Recently, I finally got around to trying out a new side hustle, signing up to be a Shipt Shopper with the grocery delivery app Shipt. The gig is pretty straightforward – I shop for and deliver groceries to people that place orders using the Shipt app. With a decent number of Shipt deliveries under my belt, I thought it’d make sense for me to go over what my experience as a Shipt Shopper has been like, how I’ve made it work for me, and whether it’s something that you could incorporate into your own life.
As a bit of background, Shipt is a grocery delivery service similar to Instacart. Customers order groceries using the app and independent contractors, called Shipt Shoppers, shop for these orders and deliver them to customers. Target purchased Shipt back in 2017, so it seems like most Shipt deliveries today come from Target.
At the outset, I was definitely skeptical about signing up for Shipt due to my previous experiences in the grocery delivery space. I signed up to be an Instacart Shopper in 2015. However, I found that the way Instacart works didn’t really work well for me and ended up quitting after doing just a few deliveries.
Given this skepticism, I wasn’t expecting much from Shipt, but surprisingly, I’ve found that Shipt actually fits in pretty well with my day-to-day life. I’ve been able to do orders at a Target store close to my coworking space. And since I can pick and choose my orders, I’m able to stick to smaller orders that I can easily complete on my bike or by walking. I also find Shipt to be weirdly fun – assuming I pick the right types of orders.
So my initial thoughts on Shipt? I think it has some interesting use cases for people that live or work near a Shipt grocery store (primarily Target stores). It can also work especially well for people that, like me, use multiple gig economy apps to earn income. If you combine Shipt with a bunch of other gig economy apps, it’s possible to keep yourself busy throughout the entire day.
How Shipt Shopping Works
The first step to becoming a Shipt Shopper is to go through the application process. You do it all online by watching a few videos and taking a short quiz after each video. The one different thing with Shipt is that they make you record a couple of video answers responding to questions about how you would handle certain grocery delivery situations. Recording the video answers isn’t difficult, but it’s kind of weird and it’s an extra step to becoming a Shipt Shopper that other gig economy apps don’t have.
There are two ways to pick up deliveries in the Shipt Shopper app:
- The first is to schedule yourself for hour-long blocks. When you do that, you’ll get offers to your phone that you can accept or decline. The way I understand it, you have to do a delivery during each hour you’ve scheduled yourself in order to keep your acceptance rate up. If you don’t, then your acceptance rate drops. To be honest, I’m not sure what the point of a high acceptance rate is. I assume having a high acceptance rate gives you first dibs on better deliveries, but I honestly don’t know.
- The second way to do deliveries is to pick up any available deliveries that are on the app. On the available orders page, you’ll see a list of all of the scheduled deliveries. You can pick up any Shipt orders that show up on this list.
When I first started, I signed myself up for shifts, but I’ve since found that, at least in my city, there are so many deliveries that this isn’t really necessary. Instead, I now just look at the pool of available orders and pick up deliveries that make sense for me.
The available deliveries screen gives you some important information to help you determine whether to accept a delivery. Each delivery will show you the following information before you accept it:
- The timeframe of when the order needs to be delivered
- An estimate of what the order pays
- The delivery address
- The number of items in the order
This will generally give you enough information to decide if the order makes sense for you. The actual delivery process can be a pain, which is why you have to be strategic in how you pick your orders. You can only see the total number of items before you accept the order, but once you accept the order, you’ll be able to see what the actual items are. If the delivery doesn’t work for you – say the items are too weird or too heavy – you can cancel it. So far, I’ve had no issues canceling orders that do not work for me.
My Experience As A Shipt Shopper
The actual experience of shopping for orders can be hit or miss, which is why it’s really important to strategically pick and choose your orders. Your time is valuable, so you want orders that you can do quickly and efficiently.
As explained in the previous section on how Shipt Shopping works, every order will give you an estimated payment range that seems to be based on how big the order is. I’m not exactly sure how this amount is calculated, but I’ve found unofficial sources that say the pay is $5 plus 7.5% of the total order cost. I can’t refute or deny that.
Once assigned, you’ll be able to see all of the items in the order. You have to shop for each item yourself, which means the more items you have to grab, the longer it’ll take. Here’s an example of what the shopping list screen in the Shipt Shopper app looks like:
As you can see, in this order, I was tasked to pick up a couple of different things – cereal, Lunchables, syrup, etc. The Shipt Shopper app tells me which section I can find the item. However, this isn’t always accurate.
Once you find the item, you’ll scan it using the Shipt Shopper app. The app will then confirm that you have the correct item. If you pick the wrong item, the app will let you know and tell you to go find the correct item.
A strategy I’ve learned is that if you’re having trouble finding a specific item, ask a store employee for help and literally show them what you are looking for. Most of the time, employees will know exactly where to find the thing you’re looking for.
