What: Instacart enlists side hustlers to shop for and deliver groceries

Expected pay: $5 – $15 per hour

Husl $core: $

Where: National


  • Be over the age of 18
  • Have a car, auto insurance and 2 years driving experience
  • Have a smart phone with a good data plan
  • Be able to lift 30 to 40 pound packages without assistance
  • Be eligible to work in the U.S. 


Instacart recently revised its pay formula from something semi-understandable to a secret sauce that workers say allows the company to abscond with a portion of their tips. We have never been impressed with this side hustle and are even less impressed now. But, let’s back up and explain.

If you take this job, you’ll get a shopping list and a pre-paid debit card. You’ll shop for the customer’s groceries and either deliver them or set them aside for later delivery. Shoppers are paid based on an obtuse pay structure that provides at least $10 per delivery, but now includes the promised tip in that payment. So, if the customer pays $10, Instacart doesn’t have to pay anything. That pay is per shop, not per hour. If it takes you two hours, you’re probably not even going to break-even after accounting for gas and wear and tear on your vehicle.

That obtuse pay structure is only clear on one point. There is no minimum pay per hour. The driver/shopper reviews on Indeed.com are overwhelmingly negative, with most complaining that the commission structure leaves them at risk of earning far less than minimum wage, while using their car and gas.


Better shopping/delivery jobs can be found with Shipt and GrubHub. However, there’s an even better option with a site called Dumpling. Dumpling allows you to essentially run your own business, building up your own clientele and setting your own rates and fees. You pay them a small fee to provide you with a credit card (that advances money for your shopping trips) and billing services. You can see how Dumpling compares to Instacart here. 

What their drivers say: From Glassdoor:

Cons: Large orders with cases of water and customers with stairs; Poor tips – company doesn’t automatically add gratuity; Pay is less than minimum wage and decreasing in all areas daily; Car mileage, damage and maintenance; Poor support from Shopper Help; Poor Logistics; Company got rid of guarantee pay; If a customer is MIA you must return all non perishables to the store; Poor ratings if a customer reports missing items for the sake of refunds; Items are purchased in “units” so you get 40 cents for 24 items when you’re actually purchasing 48-items (duplicates don’t count)

Here is a typical day at Instacart:

1. Show up to work at 7 am on a Sunday.2. Get a text message that you have a batch at 7:00 am on the dot. 3. Try to retrieve batch in current orders. 4. When you try and pull up your app in current orders, get a pop up message that the app isn’t working, they are trying to fix the problem. 5. Get a string of text messages that you haven’t acknowledged your batch and aren’t going to get hours in the future because you are failing. 6. Get kicked off the schedule at 7:04 am. No longer being paid. 7. Try to call “shopper happiness”. Get a message that they are receiving a high volume of calls and can’t help you. (BTW, Shopper Happiness always says this and can never help you. It’s non-existent) 8. Try to text your supervisor. Get no response. 9. Get not one, but two reliability incidents for not acknowledging your batch. By the time you get a third, you get fired. 10. Go home after 4 minutes of work. 

(These comments from Reddit are edited solely for grammar, clarity and space.)

The new pay model essentially eliminated tips (60% of my earnings). I worked long hours during October of last year and made around $20/hr factoring gas into the equation. The new pay model knocked me down to less than $10/hr and I only put up with that for a few days before finding a better delivery service.

“The hourly guarantee is calculated by the WEEK, not the day. For example, my zone has a $12/hr guarantee until I hit 50 batches. (It doesn’t tell you that. I had to call shopper happiness to find out the number of batches before I lose my guarantee.)

Let’s say I work the following hours and make the following earnings:

Mon – 10 hours : $90

Tues – 6 hours : $30

Wed – 8 hours : $120

Thur – 8 hours : $40

Fri – 8 hours : $144

Sat – 12 hours : $180

Sun – 8 hours : $160.

That’s 60 hours for the week and $764 in earnings, meaning I made a total of $12.73/hr, exceeding the guarantee and getting no extra money, even though I had single days that made far less than the guarantee. If we changed that a little and said that the Friday wasn’t nearly so good, I made $100 less ($44). So my hours were still 60 but my earnings were $664, meaning I only made $11.07/hr. Since I made less than $12/hr for the week, they would give me money until I hit the $12/hr for the 60 hours I worked, adding $56 to my account to bring my weekly earnings to $720.”

“Fun? Hahahaha. Yeah, right.”

[In response to a question from a Houston newbie, who asked about making decent earnings when working very part-time:] 

If you don’t work 30 hours during the week you’re not on the early schedule….there’s a good chance that you’re not gonna get any hours unless you constantly look at the app to check to see if people dropped any.

It’s total bullshit that they make people work 30 hours a week to get on the schedule and the way they do weekends is bullshit too…some people can’t work weekends. It’s very un-flexible…I cannot for the life of me figure out why they want to do it that way. Seems like a lot of people would like to do this job as a side gig for extra money. They pretty much want full-time employees.

Try Instacart