We were recently graciously offered the chance to try-out and review Instacart. My wife and I have actually never used any grocery delivery service – so we welcomed the opportunity and wanted to offer our take on their service.
What is Instacart?
Instacart was started in 2012 by Apoorva Mehta, a former Amazon employee. Mehta had previously started some 20 businesses before his eventual success with Instacart (can you say persistent?!).
The service began in Silicon Valley – but now operates in all 50 states, covering almost 85% of all American households. They also offer service in Canada. They partner with a wide variety of stores including major retailers such as Target, Costco, and Sam's Club; grocers like Albertsons, Kroger, HEB, Publix, Loblaw, and Aldi; and specialty retailers such as Petco. You can see local offerings before signing up by entering your zip code on the main page.
Our first experience with grocery delivery
Instacart wasn't the first home grocery delivery service to enter the market.
I remember years ago when home grocery delivery made its way into our city and thought, “how lazy does someone have to be to order groceries to their house?” and “why would someone want to pay more for their food?”
It seemed like such a novelty at the time – and my thinking was that it was only for those wealthy enough to afford such a service, shut-ins or busy parents.
But, as I've aged and discovered how important time is and how almost everything we purchase today has become “deliverable” – I've started to see a real value in home grocery delivery.
Though, I've really never given it a serious try.
So, when a representative from Instacart reached out to us and offered us a $50 credit – I was excited to give it a whirl.
Instacart Review – Ordering Products
What you'll find when you first visit their website (or app if you prefer) is their focus on usability. On first visit, you'll be presented with a pop-up box asking for your zip code and then also stores they serve (here's a look at the Austin market):
Since Costco is one of our main grocery destinations, we chose to pick some items from their store. Items are presented very simply and clear – and everything we searched for was available.
We eat / purchase a fair amount of chicken, so we were pleasantly surprised to see they even had our packs of chicken breasts available to order.
Once you get to the checkout steps, Instacart will ask you to validate replacement items for anything that could be sold out. You can opt to approve their recommend replacement, choose your own replacement, or choose not to replace the item.
Another great discovery was that prices were very much in-line with what we'd see at the store. It is worth noting that each retailer sets their own pricing policy. Some charge a similar rate to in store prices while others add a significant market. Fortunately, Instacart offers transparency by retailer. You can see an individual retailer's policy by clicking “View Pricing Policy” below the retailer's logo on the shopping page.
When we had filled our cart with the goods we wanted to purchase, and went through check-out, we saw a “service fee” that had managed to find its way into our total. There was also a link by it titled, “Choose”. I clicked on it and it gave me the option of waiving the service fee (of $4.95) or not. I thought that was interesting – and decided to opt-out of the fee.
Instacart has this to say about their service fees:
At checkout we show you the estimated order total, including all fees, taxes, and item totals. Changes to your order, such as replacing an item, may adjust the final total. The service fee is based on the final order total at delivery.
It's important to note the service fee is not a tip – but (as they say) “to operate our service and provide you with the best service possible.” But, it is an optional one.
While I didn't see an option to tip on the order screen – tipping can be done when the shopper arrives with your groceries OR after delivery is made at the website or through the app.
Some Instacart shoppers have stated they don't receive a tip IF the customer waives this service fee. Kinda strange, if you ask me and this is only speculation from what I've gathered on Reddit.
After we confirmed our order, a screen displayed showing us our shopper and the time when we should expect our order. Again, the whole ordering process was very smooth and transparent.
While our shopping cart was on the smaller size – the whole delivery took less than 1.5 hours. This was amazing to me. We also received email / text alerts on the progress and estimation of when we could expect our groceries.
All in all, the whole shopping experience was seamless and (even) enjoyable. The only issue we had was that we received more chicken than we had ordered. We expected only one package – and got three. I reached out to the customer service department (also well done) and they indicated we could keep the extra items – no charge.
Some things to keep in mind while shopping with Instacart
Here's a couple things I would have liked to have known prior to using Instacart.
- Have a general idea of in-store prices. This is key to “saving” money via home delivery. No sense paying more for what you could spend if you just hoped in the car and went to your grocery store.
