpling, you decide how much you charge to shop; what stores you’re willing to go to; when you’re available; and whether you impose a minimum tip. Dumpling shoppers typically charge $10 to $15 as a service fee, for example. And many require that their customers pay at least a 10% tip to ensure that they make a decent amount of money on bigger orders that take longer to fill.

Dumpling doesn’t call the shots. It simply provides you with some services — for a fee — that make it easier for you to run your personal shopping business.

Site fees

Dumpling charges you $19.99 to set up an account. For that, you get a site credit card, business cards, a listing on Dumpling’s site, business coaching, and access to the site’s app and search engine to book and communicate with customers. 

There are also continuing monthly fees. However, you get the option of how to pay them. You can either pay a $5 fee on each shopping order or you can pay a monthly fee of $49. There’s also a 4% fee that’s taken out of every reimbursement to pay credit card processing charges. 

The two-tier fee structure allows personal shoppers to choose the plan that’s most economical. If you’re getting only a few shopping requests each month, the per-transaction fee is the best deal. However, once you build up a clientele, the “pro-plan” fee of $49 is the better option. It pays for itself in 10 orders.

The site also charges a 5% fee to your customers to pay for payment processing.

Coaching

Dumpling also provides business coaching from successful personal shoppers, who can give you advice on ways to market your services, price your shopping services, and create an attractive profile on both Dumpling’s site, and your own.

The site’s CEO Joel Shapiro says the coaching is important because there’s a big difference between taking orders (as you would at Instacart) and running your own business, as you do at Dumpling.  The goal is to help you develop a regular clientele. After all, the more successful you are, the more Dumpling earns in fees. Everyone wins. 

The one catch

Because you are technically working for yourself and with your own clients, you are also on the hook when something goes wrong. What could go wrong? The customer might try to stiff you after you’ve delivered their groceries.

Here’s how it works: When you get a shopping gig, Dumpling will advance enough money to buy the groceries to your Dumpling credit card. When the shop is complete, it charges the customers credit card for both the actual amount you spent, plus the fees. If the customer’s card doesn’t have sufficient funds to pay the tab, you’re theoretically on the hook to reimburse Dumpling. Shapiro says this rarely happens, and, so far, the site has reimbursed shoppers when it does. However, it is not contractually obligated to do so. The site’s terms say that customer fraud losses are the responsibility of the shopper.

That said, because you are building a personal relationship with your customers on Dumpling, fraud losses are rare. One Dumpling shopper says that in 450 transactions, she’s only had one where the customer was slow to pay. That customer eventually did pay up, but she had to nag her to do so. Naturally, she declined to take further orders from the scofflaw client.

Recommendations:

Shopper reviews of Dumpling are vastly better than of the other shopping and delivery apps, including Instacart, Shipt, Saucey and DoorDash. However, it can take a while to build a clientele on Dumpling. So you might want to use some of the other apps, at least temporarily, as a marketing tool to pass out your business cards. We’d also suggest that you require at least a 5% tip to cover Dumpling’s credit card processing fee on each order.

What their users say: (from Apple App store reviews):

“Started my business through dumpling 6 months ago & am very pleased”

“Not only does Instacart overcharge for groceries, but they also pocket most of the fees you pay. Dumpling is different. It allows you to pay the regular price, take advantage of coupons and build a relationship with a shopper you can trust– plus the fees and tips ALL go to the shopper. I recommend this to shoppers and consumers alike- everyone wins!”

“Dumpling is the absolute bomb for business owners that are looking to go out on their own!! They are so responsive and on top of anything that may glitch or that is not working. They have your back! I couldn’t be happier.”

“After working with Instacart and other platforms, Dumpling is a dream come true. I can serve my clients and be paid fairly.”

“While you aren’t paying extra for the grocery items, Dumpling tacks on hefty fees based on improperly calculating percentages on the checkout screen. For example, the “Gratuity” (Tip) area is calculated not solely on the Grocery subtotal (like all other shopping apps), but also by adding in the ‘Service & Delivery’ fee before calculation. That means that a pressing the 10% tip button is more likely gifting a 15% tip or possibly even more depending on how high the “Service & Delivery” fee goes. Worse, there’s a ‘Platform fee’ of 5% that’s assessed last. This fee is calculated by including Subtotal, Service & Delivery AND, get this, your included TIP. That’s right, they’re charging you an even higher platform fee the more you tip. This is seriously amateur, highly unfair and total price gouging.”