Instacart finally addresses tip baiting with threat of bans

Following widespread criticism of the practice, Instacart is taking steps to protect its shoppers from 'tip baiting,' the practice of dangling a big tip, then revoking it once the groceries are delivered. It will still be possible for customers to stiff shoppers when it comes to tipping, but things will be more tricky going forward and problematic customers won't stay on the platform for long.

Instacart is a delivery service that offers customers on-demand grocery shopping delivered to their homes. The shopping and delivery are performed by gig workers who rely on tips to make anywhere close to an acceptable wage, but that doesn't stop some customers from withholding the money — but not before 'tip baiting' them into service.

A tip bait is exactly what it sounds like: customers put down in the app that they will provide a large tip, but once the groceries are delivered, the customer then revises the tip, either lowering the amount or removing it entirely. The practice prompted some US senators to ask the FTC to open an investigation into whether Instacart is allowing 'unfair or deceptive' practices.

Following this attention, Instacart has changed its policy regarding tips and how it will handle customers who engage in tip baiting. In a Medium post, the company said that in cases where a customer removes the tip after the goods are delivered, it will require them to leave feedback explaining what prompted this change.

Soon, Instacart says it will also be testing a feature that will give shoppers access to the feedback that customers leave, shedding light on what may have gone wrong. However, customers who 'consistently and egregiously' practice tip baiting will have their accounts deactivated and will not be able to place orders through the system.

Finally, Instacart says that it is reducing the tipping window from three days to 24 hours, a change the company says will impact only a fraction of one percent of customers. Shoppers will be able to Instant Cashout their tips starting next week, meaning the tips can be cashed out 24 hours after the delivery is made.