A Novice Instacart Shopper – classic

Jane Rider, rideshareguides.com

As an entrepreneur and a person to try something new every now and then, I signed up to become an Instacart shopper, following a referral link, of course. If you are interested, you can do the same. In this blog, I describe the sign-up process and training, and jot down my beginner experiences as a novice Instacart shopper. Starting something new should always be done with an open mind and ready to learn what the essentials of the task at hand are. Even if it is something simple and seemingly straight-forward, there is still a learning curve, if you want to do it well and succeed in what you are doing.

The Instacart sign-up process is easy and should not take but a few minutes to complete. You fill out your personal info and payment details, take a photo of your driver’s license and a selfie for the app. The only difficulty during sign-up was that taking a photo of my driver’s license refused to work. I tried different places and lightings and finally with perseverance got it done. The next thing is to choose the time for the training. There were several time slots to choose for my training session, so off to Miami to see how Instacart trains their shoppers.

Before going to the actual training, it is advisable to complete the online training and test so that you do not have to do it at the training location. The online training test needs to be completed before you can become an Instacart shopper. So, take the test to be ready for the training. The test is easy enough to complete: watch the online introductory video and answer the questions. If you don’t get them right at first, you can watch the video over again and retake the test.

The training process may vary. I was told that in New York City the trainees had a longer introduction than what I experienced in Miami. Theirs was more thorough with videos to watch and more explaining about how Instacart works. What I experienced was this: Be there, sign in, do a demo shopper round in a Publix store and hear how you did. If you didn’t do everything just perfect, the instructor explained what you should do and gave some helpful pointers. You could also ask any questions that you were pondering in your mind and got answers and helpful tips. During the training, they did not mention speed even once.

After the demo shopping round, back to where you signed in and they checked how you did in the online test. The ones who did not score the required minimum points had to do it over until they got it. Some candidates wanted to go back home and do it at their laptop rather than using their cellular phone there and then, having to return to complete the process later. So, indeed, do it at home at your convenience before the training, if you want the process to go smoothly and be done with it. Mine was alright, so no problem there. I was given an Instacart shopper MasterCard and sent off to start shopping.

Those who have early access, i.e. can pick up theirs hours for the following week Sunday morning at 9 am, have an advantage. You can get early access after three weeks, if you manage to grab enough hours to satisfy the early access requirements. When a beginner Instacart shopper gets to pick up their hours on Wednesday, there indeed may not be many available. You need to check for more hours every now and then as other people cancel and hours become available. It is an ongoing process, if you want to make money as an Instacart shopper and gain early access.

For the first week, I managed to grab only a few hours here and there. An advantage I had was having Coach Carl coach me how to shop in the most efficient way. I received several pointers and tips. The very first shopping experience was a bit of a disaster, though, because I did not follow the advice as I should have. I was still learning to read the app while trying to keep in mind the advice and unfortunately ended up running around the store like a headless chicken wasting time. Whether they mention it during the training or not, speed is important. The faster you are, the more you can shop during your shift.

A two-hour shift most likely allows you to complete one shopping round while a three-hour shift can fit in two. An 8-hour or 10-hour shift can keep you fairly busy. All that, of course, depends on your location, driving distances and the sizes of the orders. The longer shifts you pick, the more shopping you can do and make more money for your effort. It depends on your own motivation whether you choose to wait for a batch at home or go hang around a store where you would be more likely to get a batch as the app has your geolocation and can match you with a batch immediately when a customer places an order.

While you do not see your metrics until you have completed a few shopping rounds, you do get a synopsis of how you did when you rate your Instacart shopping experience yourself. The first shopping order was 32 items and my score was one second slower than average. A beginner is a beginner…and I should’ve listened to Coach Carl.