- Time is money. If you are paying $5 in a tip and $5 for a service fee, what is the value for that in your time / travel of not having to go to the store?
- Instacart does take some coupons / promocodes.
- First order delivery is free. After that, you can expect fees based on your order size. All orders must be over $10.
- Fees for busier times. Much like Uber, Instacart could charge more based on busier times of the day / season. But they also have a Instacart Express membership available which offers no delivery fees, no “busy-time” fees for orders over $35 ($149/year).
- Sign up friends / fam, earn $. Instacart will give you up to $50 ($10 each) for every new referral you provide them who signs up and orders.
Have you used Instacart or another grocery delivery service? What has your experience been?
$35 minimum order to receive free delivery. All views expressed are our own. TTG may receive a commission on any sales made via the links above – at no cost to you. Thanks for helping to support our site.
Update 5/18/18: My wife and I used Instacart again and we were a bit surprised at all the fees we encountered. The tip is an optional fee you can pay but the service fee on top of service fees are what “get you”. In all we paid close to $10 in fees for our order just over $50. So, when deciding on Instacart, it is either a convenience for you, you have the money OR you are shut-in that needs this service. They also had to replace a couple of our items in our cart which we weren't too hip on. I'm not entirely sure we'll use the service again.
Update 3/18/2020: As we've gotten busier and busier, we have increased our usage of Instacart. The service has improved a bit over the years. There are more options for delivery times, and overall reliability of the service is very good. The service fees have changed a bit. They are no longer optional, but Instacart has clarified that these are to cover operating expenses such as insurance, background checks, and customer service. They've also confirmed that driver's receive 100% of the tip amount. Finally, they've added an option to indicate the driver can leave groceries at the door. I've found this to be a life saver when I have an unexpected errand or the baby is sleeping.
The service is obviously more expensive than shopping yourself, but I highly recommend occasional use of the service when you just can't fit in time to grocery shop.
Update 3/23/2020: Instacart has discontinued their offer of free delivery on new accounts due to higher demand during Covid-19.
- Groceries delivered to home!
- Prices similar to in-store
- Easy to use
- Fast (as little as 1-hour)
- Save time
- Sometimes can be charged a "busier time" fee
- If you're picky, cannot hand-select items
- Items will get replaced without your consent
Beware, Instacart is a rip-off, takes your money. Pretends to service your order, fails to deliver and runs…
Made my initial Instacart order at Fresh Thyme, Cranberry Twp., PA, and it was delivered within a couple of days, so I FOOLISHLY allowed $9.99 to be debited from my credit card to purchase a month of their “Free delivery” of >$35 orders service. Surprisingly, the prices were the regular off the shelf and sale prices.
However, unfortunately, my next Instacart order was at Aldi, Wexford, PA. It was entered on the Instacart website on or about 3/30/20. At that time, even though I kept checking back three or four times a day, it was not until about five days later on 4/4 that I could get any possible delivery date or time. Fortunately, that day, they offered a “First Available” option, which in desperation, I agreed to. My order then showed delivery between the next day, Sunday, through Thursday. As each day passed until today, Thursday, 4/9, the expected delivery window kept changing from whatever the next day was to Thursday. It was implied that today, Thursday, 4/9, would be the delivery day. Again, while anxiously a waiting the call that the Instacart shopper was on his/her way with the groceries, I received a message at 7:40PM that the order was canceled, not delayed, not rescheduled, not any offer of an option to get the groceries that we have waited nearly two weeks to receive.
Needless to say, I will email them to cancel my account and demand a refund of my monthly membership payment of $9.99. No sense in feeding this pig any longer. It doesn’t even OINK!!!
I placed an order and it was going to take 7 days to get delivered.
With the increased volume of grocery delivery orders due to Covid-19, all of the delivery and curbside pickup companies seem to be overwhelmed. We are seeing the same thing where it takes a week or so for deliveries. Fortunately on Instacart, they give you an option to see delivery times availability before you start adding items to your cart.
