Instacart takes steps to discourage 'tip baiting'

It'll be harder to bait and switch shoppers.

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CLARK, NEW JERSEY - APRIL 27: Clark resident Jen Valencia sanitizes her hands at checkout as she supplements her income working for Instacart at Acme Market on April 27, 2020 in Clark, New Jersey. Instacart has experienced a massive surge in customer demand and employment recently due to lockdowns and other restrictions caused by COVID-19. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Instacart is responding to scrutiny over “tip baiting” by discouraging attempts to stiff shoppers. The grocery delivery service will now require that customers leave feedback if they remove tips entirely, and will reduce the tipping window from three days to 24 hours. It’ll also ban any customer who “consistently and egregiously” baits couriers.

To match, Instacart is also making it easier for those shoppers to get paid. They can now use Instant Cashout to quickly access their tips, not just their main earnings. That shorter tipping window gives them faster access to those tips, too. The company is also waiving cashout fees, if only until July 31st.

The actions come just days after a group of US senators asked the FTC to investigate whether Instacart and other delivery services are engaging in “unfair or deceptive” practices through policies that enable tip baiting. It’s not certain this will satisfy politicians, but Instacart is sending a signal that it’s at least aware of the issue.

Whether or not this helps isn’t clear. The requirement to leave feedback doesn’t include a requirement to tell the truth — Instacart will need to verify the feedback for patterns of behavior. And while deactivating customers might deter some abusers, it’ll only come after the damage has already been done. Still, this could prevent or limit some of the worst damage and ensure that customers leave generous tips out of a genuine desire to reward essential workers, not to trick them into delivering food for low pay.

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