This is not an Instacart review. My opinions and experiences are solely based on my situation.
I’m self-employed and set my own hours.
I work from home and don’t have kids.
Publix Supermarket is a 3-minute drive from me.
Well, that does it…
I shouldn’t need to use Instacart unless I’m lazy, right!?
Just like everyone should stop paying for cable television.
And quit drinking lattes.
I mean, that’s what “money/social experts” seem to think.
But there’s much more to it than just that.
I do have friends, many of whom have kids.
I hear all of the adventures of “dragging them along everyplace” (their words, not mine!).
I hear the wishes of “It would be great to have X brought to me”.
I totally get it!
Hell, I’d love to have someone bring me 5 cases of bottled water and other supplies, especially when building my emergency preparedness kit.
I still can’t bring myself to use this grocery delivery service, not because I’m cheap, but for other reasons…
Home Grocery Delivery Service
Never go off of what one person’s experience is–try Instacart and see for yourself if it’s a service that benefits you & makes life easier!
How Does Instacart Work?
Before we get into the three main issues, this is something that has been brought up numerous times.
No one seems to be able to answer with authority anymore the question of “how does Instacart work?”
Some regions require an Instacart Express subscription.
In some regions, you can simply order and pay the fee.
Sometimes the fee can be waived.
None of this information is transparently available on the Instacart website.
Many people in the comments on this very article state as much.
Apparently isn’t as simple as signing up, ordering, paying, and knowing exactly how much your Instacart order will cost anymore.
If I was desperate to have a grocery delivery service available to me, this would be a 4-part article!
Alas, it isn’t so let’s get to my actual complaints about Instacart!
I Don’t Trust Instacart Shoppers
Personally, I know my mother taught me how to shop.
She showed me how to use coupons, not obsessively to the point where the search would outweigh the benefit, but like a normal person.
She taught me how to look for the best quality groceries.
And most importantly, she taught me that everything has an expiration date.
That’s right, it’s not just the produce.
Or the meat.
Or the dairy.
Even pantry and dry-packaged items have expiration dates.
This is where my mistrust comes in.
On the site, I don’t see anything about qualifications except for age, availability, and ability to lift heavy loads.
Simon over at the Rideshare Dashboard has a pretty in-depth overview of the Instacart job signup process for being an Instacart shopper.
He specifically mentions the fact that viewing training videos and passing the associated quizzes is no longer a requirement for becoming an Instacart shopper.
There is also some talk about actual in-person training which doesn’t seem to inspire much confidence either.
So, who is to say that when I place an order, the person who does the picking will have any knowledge about shopping other than what food is what?
If I order meat, will they just grab a package that comes close to the amount of weight I desire, or will they actually inspect it for quality (fat content or color)?
Will they know that eggs need to be checked to make sure they aren’t cracked on the bottom and stuck to the carton?
Hell, will they even open up the package to see if the eggs are cracked on the top?
You might want to read this article about cracked eggs and bacteria.
If I order produce will the picker know how to test fruits or vegetables for freshness?
I have a hard time paying for a service that is 50-50 at best to deliver me the best quality items available at the time.
Now, this isn’t to say that all shoppers are bad–there are always good and bad people in any line of work–but a generalization isn’t a shot at anyone in particular so please understand that if you or someone you know is a shopper/driver…no one is speaking about them personally!
However, there are instances of Instacart shoppers purchasing products for their own use on the customers’ dime which doesn’t help alleviate any trust issues and not just in one instance, but across the country.
I guess that can happen when you have to pay for an expensive car on tips.
I Don’t Trust Instacart Fees/Pricing
Just today, I tried a little experiment.
I had just come back from that Publix which is around the corner from my house.
Yes, in the middle of the morning on a Friday…that’s one of the best parts of a business owner.
But I digress…
I decided to go to the Instacart website and test out the prices.
Unfortunately, I had to create an account first, which I also find to be a pain in the ass, and don’t really trust sites that don’t let you see how they work without giving over your personal info.
Hesitant as I was, I did it so I can gain access and see what the prices were like.
Now, I did read the FAQ about pricing and averages and data feeds and all before doing my comparison.
That in and of itself gave me pause because if you have all of these disclaimers, you are essentially saying that your prices probably won’t match the store’s prices.
It’s basically just an excuse to charge even more on top of the standard grocery delivery service/subscription fees.
Anyway, the first thing I looked at was Fresh Express Baby Spinach because I knew that I had just bought it and remembered the price I paid was $3.99 each BOGO.
I did a search on the Instacart Publix section and found this:
The BOGO is correct, but the pricing is off.
And just to compare it to what the store itself advertises in the current circular:
Notice in the 2nd image, it says “SAVE UP TO $4.19”?
That means the most expensive Fresh Express product that Publix sells under this sale costs $.40 more through Instacart.
Want another one?
Good, because I tested another one from the Publix ad simply to see if there might be something to this.
This time I tested a 5lb bag of Organic Russet Potatoes:
So this one even tells you that it’s on sale and displays the “savings” as well.
But compared to the one from the Publix ad…
Sure there’s no picture on this one, but it really doesn’t matter because the Instacart image is just a plain bag and anyone who has ever been grocery shopping knows, those 5lb bags always are branded.
Getting back on track…
The Publix ad shows, again, a lower price.
And remember that “savings” Instacart displayed?
Well, it appears they not only charge more than the store does, but also calculate everything differently, reflecting larger price savings than Publix offers.
And I tried a bunch of other items too, but I wasn’t in the mood to start clipping images of everything…you can do your own test to see how your area stacks up.
It just doesn’t sit well with me.
If everything is $.40-$.50 more expensive and you are paying for the service on top of that I call bullshit real quick!