I placed my order 5 days early for enough food for two weeks. I showed up before my 1 hour time slot. Waited my hour and nothing. No email, no phone call, no text. I go inside and try to find someone to talk to and they tell me they don’t see my order. I show them my confirmation email for the order and my order on my instacart app and they just looked confused. I’ve been trying ever since to get in touch with customer service but no returned calls, emails or Messenger reply.
Pretty disappointing. I wouldn’t try using them again.
Thanks for sharing RedSnake! Certainly hearing a lot more of these stories as so many people have taken to ordering groceries online during the COVID-19 situation.
I want to point out, as a shopper, I sometimes can drive 15 miles to a store, 15 miles to a customer, and then 15 miles home. That’s a lot of miles for $7 I’m paid per hour and usually $0-$5 tip per hour. I do full service. Each takes an hour. Even $12 for the entire 15 mile trip isnt paying me but maybe $8 an hour? Less than min wage!!! I do this for extra money for my kids. Not because I need a 2nd job. It’s not a great job.
Thanks for sharing T Studebaker. Helpful to hear an inside perspective of the job. People should remember that tips for the shoppers are really important helping make the service win/win situation.
If I could give them 0 stars I would. Horrible customer service. Deactivated my account mid purchase, have no reason why, call the help center told me to submit an email, and wait 2 hours and it will be resolved. Waited 2 hours called back in my to find I was given the wrong information in the first place. HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE. No ability to fix problems. DO NOT USE INSTACART! Still no time as when account will be unlocked and I can get my groceries.
Instacart is great, until you have a problem that needs to be resolved.
It’s true that Instacart charges more, often a lot more, for items than the grocery stores do, but I was WILLING to accept the costs in exchange for the convenience. That premium, however, should also mean that if SOMETHING IS WRONG, that the customer should have the confidence to know that Instacart will make it right. THEY DON’T, THEY WON’T, AND THEY REALLY DON’T CARE. You mean NOTHING to them. NOTHING.
I recently purchased two one pound containers of crab meat from Wegman’s using Instacart. I was heading out on a week long vacation and didn’t have time to do the shopping, so I was glad to have a service like Instacart to help me out. I was heading to a very rural area without cell service and wifi, and my parents had asked me if I’d bring some crab meat since they can’t get it where they live.
After arriving, I unpacked the crab meat from the cooler and noticed that the expiration date on the bottom was APRIL 2019, and it was already late October of 2019, so the meat was SIX MONTHS EXPIRED!! Each tub, at Instacart prices was $30, so we’re talking $60 worth of expired crab meat. Clearly, the Instacart shopper didn’t check the date, and by the time I did, I was 500 miles from home with no way to remedy the situation.
Upon returning home 9 days later, I went to the store to make a return. I was told that since it was Instacart, I’d have to contact them and do the return through them. I immediately contacted Instacart and explained the situation. THEY REFUSED TO REFUND THE COST OF THE EXPIRED PRODUCT BECAUSE, “IT HAD BEEN MORE THAN SEVEN DAYS SINCE IT WAS PURCHASED.”
So, it didn’t matter that their shopper delivered expired product to me. It didn’t matter that the product was SIX MONTHS past its expiration date. It didn’t matter that I was unable to attend to the matter while I was away. It didn’t matter that I was a loyal customer that got grocery deliveries every week. NONE OF THAT MATTERED AT ALL.
So beware. If you need a grocery delivery service, then honestly, I’d look at a different source. Instacart is not worth the risk if they are unwilling to consider legitimate customer complaints.
Instacart worked very well for me. I’m 70 years old and have a hard time doing my own shopping. The meat and produce my shopper picked out was very well chosen. The delivery person was very professional. I will definitely use them again.
Instacart over charge my credit card $17.00 and they could not explain the charge. The customer service informed me that they are not in the United Stated.
