My wife and I have always been generous when leaving tips. Whenever we eat at a restaurant or use a delivery service we always tip about 25%. Up to this point we had never had any problems with this. Although somewhat cumbersome, if you do make an arithmetic mistake, the waiter or service provider will usually let you know, and it’s a simple correction. But with the ever increasing complexity and awkwardness of some websites, online tipping mistakes can sometimes have dire consequences!
My wife and I had used Instacart a few times before, and although the service seemed kind of pricey, we were always impressed by how fast they would get our orders to us. Though this all changed when we had an absolutely terrible experience.
It was mid August, and the weather was extremely hot, and due to a nearby freeway closure we were getting unusually heavy traffic. It would usually start to get bad around 11am, so to avoid problems with the heat and traffic, we had wanted to make certain to get our groceries delivered early. We placed the order the night before and it was originally supposed to be delivered by 9am. Doing this we figured it would ensure our groceries arrive fresh. As the morning progressed the delivery time kept slipping, it was first updated to 9:27, then 10:05, and finally 11:30. We kept looking at the site, and when we checked around 11:45, it all-of-the-sudden indicated the groceries had been delivered at 9:36am, and of course there were no groceries. We immediately called their support line, and after waiting on hold for some time, their rep told us the driver had been “compromised”, and they would issue us a refund in a week or so. At this point we were quite disgusted. We didn’t get our order and we would have to just hope they would issue the refund as promised. I was tempted to just drive down to the store, but by this time the road way was jammed and it was well over 100o.
As the day wore on, we just resigned ourselves to the fact that we just weren’t going to have much to eat today. At around 2:30 I went outside to get the mail, and was hit by a hot blast of air as I was opening the front door; it had gotten up to 110o! This was definitely one of the hottest days of the summer. As I was stepping out onto the porch, I was quite taken aback to see the groceries sitting right there on the walkway. What happened? I thought they’d said the order had been cancelled. At first we were just glad to see the groceries, but then our elation quickly turned to disappointment when we found the groceries were all hot. The order must have been sitting in the hot sun for at least a couple hours. Furthermore, when we looked at the crumpled up store receipts, two of which were not even ours, we noticed the groceries had been purchased a little before 8am, almost 7 hours ago! We were wondering why the driver hadn’t had the decency to just knock to let us know they had arrived. My wife’s office is right by the door and she would definitely have heard it. The cheese and meats had all spoiled, and had to be thrown out. This really got my goat since these were by far the most expensive items. We tried calling them back, and of course we were put on hold for well over an hour, after which they just dropped the connection. We sent them a text telling them what happened, and figured since the order had been delivered there would be no refund, even though we’d had to put most of it in the trash.
Somewhat to our surprise, a few days later a chargeback did appear on the credit card for the full amount of the purchase, so at least they did process the refund. We were relieved that at least they didn’t charge us for this, but we were still left with a bad feeling about their service. We did not understand why, after leaving us to believe the order had been cancelled, they would go ahead and deliver it anyway, and then not even let us know.
At this point we were scratching our heads, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. We went back to look over the order, and after a careful review, we found, we had not entered anything on the ‘tip’ line. I remember Instacart’s web site made it complicated to finalize an order. There were multiple steps, and seemingly endless prompts asking if we wanted to subscribe to their monthly service. All I can surmise is that at some point while navigating through this maze, we somehow skipped past the tip. This is where the failure occurred. The driver most certainly got pissed, but instead of just letting us know, I guess he was going to make us pay by delivering spoiled groceries!
I’ve always thought of the tipping paradigm as dysfunctional. It would be better if employers just paid their workers a decent wage and thus spare their customers from the often awkward and complicated process of calculating the tip. I don’t mind paying a fair amount decent service, but I am very frustrated by companies playing games to milk customers for every last cent. It’s even gotten to the point where when making a small purchase at a convenience store, you get prompted enter a tip when paying for your items.
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