The biggest issue with shopping is when you can’t find a specific item on your shopping list because it’s out of stock. In that case, the app will give you two options based on what the customer requested: (1) use your best judgment or (2) contact the customer to discuss substitutions.
- Use your best judgment is pretty self-explanatory. If you get those directions, then you simply substitute the missing item for something similar using your own judgment. Or if there’s no appropriate substitution, mark the item as unavailable.
- If you get the contact the customer direction, then you’ll have to text the customer to see what they want to do. In general, I’ve found that customers respond quickly, but if they aren’t responding, then you’ll have to make your own judgment call and hope it works for the customer.
Once you have everything in the order, you’ll then have to go to the register and check out. At most stores, you’ll simply let the cashier know that you are doing a Shipt order. They’ll then scan your phone and all of your items just as if you were buying stuff for yourself. To pay, you use the Shipt debit card (this is sent to you when you sign up to be a Shipt Shopper). Some stores also have prepaid orders, which means that you won’t have to pay for the order with your Shipt debit card. For those orders, the store will scan your phone, verify your order, and then you’ll be on your way.
The last step is to deliver the order to the customer within the specified time frame. I usually send a text to the customer to let them know I’ve completed the order and am on the way. Once delivered, I mark the order as delivered and that’s it!
As a note, I do all of my deliveries using a bike. Most people are going to use a car, but because I am a bike guy, that’s how I do my deliveries. If I’m downtown, I can always do my orders faster with a bike and I don’t have to worry about parking or gas.
How Much Can You Make As A Shipt Shopper?
The most important question you probably have is how much can you make as a Shipt Shopper. Here’s a look at my earnings now that I’ve got about 20 deliveries under my belt.
I’ve found that in general, I can make about $10 to $25 per order, with each order taking me about 30-45 minutes to shop for and deliver. A lot of this fluctuation is based entirely on whether the customer tips. Given how much people tend to spend on orders, a ten or twenty percent tip can make a huge difference.
If you don’t get tips, I’ve found that the income makes Shipt barely worth doing – below minimum wage. If you do get tips though, it can be very lucrative, especially as you get more efficient and are able to complete orders faster. I’ve had orders that paid me over $25 that took me 20 minutes to complete. I’ve also had frustrating orders that took me much longer where I only got paid $7 and got no tip.
One way to increase your income is by taking promo orders. If no one picks up an order and the delivery time is coming up soon, Shipt will add additional pay to the order. I’ve seen orders with promo pays that were as high as $30. A thing to note is that folks on the internet have said that if you only take promo orders and never do regular orders, Shipt will eventually deactivate you from the app. I can’t confirm or deny that, but this is what I’ve read anecdotally.
Instacart vs. Shipt – And Why I Prefer Shipt
I noted at the beginning of this article that Shipt isn’t the first grocery delivery app I’ve used. My first foray into this space was actually with Instacart, which I found did not work very well for what I was trying to do.
The initial plan with Instacart was to see if I could incorporate it into my own grocery shopping trips. My thought was that I could try to grab orders while I was doing my own grocery shopping – essentially making it so that I could get paid doing something that I already had to do.
I soon found out that this strategy really wasn’t possible to do with Instacart. The main problem is that Instacart generally requires you to sign up for shifts and, based on what I’ve been able to tell, doesn’t give you many options to pick and choose your orders.
In contrast, Shipt goes with the pooling method where they put every available delivery in a pool that anyone can grab. This makes it much more useful for someone like me who’s trying to go with the “monetize your life” strategy. By being able to pick up orders from a general pool, I’m able to also plan my grocery shopping or plan whatever else I’m trying to do around Shipt.
Downsides Of Being A Shipt Shopper
There are some pretty big downsides with Shipt that I’ve noticed and that need to be addressed. These include the following:
Your Shipt income is heavily tip reliant. This is true of almost all gig economy apps in that the amount you’re paid without tips usually isn’t substantial enough to make it worthwhile. At the same time though, I can often justify doing food deliveries or walking dogs, even without tips, because of how fast I can do those gigs. Shipt, on the other hand, takes much more time since you actually have to shop for the order, rather than just picking up an order and delivering it to someone. In short, if you don’t get tips, you’re not going to make much money. And since there’s no way to know if someone will tip you, you’re rolling the dice with any delivery.
Orders can take longer than expected. A lot of times, orders will seem very short – you look at an order, see 10 or 15 items, and figure that you can be in and out in no time. I’ve found that almost every order I’ve done takes longer than I expected. I’m definitely getting faster just with the benefit of experience and understanding where things are in the grocery store. But remember that the first few times you do a delivery, it’ll take longer than you think simply because you’ll likely spend more time walking around looking for stuff.
