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How Does Instacart Pickup Work For Customers?

Last updated: January 13, 2022
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vector graphic showing a custom using Instacart pickup to pick up groceries from a store

People everywhere have been turning to Instacart over the past few years for grocery delivery.

The convenience of having a personal shopper hand-select your groceries and bring them straight to your door is unmatched.

However, there are several reasons why one might opt for a pickup option instead, which is where Instacart Pickup comes in.

You may be wondering how Instacart Pickup works and why you might choose this over a delivery service.

We put together an in-depth guide about the topic to help you navigate the world of grocery pickup.

Keep reading to learn all about how Instacart Pickup works for customers.

Does Instacart Have a Pickup Option?

Most people know of Instacart as a grocery delivery service.

While this is accurate, curbside pickup is the other side to Instacart.

Instacart Pickup is the best option for customers who need the convenience of a personal shopper and do not want or need home delivery (we will go over why that might be in just a moment).

A grocery pickup order still takes less effort than taking the time to go to the grocery store yourself.

It will save you time and can even save you money.

If you are not strolling the aisles on an empty stomach, then there is no chance that you will stray from your grocery list and pick up some cookies or another unhealthy item you don’t need.

Instacart recognized the need to offer a curbside pickup service to its customers.

Instacart announced the pickup option in 2018.

Since then, thousands of people have taken advantage of this service.

We wanted to know more, so we found the answers to all your questions about this service.

How Does Instacart Pickup Work?

The Instacart Pickup service allows you to place your grocery order on the Instacart app ahead of time.

When it’s time to pick up your order, you drive to the store and collect your groceries.

It couldn’t be any easier!

The process is the same as Grubhub pickup, so if you’re familiar with that, you’ll excel with this.

General Instacart Pickup Overview

We know that some people can be hesitant about trying out a service they are unfamiliar with, so we handled that part for you.

We went through the process and broke down the Instacart Pickup steps one by one.

First, if you are not already one of the thousands of Instacart Express members, or even an occasional user of the service, you will download the Instacart app.

This app will give you access to all the local retail partners to place your first order.

Select your favorite retailer.

Some of the stores that partner with Instacart include:

Most retailers offer contactless delivery and curbside pickup.

Select the pickup option and your chosen pickup location.

Not all stores offer pickup.

Next, you will build your order.

You do this by finding and selecting the items you wish to purchase and clicking “Add to Cart.”

You can search for something specific or use Instacart’s browsing function to stroll the aisles virtually.

Review your cart.

This is where you will make changes by deleting items, changing quantity, adding notes, and selecting substitutions.

As a note, you cannot choose your Instacart shopper, so make sure to move onto the next step.

Checkout, or pay for your order.

When it’s time to retrieve your order, you simply drive to the store, park in the designated parking space, and check in on the app to alert the store that you have arrived.

An associate will bring the order out to your car and load them up for you.

There’s no reason for you to pack groceries or lift anything into your vehicle.

Do You Have to Go Inside for Instacart Pickup?

Typically, no, you do not have to go inside for Instacart Pickup.

Most stores have designated parking spaces that you will park in to await your pickup order.

An Instacart or store associate will bring everything straight to you, and you do not even have to get out of your car.

However, some locations do not offer curbside pickup.

In these cases, you must go inside and pick up your order at the specified pickup location.

This may be a particular area with Instacart or In-store Pickup signage to stroll the aisles virtually or the customer service desk.

Does Instacart Tell You When Your Order Is Ready for Pickup?

vector graphic showing a person working for Instacart and using Instacart scheduling features to book a shift

Yes. Instacart alerts you when your order is ready for you to pick it up.

Sometimes, your order will be ready earlier than expected.

Instacart will notify you.

If you choose, you can go pick your order up at your convenience.

You do not have to wait until your chosen time.

With Instacart Pickup, it is okay if you arrive late, as long as you arrive before the end of the latest pickup window for that location.

Make sure to take note of what time that window ends, as sometimes it is a different time than the store’s closing time.

Whether your order has been prepared earlier than you desired, or you are running late picking it up, do not fret.  

The retail partners you order from will keep your items in a temperature-controlled environment.

There are coolers specifically for Instacart Pickup orders so that you pick up fresh groceries every time.

No melted ice cream or rotten meat!

When to Use Instacart Pickup

You may be wondering what the value in curbside pickup is when you could just order your groceries for home delivery and skip that step.

There are a few circumstances that make Instacart Pickup the best option for you.

1. Same Day Delivery Is Not Available

You may want grocery delivery, but you are ordering too late in the day, or it is a busy day, and the delivery slots are all filled.

For whatever reason, the earliest delivery you can get is tomorrow.

However, you have dinner guests tonight and need those ingredients quickly!

You have a kitchen to clean and party games to plan and just don’t have the time to go to the grocery store and wait in line.

With Instacart Pickup, you can order your groceries quickly on your phone and have them ready for pickup in as little as one hour.

This way, you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to go shopping.

You can just head out to the store when it’s convenient, pick up your order, and head back home and resume cooking.

2. Avoid Delivery Fee

While the convenience of delivery is unmatched, in some cases, it may cost more because of the delivery fee.

Delivery and service fees can add up quickly for customers who frequently use services like Instacart.

If curbside pickup is the least expensive option, most customers will choose to drive to the store and pick up their order!

