Does Instacart Pay You if You Don’t Get Any Orders?


A man with empty pockets

I know some days are busier than others for online grocery pickup and delivery. But what happens to the employees on slower days? Does Instacart pay you if you don’t get any orders?

Here’s what I found out:

Instacart independent contractors only get paid when they complete orders. However, Instacart also utilizes In-store shoppers, who are part-time employees who receive an hourly wage without regard to the number of orders being received.

So let’s look at that in greater detail.

Instacart workers who work in delivery fall into two categories:

  • In-store shoppers (part-time employees)
  • Full-service shoppers (independent contractors)

The former are part-time employees who pick and pack groceries ready for delivery, while the latter pick, pack, and deliver.

Both naturally receive payments for work done (as it should be). In a bit, I’ll share a situation where In-store shoppers can get paid if no orders came through.

In this article, we’ll explore key facts you need to know about working for Instacart and what you’ll get paid. Of course, there are also some unique things about Instacart in California, which we’ll also get into.

Read on to know more about…

Does Instacart have to pay minimum wage?

Instacart part-time employees are subject to receive minimum wage (or higher in most cases). But, Instacart has independent contractors paid by the job rather than being paid a minimum hourly wage.

Instacart has two categories of workers:

  • Full-service shoppers who are independent contractors and not employees
  • In-store shoppers who are part-time employees

As you probably know, independent contractors get paid when assigned work and don’t get a minimum wage without regard to the amount of work done.

They don’t have a minimum or a maximum number of hours they’ve got to work each week.

They decide whether to accept or reject a batch (order). They get paid when they work. So, there’s no minimum wage for them. They earn a pre-agreed amount per batch (order), and they also get tips from customers. They own 100% of the tips.

On the other hand, in-store shoppers get paid a minimum of $13 per hour, even if there are no orders.

That’s as long as they’re present during their shift. After all, they are part-time employees. But, if their batch acceptance rate drops to 80%, then they no longer qualify for the hourly minimum for that week.

If you live in California, you’ll likely earn a lot more because of what Instacart calls Guaranteed Minimum Earnings.

This is because of a bill that was passed recently. It’s known as Proposition 22, and what interests us are the following:

  • 120 percent of the local minimum wage for each hour a driver spends driving (with a passenger or en route), but not time spent waiting
  • $0.30/mile for expenses for each mile driven with passenger or en route
  • Health insurance stipend for drivers who average more than 15 hours per week driving
  • Requires the companies to pay medical costs and some lost income for drivers hurt while driving or waiting
  • Prohibits workplace discrimination and requires that companies: develop sexual harassment policies, conduct criminal background checks, and mandate safety training for drivers

So, shoppers in California will earn 120% of minimum wage and $.30 per mile you spend shopping and delivering.

This guaranteed minimum earnings exclude tips, which belong exclusively to the shopper. But, note that because of the differences in duties, In-house shoppers do not receive tips.

This info is valid as of the time of writing. As you know, earnings are subject to changes.

If you were to become an Instacart shopper, would that affect the unemployment benefits you might have been getting from a previous job? Find out the answer in a recent article of mine.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How many orders does Instacart get a day?

Instacart handles an estimated 767,123 orders per day across all areas where it operates. Instacart currently operates in 5,500 metro areas. That’s an average of 139 orders per day per city.

Instacart themselves don’t publish usage statistics, but an equity analyst in an article on toptal.com, which reviews the company’s latest valuation estimates that Instacart handles 280 million orders per year.

Businessofapps.com shows that as of 2019, it had 5.5 million customers.

This highly impressive figure is partly due to the pandemic, as the delivery company became an essential service and added 300,000 workers to handle the spike in demand. By the end of 2020, it had a total of 500,000 shoppers.

It achieved its 2022 projections by the fifth week of the lockdown in 2020!

To put the figures above in context, it’s vital to note that until April last year, the company was losing $25 million monthly!

Before 2020, online grocery shopping was a small part of the grocery sales pie.

However, it has been increasing, and this increase is expected to continue as companies in this sector offer convenience and time-saving for those who can afford the services.

Just how much has it increased, and how much is expected to grow in the next few years? Find out in a recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

How does Instacart decide who gets batches?