Read other reviews about this company cheating other people. Just look at the BBB rating. INSTACART IS A RIP OFF
OMG. I’m still in shock over my first time (and last) experience with Instacart. The communications with my shopper were fine but frustrating. Many items had to be replaced causing me to continually watch my phone for more messages from the shopper defeating my purpose of saving time to do other household projects. Groceries arrived on time but reeked of cigarette smoke! The driver’s car, who was also the shopper, was a disaster inside with stuff thrown all around my bags of groceries. The car reeked of smoke and so did she. Thank god my family does not have allergies to smoke. I had her leave my bags in my garage. She was not setting foot in my house. And did I mention she looked like a meth whore? Seriously. You should see the profile picture that was sent to me after the delivery soliciting a review. OMG. I showed friends and they thought it was a joke. Anyway, I had to quickly unpack my bags to throw them away because now kitchen smelled of smoke. Had to spray air freshener. Can’t make this stuff up! Never again Instacart!
Garbage service. They could care less about you or your orders.
My last one was given to a complete stranger. Will never know what happened to my 2 gallons of Alkaline Water and Turmeric. I’m done!
The worst possible service you could ever expect. Don’t fall for their BS, if you call on the phone. This company screams, Scam.
Be very careful with Instacart. Many hidden charges. My free delivery grocery bill of $37.11 cost me $60.27. I will not use again.
you know how old I am? Old enough to remember there was grocery delivery back in the 50s/60s and before. When my kids were babies/toddlers, I often had my groceries delivered. There was a $5.00 minimum, which was sometimes hard to meet. (In 1959, my weekly grocery budget was $10.00 and we weren’t poor.)
I had a horrible experience with them. My order was supposed to be delivered within two hours. So they were supposed to deliver by 1:30 p.m., which was fine because my lunch guests were to be here at 2 p.m. At 1:40, I got notice that delivery would be between 1:30-2 p.m. At 2, groceries still were not delivered. I called Instacart, spoke with manager after 40 minutes on hold, who only said “sorry” and said he would have my order delivered to me within an additional 2 hours. My lunch guests started leaving since I was dealing with Instacart on the phone for almost an hour. I ended up canceling my order. I WON’T be using their service again. To add insult to injury, they didn’t seem to care that my guests were leaving and the only “remedy” they offered was to have my order delivered within an additional 2 hours, when the app said they had one hour delivery available. Very incompetent.
Thanks for sharing your experience with them, Kristina.
DO NOT use instacart if you are a rewards member anywhere!!!!!!!!!! Instacart says it accepts and honors loyalty cards, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. For instance, I am a Kroger rewards member, and even though I give the delivery driver my rewards number, he or she always uses their own. Furthermore, instacart does not reflect the discount you get when the rewards card gets used. I was charged $76.88 when I should have been charge $53.08 after the rewards discount. I mean you have to pay $99 a year for the membership, the online grocery prices are higher than in store, and then they keep your rewards discount on top of it. Seems like a scam!!!!!!!
I’ve stopped working for them as it is nonsense. Go work for Uber Eats or Door Dash where you can drop in and out as you please without punishment.
Average Shopping trip takes about an hour and a half. You will be paid something like $15. Not worth it.
Thanks for your insights about Instacart, Fernando.
My mom fines it hard to go shopping because walking is hard for her so she uses Instacart for her grocery shopping. She only had one bad experience when the shopper refuse to come into apartment building (55+ building) so she had to go downstairs to get her groceries & bring them up. She called customer care & received a refund for her service fee and she has not had a problem since. Occasionally I’ll have stuff delivered to her if she comes up short in a month and needs somethings before her next check. We live in 2 different states.
I use to get groceries delivered from Vons.com until instacart took over their payment site and declines my card that every other site takes. Now i cannot get deliveries from local stores with reasonable/low prices, only option is speciality stores with prices 3x the cost which screws up my budget and without owning a car makes getting my needs met nearly impossible!
Sorry to hear this Trisha. Wonder why your card isn’t working with them.
Here in Australia our grocery stores already do the home delivery. I tried it once, but didn’t particularly like it. You don’t always get the freshest of produce.
Seems like a lot of them are offering this now.
I am without a car short term so I tried a grocery delivery service, (they offered free delivery for first time customers and a $25 off $100.) I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely use again, They produce was carefully chosen and my order delivered was exactly as ordered. It is definitely a time saver, and if I am not paying more- I am all for it.
Thanks for sharing your experience LauraJay – it is definitely a time saver!