Tipping before service is provided – another angle on the tipping debate

Living in Washington, DC we have access to a lot of delivery services – you name it Instacart, DoorDash, PostMates – plus the big ride sharing services. They are the lifeblood of the busy urban professional. Since I use these services often, I have my own expectations of when I think tipping for great service is warranted, and, when not a requirement. Restaurants are entirely different. Unless service is absolutely miserable at a restaurant, I always tip. That’s an important point. In that case, I have received the service, and after evaluating it, decide if it was worth the standard 15-20%, or even higher if it was really good. But, what if tipping is encouraged, like these delivery services nudge you towards, before service happens? Is that even fair? Is that going to influence the service provider? Let’s discuss this.

Yesterday, I ordered Instacart (grocery delivery for those who aren’t familiar) and when I went to check out, was given two options 1 – Waive the Service Charge of 10% or 2 – Tip the driver directly. Instacart is pretty forward in that the service charge goes to them and not the driver. The service charge is meant to help boost wages, but as this Recode article spells out, it has caused a lot of angst among employees who thought they were being taken advantage of. Having read about this before, I opted to tip the driver directly. But then I thought, does the driver see the tip before they start shopping for me? If it is not what they expected, are they going to not provide as good of service to me? So, I contacted Instacart’s customer service to get to the bottom of my question.


Do I tip you now or later?

It turns out that the driver will see the tip if I opt to provide it during the initial checkout. Meaning, they will know how much I tipped them even before gathering groceries. If I opted to provide a tip after the delivery (like Lyft suggests) then I could fairly evaluate the service. But, if the driver saw that no tip was coming, would they think I am trying to stiff them and not really want to go the extra mile for me? Tough to say.

Tipping in the future

The point here is to know when one of these service providers is going to see the tip they received, if any, – at the right time you think is appropriate – not when the app or website directs you. I now when Instacart drivers see their tips, but what about the other services out there? Lyft aside, it’s possible that many others operate in the same way – the driver will see the tip as soon as they get the order. My opinion is that tipping shouldn’t be obligated before one receives something and instead provide an incentive to the service provider to be stellar.

What do you think?

Posted in advocacy and tagged .



  1. Thank you for this article! I very much appreciate your interest in this subject and the effort you put towards making an informed decision. Unfortunately, however, the Instacart representative you spoke to was misinformed when she told you that Shopper could see the tip before performing the service. In fact, all earnings information is withheld from the shoppers until AFTER the order is delivered to the customer. I have been working as a “full service shopper” for Instacart since it launched in Raleigh, NC last summer, and this has been the case for at least as long. We have no way of knowing how much the customer tipped – or even whether or not the customer tipped at all – until it appears in our app several minutes after marking the order delivered.

    Also, it’s now possible to “rate and tip” after your order has been delivered. I would also want to defer tipping until after I could verify that my service was satisfactory. But this is still an option even for those that tip during checkout, as the tip amount can be adjusted for several days the order is delivered. If you choose to tip, you can do so before or after the service is rendered, and it can be adjusted as needed in both cases.

    Shoppers actually have no idea if a tip is already there waiting for them as they fulfill your order, but they do know the chances of keeping any potential tip would be nil if they were to deliver a poor service. Shoopers also know that providing a great service has the chance to earn them a tip even if it’s not already there for them.

  2. Thank you, Jessica! Sorry, I didn’t respond earlier but I really appreciate this. Always better to have verified information from an inside source. Well, I love Instacart and will definitely keep using them. Saves a ton of hassle on my end.

    Take care and thanks for reading!

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