Instacart

I hate them. More to follow.

Well, that wasn’t very helpful.

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Sorry - still working the problem. Venting on my part.

I signed up for Instacart about a year ago after it was recommended by a family member. But after closer inspection decided it wasn’t for me in the meat/poultry department. Lately I’ve been getting emails advertising $20 off on a $50 order. I figure they’re hurting for business since everyone is getting out and about now. Maybe a shortage of shoppers/drivers too.

Well, I’ll wait to hear what the problem is.:slightly_smiling_face:

I used Instacart weekly at the beginning of shutdown. I had few problems with them, and when I did bring one to their attention. they immediately emailed instructions for rectifying it, eg, credit or replacement. Shoppers/delivery people were consistently masked and most gloved. Bags packed properly, left at door as requested and doorbell rung. They served me well during a stressful time. Then we started shopping on our own.
They recently started sending me incentive credits. I used one this week, choosing luxury items I would not normally afford myself. FOR ME, a happy experience. I figure, with delivery and service fee it costs me $10 extra per order, plus discretionary tip.
I appreciate the array of sellers they provide in my area, from Kroger discount, Walmart, Target, usual supermarkets to upscale boutique markets that sell Kurobuta and wagyu.
Do I love them? No. Do I appreciate the option? Yes!

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I’ve never used this or similar but last week I was in a store and saw a lady I thought was a shopper hurling things at/in a cart like … someone who needed help. Wow. A little scary.

Herewith the story behind my rant.

I have a trip coming up from Bradenton FL to Brunswick GA. The trip itself is only about four or five days. New boat to the owners and the insurance company won’t cover them without training so that is another several days. Found a Publix (perfectly fine grocery store) near the marina. Set up an account and loaded the first chunk of provisions - about $500 of what will total about $1500. Get to the end and no way to checkout for curbside. After a quick call to Publix customer service I understand I have to order through Instacart and there is no way to transfer my cart to them. Set up a new Instacart account, boat owner’s credit card, billing information, zip codes, store number - spend an hour loading the cart from the Publix cart one item at a time. Instacart website is slow and clunky and doesn’t have everything Publix carries. Get to the end and checkout. Hmm. Total cost is about 15% more than the Publix on-shelf costs. Proceed based on convenience and staying out of a Florida grocery store. Within seconds, my order is cancelled and Instacart has referred me to they Security and Safety Team. Two hours on the phone with Instacart customer support during which they hung up on me twice and I had to call back and start over. In the end, refusal to escalate. Refusal to provide contact information for Security and Safety Team. The only way to proceed is by email with said Security and Safety Team with a 48 hour turnaround. In the meantime my customers are six hours away from the boat.

I take issue with the Instacart business model, the extra costs to customers and business. This experience was simply inexcusable.

I’ve done curbside from groceries all up and down the US East Coast and in the Caribbean during COVID. It’s great. Instacart makes it horrible. I don’t use nasty, horrible words like “hate” lightly. I hate Instacart.

I transferred the contents of my shopping cart to WalMart and scheduled curbside there, a bit later than I would have liked but everything worked. I called WalMart customer service who suggested delivery and comped that service. Food was delivered directly to the boat this morning at 0800.

I’ve let Publix know I don’t think much of their decision to outsource curbside. Instacart has demonstrated they don’t care what I think (which hasn’t slowed me down on Twitter or Facebook grin). Kuddos to WalMart.

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Follow on - I’m fortunate in my area that most grocery stores do curbside in-house. Giant Food, Safeway, Whole Foods. They get my custom.

Food Lion, Wegmans, and Lidl have outsourced to Instacart. I’ve ignored them as vendors so far. Based on my experience with Instacart I’m writing to all those corporate offices to share my experience and assure them I will continue to shop curbside from stores that provide that service in-house. My one-man boycott of Instacart and all the businesses that contract with them may be small but it will be as loud as I can make it.

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Ugh, I am sorry that you experienced such a frustrating runaround.

I suspect that your shopping transaction met certain policy conditions that caused it to appear suspect. Perhaps the dollar value of the transaction and/or that your IP address showed you not to be within the store’s service area?

That said, Instacart did not help you nor allow an escalation after you invested a more than reasonable amount of time and effort to request their help. Big, bad customer experience fail.

You have valuable customer feedback for them. Part of me says that Instacart doesn’t deserve to hear it. You voted with your dollars and went elsewhere, which would be my preferred remedy as well.

Onward. Safe travels!