Sure, the store may dictate the pricing via Instacart, but here’s the real problem:
Instacart is getting money from the store to provide the service and from you in the form of fees/subscriptions.
That is double-dipping, and that is where my big issue with the price differences comes from.
Instacart Isn’t Partnered With All Of My Stores
This may be insignificant to many people.
That’s cool because this is only pertaining to my personal reasons for not using the service.
If any of you are friends with me on Facebook or follow my Facebook Page or Instagram feed you’ll know that mention an Italian market frequently when I talk about food (and if you aren’t, go follow NOW ? )
That’s because 90% of the items I buy from it beats the pants off of any of the national/regional supermarket chains.
And in case you’re wondering, I mostly buy fresh meats/produce and cook my meals from scratch rather than buying prepackaged foods–not a judgment, but it does clarify why I don’t get much use out of a big supermarket.
Here’s the thing–in my area, there are 4 options for using Instacart, and my main store isn’t one of them.
Side note: Instacart is in a bunch of Aldi stores which is a place I definitely think people should give a shot!
So, when it comes to the one I do go to that is in my service are–Publix–I only go there for the BOGOs, and occasionally when I get coupons for $5 of $50 in the mail direct from the store itself (which is like 1 month a year).
And when I go, I may end up spending between $15-$25, which makes even a $5 delivery fee a relatively HUGE amount!
It’s kind of like those dumbass pizza chains that give you a $7 pizza after applying the promo code but then charge a $4 delivery fee (and they all suck anyway hahaha but you get my point).
If you shop frequently or in a larger volume than I do and can get that fee down to a tiny relative value, that’s great…it just doesn’t work for me.
Instacart And Store Receipts
A big issue stems from the pricing differences and receipts–or not getting the original.
Some people have come to me to argue that you don’t get the original receipt from the store because you are buying from Instacart.
The argument is that as a reseller you shouldn’t get a receipt showing what the original cast was the same way you don’t get a receipt from the store showing its own purchase price in addition to your copy.
The fault with that argument is simple:
Instacart isn’t buying items to store and sell later via its website.
Instead, the company is providing a personal shopping and delivery service.
This is exactly why you should get the original receipt–as a personal services company, you should be allowed to compare what the cost difference is between doing it yourself and what the Instacart costs add.
Personal shoppers do exactly that–spend the client’s money at cost and add their fee on top.
That’s an important piece of the puzzle for a lot of people.
People who budget their time and money want to know if the added cost is worth outsourcing grocery shopping as opposed to doing it themselves.
It’s not a minor thing for a lot of people, especially when they take the time to really break it all down and see a sometimes large percentage increase in cost by using the service.
Instacart Customer Service
It does seem as though there is one “bright spot” about using Instacart for a grocery delivery service.
The reason I put bright spot in quotations is that I firmly believe that with the best companies you will never hear anything about their customer service (good or bad) because they deliver from the start.
But I digress…
It seems from most accounts and especially down in the comments that Instacart customer service is pretty good.
As mentioned in point #1 above, there have been many instances of Instacart shoppers buying their own items on the customer’s order.
I definitely can understand some people’s worry about becoming an identity theft victim in these circumstances.
Alerting Instacart customer service seems to quickly resolve the issues.
This appears to also go for underwhelming selections picked by the Instacart shoppers.
Again, while I think it’s terrible to have to even contact Instacart customer service for these negative issues, at least they are given the latitude to fix it quickly.
Update For 2020 & Beyond
I hate talking about hot-button or “moment-in-time” issues, but this needs to be addressed.
(To be clear, I am not using the names or buzzwords here specifically because I am not trying to capitalize on those searches)
A lot of people are starting to comment about how life is changing for them.
Using Instacart and similar grocery delivery services can certainly make life more manageable, particularly if you unexpectedly find yourself home with children for an extended period of time.
Or if you are elderly.
Or have a compromised immune system.
Having Instacart deliver the groceries will certainly allow you to practice (extreme?) social distancing or at the very least insulate yourself.
Trust me, I’m acutely aware of the importance of this as my mother is immunocompromised due to a kidney transplant.
This all goes back to my main point–that I have questions about the service.
Never do I say you should not try Instacart.
I never even say that it’s a bad service.
Never do I say these people shouldn’t try to earn a living.
So, especially now with the situation impacting the way we go about our daily lives, it’s important to understand that I am simply voicing my own personal concerns about Instacart.
If shopping using the Instacart grocery delivery service makes your life easier, go for it.
If it makes you feel safer, use it.
Again, you need to do what works for you and your particular situation, regardless of what anyone else has experienced–including me!
Look, not everyone is going to agree with me.
I not only recognize that fact, I expect it.
I also realize the marketing agencies are all over the negative trying to convince people of how great Instacart is via ad campaigns and social media.
Plus, I actually wrote about how personal finance should be tailored to the individual and not used as a blanket or a one-size-fits-all type of deal.
So, sure you may be like many of my friends and not want to drag screaming kids up and down the aisles of your grocery store (again–their words, not mine!).
You may not care that you’re paying higher prices on top of the service fee because any amount would be worth having that task off of your shoulders.
The quality or shelf-life of your food may not even matter because you never even considered it important yourself.
You may have the money in your monthly budget to pay for the convenience.
That’s all cool with me.
Again, this is all due to my own personal manner of handling my food needs and my personal living situation, and yours may vary greatly.
I’m just voicing my own concerns because I hear about people using the service or waiting for it to be available and I keep thinking about those three things each and every time.
Have you ever tried Instacart? Tell us your experience–good, bad, ugly it all helps! And if you haven’t used it yet, what are the reasons for your own hesitance? Share your experiences in the comments below!