Instacart’s algorithm prioritizes past shopper behavior in determining who gets batches first. Instacart Shoppers who have a 5-star rating get to see batches first.

Customers get to rate shoppers (but shoppers can’t rate customers) after each delivery. So, the best way to get great batches is to do your best while delivering each batch.

The company requires customers to provide feedback, in addition to the rating.

This is passed on to the shopper so that they could improve if it’s something they can control. Naturally, factors that are outside shoppers’ control are not considered in the model that allocates batches. Of course, you’re not compelled to accept any batch.

If your zone has relatively few batches (orders placed by customers), the app will let you know about other areas where there are more batches and a map to help you get there.

Based on direct shopper feedback, the company is also testing a new approach, where batches are offered directly to qualified shoppers. They don’t have to select from the list view.

The key thing to maximize your chance at getting enough batches is to ensure you have and maintain a 5-star rating.

Can you make a living off Instacart?

While some Instacart Shoppers earn as much as $8,000/month, the average annual salary is currently $57,263. With Instacart independent contractors, the more you work, the more you earn.

(source)

Based on salary reviews, on average, there are as many folks who say that the pay is good as there are those who complain. I guess that’s the way of the world.

You’re your own boss. This can be a blessing. But, it can also be a curse.

Instacart provides estimates of potential earnings:

  • $7 to $10 for full-service shopping per batch (you shop and deliver)
  • $5 for delivery-only. 
  • There’s also a $3 quality bonus for a shopper that receives a 5-star rating.

In-store shoppers are not independent contractors.

They’re part-time employees, and they earn an average of $13 per hour. There are no tips and bonuses because you won’t be interfacing with customers.

You’ll be working in the store. And, at times, you’ll take the order to the curbside for customers to pick them up.

In the course of my research, I came across one person who earned $3000 in a month and another who earned $8000 in a month.

These figures are probably not representative of what you’ll earn, but they can be seen as a range of possibilities. $8000 is a lot of money and maybe what you can also aspire to get if you are truly devoted.

However, because it’s independent contracting work, you’re not guaranteed a fixed-income.

This is a simple but vital point to note. The implication is that your income will vary. There’ll be months you’ll make a lot and months where you’ll make something less. In time, depending on your devotion, you’ll probably discover what to do daily to earn a consistent income.

Which of the two options when you work for Instacart is better?

Let’s look at what they are and what they entail. You can work as a Full-service shopper or an In-store shopper. What’s the difference?

As the name suggests, being a Full-service shopper requires that you shop and deliver groceries, while In-store shopping has no delivery requirement. 

To be a Full-service shopper, you’ll need to have a car. A Full-service shopper is an independent contractor, while an In-store shopper is a part-time employee required to work at least 15 to 20 hours each week (Sundays and Mondays included).

If you want more details relating to whether Instacart can be a good full-time job, check out a recent article of mine. I get into much greater detail on pay, benefits, and what current employees have to say about the company.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is it common for Instacart Shoppers to get no orders?

It’s not common for an Instacart Shopper to not receive any orders. The app is always showing batches for Shoppers to accept. But, orders have to be claimed fast, or they could be picked up by someone else.

What I shared earlier about how the algorithm works is also relevant. If a shopper has a rating that’s below 4.98, the number of batches they’ll be seeing will reduce drastically.

But there are complaints that many shoppers are not getting as many orders as they used to get before the company engaged thousands of shoppers to cope with the spike in demand.

And some people claim that hackers are using bots to hijack the batches, which they then sell. 

When a shopper has a lot of orders to fulfill, can they skip lines when checking out? This is the theme of a recent article of mine. The answer actually really surprised me, as did how it works at places like Costco.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about Instacart and whether it’s a good full-time job?

We learned that there are two types of workers:

Full-service shoppers and In-house shoppers. Naturally, their duties and earnings differ. You get to choose which one you prefer.

We looked at the expected earnings, and I mentioned that in my research, some people say the pay is awesome, while others say it’s not good enough.

Truth be told, this is not peculiar to Instacart. We also looked at how the company allocates batches (orders) to shoppers, and we wrapped things up by noting that it’s rare for a hardworking shopper to not get batches.

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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