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How else would they make money beside higher prices or fees than you pay directly from the shop. Same way how UeberEats, Doordash etc work for restaurants. I don’t like it but there weren’t other options to get groceries during the pandemic if you want to avoid supermarkts and people in general.

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Reasonable questions.

Let me separate groceries from take-out/delivery. For the latter we can start here

and then, again look at pricing.

Many grocery stores do curbside in-house. I’ve had discussions with store managers at Giant Food, Safeway, Wegmans, and Publix. I’ve talked to pickers at Giant, Safeway, Sam’s, and WalMart. This is anecdotal, but remember that the store managers are responsible for P&L and pay attention to labor costs as well as to staff morale and customer happiness. Customers generally do not like the pricing of Instacart. It costs too much. Apparently, based on my discussions, outsourcing to third party providers like Instacart doesn’t make anyone happy. It’s easier for corporate. That’s it. Curbside is fast and easy for customers. UK economists have said it is “sticky” and will outlast the pandemic. Staff like it also as it cuts down on people in the store (think exposure, questions, theft, damage, spills, etc.).

The stores local to me doing curbside (not just groceries, but hardware, chandleries, restaurants) have found that staffing needs are not significant over fully open stores. Business is up, hours for staff are up, and customer happiness is up.

If you look at the literature on outsourcing (HBR, Wharton, Kellogg, et al), there are very few scenarios in which it makes sense. Public works sometimes saves money because small jurisdictions simply have bad management. Lots of places recognize savings from economies of scale for things like payroll and HR. None of that applies (or should apply) to retail curbside. An exception appears to be for Trader Joe’s whose inventory control systems are so bad they can’t support online shopping. That doesn’t speak well of them. It’s interesting that even Instacart won’t touch TJ’s.

Note I’m not talking about delivery, although some stores (Whole Foods, WalMart) have premium memberships that include free delivery. Curbside is a different model but as near as my discussions indicate, and watching the literature (scholar.google.com) supports, doesn’t cost more to provide than in-store shopping.

Instacart prices for curbside would appear to be a combination of inherent inefficiencies of poor systems integration and profiteering.

But that is the critical issue for me - I (and a lot of people I know) don’t care about curbside pick up. I use Instacart for delivery (at least during the pandemic- really looking forward to do my own shopping again). Your arguments make sense for curbside pick up but I have read that the delivery portion is significantly larger. compared to pick up and it is unlikely that they will use different prices/ business models between pick up and delivery

I don’t know what that is. What about mental health benefits?

I’d like footnotes for delivery being a bigger market than curbside pickup. In-house delivery like Giant/Peapod and Whole Foods/Amazon Prime and WalMart are carrying their weight without the significant price differential of Instacart and without the horrid customer service and intrusive policies. Instacart costs the customer and the store too much. Someone somewhere is making a lot of money.

I’ll also point out that the stores that have kept curbside and delivery in-house have all come to the same conclusion: using stockers as pickers is fast and efficient. Use the people who know best where things are, plus they front and face while picking for even more efficiency. I expect, based on Deming and other business foundations that the variation is good for morale which helps retention and loyalty and job satisfaction.

P&L is profit and loss. The grocery business is low margin. There are a lot of fixed costs and little variable. Store managers have partial control over costs of goods sold (COGS) although there are mandated stocking policies. Their biggest impact is on the cost of labor from scheduling. See my response to @honkman immediately above for mental health and job efficiency thoughts.

The Instacart shoppers I have encountered, mostly online but some in person pre-COVID, have been pretty consistently unhappy people. Comment upthread about someone “who needs help” is relevant.

Those companies who use their in-house capabilities also for delivery are the huge companies (like Walmart, Amazon/WF) who can effort to lose money by not adding price increases for delivery. I find it also a bit ironic that you talk about mental health, job satisfaction etc when in particular these two large companies are known for their very significant issues with job satisfaction, unhappiness of workers, a lot of mental pressure etc. I don’t think Instacart is a great solution but your examples of companies who are not relying on them are really bad examples for your arguments as they contradict your discussion points - I rarely have consistently experienced so unhappy workers as those at WF who are responsible to pack and deliver the online orders.

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Good point, @honkman. The grocers I use via Instacart are small, sometimes boutique, markets where I know the quality of the butcher counter meat, housemade sausage, produce are top quality and consistent. And the shoppers at these markets have been good, texting me when a substitution is necessary or even from their point of view advisable. Not perfect, but has worked well for me.

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sigh Instacart sent me a form email asking about my experience on the order they cancelled.

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You know these email are automated…

Blasphemy! Every one is hand-crafted with a particular recipient in mind!

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold