Last Updated on 2024-05-21

Getting Off the Instacart Waitlist: How Long It Takes and What You Can Do in the Meantime

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

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Faith McLaughlin

8 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates, Uber, and Lyft

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Michael Vaness

6 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, and Spark

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James Tuliano

4 years of experience working across Shipt and DoorDash

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Tommy Brownson

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

When Instacart has enough shoppers in a given area, it puts applicants on the waitlist. Whether you get waitlisted will have a major effect on how long it takes to start shopping. Some people wait only a couple of days, while others report being on it for many months or even years. 

Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how long you’ll be on the Instacart waitlist

Some waitlisted applicants have reported that friends or family members in their areas signed up long after they did but got approved first, which indicates that the Instacart waitlist might not be truly “first-in, first-out.” Although this policy hasn’t been officially confirmed by Instacart, one prospective shopper reported that Instacart support explicitly said that Instacart doesn’t take people in the order that they applied. 

If you want to get out there and start earning as soon as possible, your best bet is to sign up for similar gigs in your area such as Shipt, Doordash, or Uber Eats while you wait: oftentimes one app will have a long waitlist while another might have none at all.

Why does Instacart have a waitlist?

Supply and demand: the waitlist exists to prevent an oversaturation of Shoppers in an area. Basically, if Instacart didn’t have a waitlist, too many people in a given region might sign up to be Shoppers, leading to a situation where each Shopper would get very few orders. 

Once you’re through the waitlist, you’ll likely be glad to have this protection in place.

You’ll find out if you’re on the Instacart waitlist right away

After submitting your application, you’ll immediately see if you’ve been put on the waitlist. This happens before the final steps of the application process (including the background check), so it will only take the few minutes it takes to fill out the application to find out if you’ve been waitlisted or not.

James Tuliano, an Instacart shopper with four years of experience, says, “There is no disadvantage to signing up. If you decide you don't want to do Instacart, it doesn't matter; you'll at least have the option once you are finally out of the waiting list.”

Referral codes won’t let you skip the waitlist

Instacart offers referral bonuses to boost onboarding, and it’s nice to get the extra cash once you start, but having a referral code doesn’t help you get off the waitlist any quicker.

Sometimes an email to support will get you off the waitlist

Some former waitlistees have reported that, after some months on the waitlist, they contacted support and were quickly approved

It should go without saying that this won’t work for everyone – in fact, it’s likely a bit of a longshot – but it won’t take much work to try. If you do decide to give it a shot, make sure you do so tactfully. The Instacart employee on the other side of the screen is not likely to help if you’re chastising them over how long the waitlist is or if you’re sending an email every day.

It may also be possible for you to give customer service a list of zip codes in your area that you could feasibly operate in and have them put you on the waitlist for all of them, allowing you to start shopping in whichever zone needs you the soonest.

What to do while you’re on the waitlist

If your priority is to get out there and start earning, the best thing to do is apply to whatever similar gigs are available in your area. 

There are important differences to be aware of, even when comparing Instacart to similar gigs like Shipt or Uber Eats. But regardless of which app you prefer to work with, the crucial thing to keep in mind is that you can take on orders from any or all of these gig platforms concurrently. In other words, you can work for DoorDash and Instacart at the same time, and working with one platform doesn’t at all disqualify you from getting hired by another. This is often called “multi-apping,” and many gig workers do this in order to increase their earning opportunities. 

In the words of experienced Shopper Michael Vaness: “Not only is [multi-apping] a nice way to pretty much guarantee some amount of work, it also helps you with experience for the other gigs as they are all similar, even while having certain differences.”

Even if you prefer to focus only on one app, you still might want to apply to other apps in the meantime in case they have shorter waitlists. You can always switch over to doing solely Instacart once you’re approved. 

James emphasizes: “It does not hurt you at all to sign up for as many apps as you can. They do not talk to each other, and there is no penalty to sign up for all of them, so you at least have the option.”

Get Started

Can you see yourself as an Instacart Shopper? Apply now to get on the road. If you're waitlisted, try applying to similar apps like DoorDash and Shipt.

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