The next day I expected maybe a similar batch or smaller, but was almost startled to see 72 items. Maybe I got good a good review for the first order or who knows, maybe the system is just testing me. Now 72 items would take some time, but not to worry, rock’n’roll and remember what you have been taught. The app should map out the fastest route for you, which, however, may not be the fastest route. It depends on the store layout. Most stores of the same chain have the same layout, but not every single one of them. Keeping in mind what Coach Carl had told me and applying a bit of my own logic, I did way better this time. Completed the batch 52% per cent faster than an average shopper in my area.

There are a number of stores in your shopping area, but they send an Instacart shopper to one particular store in that area. Do they have us shop at certain stores in the area? Yes, they have their preferred stores and inventory and layout feedback affected these choices. When you start shopping, the app asks you to choose at which store you are shopping and you see several choices. The ones towards the bottom are not preferred. The one they suggested should always be the top choice. The configuration for that store in the app most likely matches the general store layout for that store chain. Hence, the app can suggest the fastest shopping route for the Instacart shopper in that particular store. However, as mentioned, it is not always the fastest route.

There are a couple of things you need to learn to do before you start shopping. As soon as you have the shopping list, always glance through the entire order before you start shopping so that you get a general sense of what the customer wants. It can help you greatly when you are picking up the items and making replacements. Another thing to remember is to read the info about the order. It is there for a reason and gives you additional information that is helpful while shopping and later when delivering.

The isle numbers in the app may be off by one. Whole Foods again may have a couple of sections trade places. You have figure out these things and get used to the stores you frequently shop. Instacart seems to stress speed, though I know shopper opinions on that may vary. It depends on how much money you want to make shopping for Instacart customers. The faster you complete orders, the more money you make. If they do not mention that in the training, they fail to stress what matters to you as a shopper and what makes their business better for the customer. They say clearly in the Shopper Help that faster shoppers get bigger orders. Bigger orders are also faster to shop as the items are usually close to each other. And, the bigger orders you get, the more money you make. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Some days can be slow, one day I had no batches for the evening shift. On a Monday, with an eight-hour shift scheduled, I received only two batches during the entire shift, though Monday is considered a busy shopping day. It really depends on your shopping area and how many active customers you have in your area. One solution is to be proactive and be nearby one of the bigger stores when your shift begins and return there once you have completed an order. The app geolocation works in your favor and you can get more shopping done.

One day I was stuck at a certain store in my shopping area. The store layout worked fine, but some items had to be replaced in each order. For me, it systematically happens that when the item is not in stock or available at the store, the replacements the app suggests are not available, either. All we shoppers can do is to choose the closest match that follows the general trend of the customer order. That is another reason why it is helpful to glance through the entire order before you start shopping. With items that are about flavor and texture and have many varieties, such as apples, for example, I would contact the customer to ask what they would like as a replacement. As a hint, if you message or call the customer and acknowledge their existence during shopping, they are more likely to give you a tip.

But what to do when you are all done and the app hangs up at reviewing changes? It has happened that I could not proceed to checkout because the shopping process did not proceed beyond reviewing changes in the order. Usually the app proceeds to checkout, but when it does not, and you try a few of their tailored solutions with no luck, you have to call Instacart shopper help immediately.

If you do not get through right away, do not wait but proceed through checkout and be ready for delivery. Once you get through to Shopper help, they can quickly resolve this. I saw the app flickering as they processed it through checkout and got me through to the delivery address. After the first time this happened, I got into a habit of taking a screen shot before I start shopping so I have the address and can be on my way even before I reach Shopper Help.

The above describes my first couple of weeks’ experiences with Instacart. Feel free to comment. What are your experiences as a novice Instacart shopper? Being an Instacart shopper is not that difficult, is it? Think of it not as an outsider process but as if you were shopping for groceries and other items for yourself. You would not buy subpar produce for yourself or accept just anything for a replacement for an item you cannot find in a store, would you? While you try to be quick, uphold at least to your own standards. Also, remember to contact the customer, unless they have noted they do not want to be contacted, which is hardly ever the case. The more you shop, the more you learn and discover. Happy shopping!

P.S. If you have not signed up yet to become a shopper, use this link and let me refer you.

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