Instacart Workers Call for Another Boycott Over Tips

A group wants to see the default tip setting raised from five to 10 percent.

Time is valuable. Ironically enough, that sentiment is the underlying premise behind the online grocery service Instacart—you'd rather do something else, so we'll handle the grocery shopping for you—and yet, when it comes to valuing its own workers' time, Instacart can't seem to make everyone happy.

Yesterday, a group called Instacart Workers once again posted to Medium calling for a boycott of the service. In the past, these protests have been used to fight back against what were deemed as unfair changes to worker pay and tipping policies, and this time around, the campaign is targeting one seemingly small change specifically: "to raise the app's default tip amount back to 10 percent."

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"On Monday, January 19, we will be asking customers and the general public to tweet at Instacart, and tell them you stand with their workforce, and that you'll #DeleteInstacart until they restore fairness and transparency of pay," Instacart Workers writes. "The following day, we will be asking customers to email Apoorva Mehta, the CEO of Instacart, directly." The post then goes for a personal dig: "He works hard to avoid us—Instacart workers in San Francisco delivering his personal grocery orders have noticed that he no longer answers the door—he can't even bear to show his face to us anymore. Tell Apoorva to stop hiding from us and start repairing the tumultuous relationship he's created."

According to The Verge, who spoke with Sarah Clarke, a lead organizer for Instacart Workers, Instacart changed the default tip from 10 percent in 2016 before settling on five percent in 2018. Customers can choose to tip whatever they want (even less than 5 percent), but apparently the default setting has an influence. As a purported shopper explained in a Reddit discussion last year, "I think my services are worth more [than] a 5 percent tip. It makes customers think that is all we expect."

"We've tested various versions of the customer tip default over the years, from 10 [percent], to no default tip, to 5 [percent], which we've had in place for nearly two years. Ultimately, we believe customers should have the choice to determine the tip amount they choose to give a shopper based on the experience they have. The default amount serves as a baseline for a shopper's potential tip, and can be increased to any amount by the customer." said Instacart said in a statement provided to Food & Wine.

Previously, Nilam Ganenthiran, the company's president, has also told CNBC, "I truly think it's right for our shoppers, right for our customers and right for the ecosystem." He later implied that his company's shoppers can get by with a lower tip percentage than other service providers because they can earn more per trip, stating, "Our average order value [sometimes in the $100 to $150 range] is just so much higher than say a food delivery app."

Meanwhile, Clarke sounded confident about her group's ability to affect further change. "They're underestimating us and our powers; I don't think they realized we would be this persistent and this loud," she told The Verge. "We're not giving up."

Update Jan. 14, 2020: This article has been updated to include a comment from Instacart and to correct the timing of the change to a five-percent default tip.

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