Every Instacart shopper knows that there are dramatic highs and lows in Instacart pay. You might see $7 no-tip batches all day, then get lucky with a $75 unicorn.
But most orders fall into the ‘average’ range, where it’s hard to pick the good from the bad. Evaluating batches is a skill that every shopper has to work on.
How do you spot a bad batch and pick the good ones? “Do the batches with the best pay” is an obvious start, but there’s a lot more that goes into avoiding the worst orders and picking the best.
How to pick the best batches on Instacart
The criteria that will help you pick a good batch is: Pay from Instacart, tip amount, the store, the number of items, the type of items, and the distance to customer.
Sounds obvious, right? Pick the high paying batches that don’t have too many items. But it’s not always so simple. You have to weigh the features of each batch and see if it meets your goals.
Qualities of a bad batch
Avoiding bad batches is just as important as selecting good ones. A bad batch has several of the following features:
- Not enough pay from Instacart
- No tip
- Too many items
- Too many heavy items
- Customer too far away
- Rude, unreasonable customer
- At a store you don’t like
- Double and triple orders for not enough pay
Almost every batch will have at least one of the bad features from above, but can still be an ‘ok’ batch. A batch becomes an instant skip when it checks most of those boxes.
The sneaky things that can ruin a batch
Terrible pay with no tip might be obvious, but some bad batch criteria is a lot less obvious. The number of items and the type of items might not jump out at you at first, but are a common reason that make for bad batches.
- Too many items
- Too many heavy items
- Items that are rarely in stock
It’s tempting to swipe a batch with good pay, but it’s always worth taking an extra few seconds to check on the items. Bad items are a huge time waster.
Qualities of a good batch
Take the opposite of a bad batch to
- Strong pay from Instacart
- Generous tip
- Not too many items
- Few heavy items
- Customer isn’t too far away
- At a store you’re familiar with
Examples of bad, low-paying batches
Below is a classically bad batch. Only $19 for over 100 items, and no tip. You’re looking at up to 90 minutes of work for $19. Always check the item count before you accept.
Below, $31 for 3 items might seem fantastic, but not for a 43 mile drive through mountains. The miles, time, and wear & tear on your car aren’t worth it.
Below we’ve got $7, no tip, and 88 units. A pretty obvious skip. It’s not worth spending all that time on the hope that the customer will tip in cash or adjust the in-app tip.
This one is hilariously bad. Do you want to ship an above ground pool 30 miles away? But you might accepting it if you have a minivan/SUV and need to head in that direction.
Another hilariously bad batch. It has over 700 units (!), numerous heavy items, and no tip. Truly one of the worst we’ve seen.
Bad batches that look good on first glance
These example batches might look good at first, but are actually traps that can lead to bad pay or bad ratings.
Generally, the item type and number of items make these batches bad.
This one below has a good tip, but if you look at the items, you’ll see that this customer wants dozens of Lunchables.
Lunchables are a popular items, and it’s not likely that the store will have 60+ available at any given time. You’re almost guaranteed to disappoint the customer.
Below is another batch with solid pay and normal items that are easy to find. But take a closer look and see that the customer wants 25 half gallons of milk and 8 full gallons.
At about 8 lbs per gallon, you’re looking at over 164 pounds of milk. Imagine hauling all of that into one or two carts, packing it into your car, then bringing ito the customer. That’s a no from me!
Below, $20 and a $10 tip with 83 units might be ok for a fast shopper. But look closely and see 25 turkeys and 20 storage bins (?).
You’re destined to have an unhappy customer and a bad shopping experience with such high amounts of unusual items.
Tough call: Are these good or bad batches?
Not every shopper will agree on whether a batch is doable or skippable. Some batches can be a tough call, and whether you accept it or not depends on your income goals, your experience as a shopper, and how busy you are that day.
Below we have a batch for $78 and 190 units. This might be a tough call. Such a gigantic batch will certainly take a lot of time. But will it be 1 hour or 3?
This batch might be great for an experienced shopper but terrible for an inexperienced one. This could easily eat up half your day if you’re not familiar with the store and items.
Should you take a bad batch when you’re on an earnings guarantee?
Instacart sometimes offers guaranteed earnings, where you are guaranteed to earn a minimum amount if you complete the required number of batches.
If you need to do 5 batches to get your guarantee, it can be a good idea to take a ‘bad’ batch that you might not ordinarily do. Especially if you think the guaranteed earnings promo is going to pay out a big bonus.
More strategies for selecting batches
Set an hourly rate and pick batches that accomplish it. A good start is $20 per hour. That might mean picking a huge batch for $55 that takes over an hour. Or you could hit the $20 goal by picking 2 quick $10 drug store runs.
Eventually you’ll get a sense for how quickly you shop. A quick glance at the payout and the items should give you a sense for how much you’ll earn per hour.
Avoid orders with no tips. It’s pretty rare that an order without a tip fairly compensates you for your time and energy. Unless there’s a complete batch drought in your area, wait for orders that include in-app tips. Not many customers tip in cash.
Pay should be roughly half the number of items (30 items, $15 pay). It’s a very general rule of thumb, but can be a good start for new shoppers. Try coming up with your own formula to quickly evaluate whether a batch is worth it.
Cancel on your worst customers. A rude or unreasonable customer can quickly make a good batch go bad. If you’re a few minutes into a decent-looking batch and the customer is bombarding you with unreasonable requests, cancel on them. Your ratings are more important than any one batch.
What if you can’t get any batches at all?
It’s easy to be picky when batches are plentiful. All of the rules for avoiding bad batches and picking good ones go out the window when there are no batches at all.
There could be a number of reasons why you might not be seeing batches: Low ratings, a slow day, or Instacart app issues. Try to troubleshoot the reason why you aren’t getting batches.
But the unfortunate reality is that a lack of batches might be out of your control, and you might have to take what you can get. Or switch to another delivery app for the day!
More help for Instacart shoppers