3. Delivery Not Available in Your Area

If you live outside of Instacart’s delivery range or a little too far from your favorite store, you may not have home delivery as an option.

No matter where you live, if Instacart offers pickup at the store of your choosing, it will be available to you.

4. More Convenient for You

You may just decide that pickup is more convenient for you than delivery that day.

Perhaps you will be out and about and unsure of your schedule.

You don’t want groceries sitting on your doorstep when you aren’t home.

This way, you can pick up the groceries on your terms and get them home.

Sometimes, busy days are unpredictable, and we have to use a more flexible option.

Difference Between Curbside Pickup and Instacart Pickup?

This is a frequently asked question, but it is a matter of semantics.

While Instacart Pickup is usually curbside (except for locations that require you to go inside), not all curbside pickup services are shopped by Instacart In-Store Shoppers.

Some retail locations already have grocery pickup services.

In these locations, you will be ordering directly from the store.

Their associates will pick your order and bring it out to your vehicle.

Some stores have a mixture of the two.

Instacart powers its ordering platform, but store associates are responsible for fulfilling your order.

These are called Partner Pick locations.

Where Is Instacart Pickup Available?

Instacart Pickup is available in most locations that have access to Instacart delivery.

It is also available in many places where delivery is not an option.

Instacart partners with hundreds of retailers and thousands of locations across North America and even some places in Europe.

To find out if Instacart Pickup is available to you, go to the website or download the Instacart app and enter your zip code to locate nearby retail partners.

How Much Does Instacart Charge for Pickup?

Instacart is not a free service.

Even Instacart Express members may occasionally have fees on their orders.

Fees vary depending on location and retail partner, but we tried to get as much information as possible for you.

Does Instacart Charge Customers for Pickup?

There can be fees on an Instacart Pickup order.

The best way to save the most money is by becoming an Instacart Express member.

For a yearly fee, you will receive free home delivery and grocery pickup through Instacart.

Whether or not you are an Instacart Express member, there will be no service fee on your Instacart Pickup order.

Some retailers charge a “pickup fee” on curbside orders.

These may vary based on location, order size, one-hour pickup, and more.

Other fees that may be included when applicable are:

  • Sales tax
  • Priority fee
  • Heavy fee
  • Bottle deposit
  • Bag fee
  • Healthy Tax (only applicable in San Francisco)
  • Additional local taxes and fees

Does Instacart Charge Grocery Stores for Pickup?

Instacart makes money off of each transaction made on its platform.

Instead of charging grocery stores a fee, Instacart sets the in-app prices slightly higher than the in-store prices would be.

The excess goes not to the retail partner but to Instacart.

In this manner, the app gets a commission from each sale.

So the answer is yes, although it’s the customers paying this commission.

Instacart Pickup Promotions

Instacart offers several promotions throughout the year.

One of the best promotions is the free pickup promo.

New Instacart Pickup customers will have their pickup fee waived on their first order, as long as it is over $35.

There have been other promotions.

For example, Instacart recently offered $30 off a $50 order for new customers who paid with Apple Pay.

Existing customers received $5 off of a $35 order.

Instacart partners with other companies to bring both new and existing customers promotions often.

Groceries delivered in as little as 2 hours
Featured Promotion Claim Now

Click our signup link, create an account, then start shopping!

How to Select Instacart Pickup

To select Instacart Pickup rather than home delivery is simple.

When you enter your address or zip code on the Instacart app and select your favorite retail partner, you will be able to choose delivery or pickup.

If pickup is not an option, you will not see it offered on the Instacart platform.

Tipping on Instacart Pickup Orders

You may have questions about tipping on curbside pickup orders.

We also had these questions, so we found the answers for you.

Should You Tip on Instacart Pickup Orders?

Some retail locations that operate under the Partner Pick model use their hourly associates to pick your order.

In these cases, they do not accept tips, and you will not see tipping as an option in the Instacart app.

However, if tipping is an option, it most likely means that Instacart shoppers are fulfilling your order.

In this case, tipping is optional, but shoppers likely depend on tips.

How Much Should You Tip?

Like any other service, a standard 10-20% tip is standard.

Who Gets the Tip?

100% of your tip goes to the Instacart shopper who fulfilled your order.

Instacart does not take a cut of the shoppers’ tips.

Troubleshooting: Common Errors

We looked into some common errors and occurrences that may happen while ordering Instacart Pickup.

Why Is My Instacart Pickup Taking So Long?

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes your order may seem to be taking too long.

There may be a few reasons why your order is taking a long time.

The store may be exceptionally busy, and your shopper is having difficulty checking out on time.

There may not be enough shoppers because your area is very busy right now.

Unforeseen circumstances may have come up, causing a delay with your order.

If your order is taking a long time, you can contact Instacart customer support for answers and assistance.

Why Is Instacart Only Pickup Right Now?

Instacart may be offering pickup only right now because there are not enough delivery drivers to fulfill your order, or you may be too far away for a delivery partner to bring your groceries to your home.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, this guide has taught you all about Instacart Pickup, and you are ready to place your first order.

We tried to be as in-depth as possible because we know that for the average customer, time is money, and you need to be fully informed before trusting a service like Instacart with your curbside grocery order.

Now that you are armed with knowledge, download the Instacart app and take advantage of having a personal shopper handle your grocery run for you!

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