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Las Vegas area Instacart workers report tip baiting

Updated April 13, 2020 - 8:20 am

Racing against the clock, Nasseh Morris-McGee navigated through a local Smith’s store Wednesday, careful to not get too close to other shoppers, and finally found the pork chops.

But then an alert through her Instacart app popped up — the customer she was shopping for wanted a center-cut pork chop.

Morris-McGee accommodated the request, along with several other grocery swaps, and hurried to deliver the groceries within the expected time frame.

The next day, she reviewed her completed Instacart grocery delivery orders and saw the customer had changed the tip from $8.59 to $0.

“It happens all the time,” Morris-McGee said of the so-called tip-baiting practice. “It’s like a gut punch.”

Summerlin resident Morris-McGee said she was laid off last month from James Andrews Group as a market research interviewer because of the global coronavirus pandemic. She began working for Instacart as a grocery delivery worker a few days after she was laid off.

As she waits for unemployment to kick in, Instacart is her only income, she said.

“The reason I’m doing this is so I can keep paying my bills, have a roof over my head and keep food on the table,” Morris-McGee said.

She estimates she does about 10 orders a day, and a customer will change the tip to $0 “at least twice a day,” adding, “it’s really disheartening.”

Demand for grocery delivery has exploded in recent weeks following the spread of the coronavirus, and some Instacart users use tip baiting to boost the chances of having their order fulfilled. Last week, Instacart said overall customer order volume was up by more than 300 percent year over year.

Tip baiting is impacting a small portion of its more than 350,000 delivery workers across the U.S., the company told the Review-Journal on Friday.

Tips were adjusted after delivery on 0.5 percent of all orders last month, Instacart said, and it recently rolled out a new setting for tips. The default setting is now based on a customer’s last order instead of the previous 5 percent default tip, so if a customer tips 15 percent to his or her shopper, the next Instacart order will automatically default to a 15 percent tip.

The San Francisco-based grocery delivery company also said over the last month, 97 percent of all orders included a tip and that shoppers on average received a 30 percent increase in earnings from customer tips.

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow@Nicole0Raz on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Subrina Hudson contributed to this report.

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