Some orders can be really annoying to complete. One of the things that inevitably happens when you’re doing an order is an item will be out of stock. Most of the time you’ll have to contact the customer and ask them whether they want you to substitute that item with something else. This can waste valuable time since some customers aren’t super responsive. Another issue is when you get stuff that is hard to find. I recently completed a delivery where the person ordered a bunch of specific pillows and lamps. This was a real pain for me to do and I ended up having to get an employee to help me find everything.
Stuff can be difficult to carry. I’ve noticed that a lot of people order things with Shipt that they probably wouldn’t buy if they were in the store shopping for themselves. It’s pretty common for people to order a ton of heavy items such as sodas or packs of water. You’re then forced to carry all of this heavy stuff, which isn’t very fun. I’ve had to cancel orders simply because there was no way I could carry all of the stuff.
The Shipt cancellation policy is ridiculous. The worst experience I had with Shipt was when I delivered a bunch of groceries to a customer that didn’t answer their phone when I arrived. This happens every once in a while when you’re doing food deliveries and the general process for most food delivery apps is to allow the timer to run out, then take the food home with you. I’ve had a decent number of times where I ended up with a windfall of free food to bring home.
When this same thing happened with Shipt, I figured that I’d just scored a bunch of free groceries. However, the Shipt representative told me that I was required to return all of the groceries to the store or face termination. This was a ridiculous waste of my time and even more ridiculous given the fact that most of the groceries were perishables that could never be resold. Essentially, Shipt required me to return the groceries, simply so that the store could throw away everything. I almost quit after that craziness.
How To Make Shipt Shopping Work For You
Now that you know how Shipt works and the potential downsides to it, what you might want to know is how I’ve been using Shipt and how you can incorporate it into your day-to-day life.
I do my Shipt deliveries with my bike. I mentioned this previously, but I do not use my car to do my Shipt deliveries, opting instead to do all of them using my bike. Obviously, whether you can use your bike to do deliveries is going to depend on where you live. I live in an urban city where the delivery distances are short and can often be completed faster on a bike versus using a car. As an added benefit, if you use your bike, you also eliminate all of the expenses that come with operating your car, which means you’ll make more money.
If you’re using your bike, you’ll want to stick to smaller orders that you can carry with a bag. I’ve found that most orders are not that hard to do on a bike. I can carry many orders just with a bag or even deliver on foot without too many problems. If you have a bike trailer to hold groceries, you’ll be able to do most deliveries except for the largest, heaviest orders.
I stick to doing orders at the grocery store near my office. Location is going to be very important as well. I do almost all of my deliveries from the grocery store located near my coworking space. It’s located in a dense, downtown area, which means that most of the orders are going very short distances – usually no more than a few blocks. Because of these short distances, I’m able to complete orders faster.
I try to integrate Shipt into my regular shopping times. The final strategy I use is to integrate Shipt with times when I’m doing my own grocery shopping. Shipt orders are placed in advance and are put into a pool of available orders. If you know you’re going to be shopping for groceries at a certain time, you can see if there are any orders that you can do going back towards your house.
I recently did this strategy with my wife when we were going to the grocery store to shop. We ended up grabbing an order at the same time we were doing our own grocery shopping. The delivery was perfect also, going to a house just one block away from my own house. She dropped me off and went back home, and I walked over and delivered the groceries. It was like I was getting paid to shop for my own groceries.
My initial thoughts after several months of doing Shipt is that there are some use cases for it depending on where you live and how you utilize the Shipt Shopper app.
As a thought, if you are someone that relies on your car to do gig economy work, doing Shipt is likely more cost-effective compared to doing something like Uber or Lyft since you’ll put fewer miles on your car and at least get some exercise by having to walk around a grocery store.
I think my strategy of using Shipt has worked out pretty well. I don’t really go out of my way to do Shipt, mainly just grabbing orders near my office that make sense for me and that I can complete pretty easily.
There are also some interesting use cases that can come from trying to incorporate Shipt into your own grocery shopping. If you are strategic, it’s possible to complete Shipt orders while doing your own grocery shopping, which is an interesting way to monetize your own grocery shopping experience.
Finally, Shipt is particularly helpful for someone trying to stay busy with multiple gig economy apps. I’ve found that it’s possible to add Shipt into my schedule during slow periods, such as morning and mid-afternoon. Most of the time, you’re not going to get a lot of food deliveries until lunchtime and dinnertime, so if you’re trying to stay busy, it makes a lot of sense to do Shipt deliveries in the morning and afternoon.
So in conclusion, Shipt isn’t something that I’ll do all the time, but when used properly, it can be a nice side hustle to add to your side hustle toolkit. Shipt definitely isn’t for everyone, but since it doesn’t require much time to sign up for it, I think it’s worth signing up to be a Shipt Shopper to see if it works for you.