In the crowded food- and grocery-delivery space, Instacart hopes that cutting a few minutes will make all the difference. To that end, it is launching a new “priority delivery” option today in select markets, promising to fulfill orders in “as little as 30 minutes.”
While 45- and 60-minute deliveries are accessible to several Instacart customers, the company claims that “priority delivery” will be available in more than 15 cities. Its planned use case is for quick errands, rather than the bulk, weekly grocery shopping that Instacart excels at.
Small orders, like the ones “priority” is designed for, are typically the least lucrative and often remain in the queue of unclaimed work for the longest time, as is true for many delivery jobs. For many drivers, picking up these small orders isn't worth the gas they'd have to use to get to the store.
Faster service will cost more — though the pricing for “priority” is unknown at this time. Instacart refused to specify how much the upcharge is anticipated to be or how much of it is reflected in delivery workers' pay. Instacart also did not say whether it was increasing staffing or making workflow adjustments to achieve any “priority delivery” requirements.
It's understandable to be concerned about how this new feature, with its increased time demands, will affect an already stressed and vulnerable workforce.
After all, this is the same firm that was discovered to be subsidizing workers' wages with their own tip money; it's also the same company that, to some extent, still allows employees to interact in the heinous practice of tip baiting, in which delivery workers are persuaded to grab an order with a generous tip, only to have it repealed after the order is received.
Finishing a delivery in half an hour may not seem like a big deal, especially for Instacart customers who already work in metro areas with 45-minute turnaround times. Customer ratings, on the other hand, can mean the difference between having a job and being deactivated in the precariousness of gig work.