Why Instacart, DoorDash Deactivate Customers’ Accounts

Estimated read time 6 min read
  • Some customers of Instacart, DoorDash, and other delivery services have had their accounts randomly deactivated.
  • Like the gig workers who power the apps, customers often have trouble getting their accounts unlocked.
  • The companies say they can deactivate accounts for potential fraud, among other reasons.

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Last month, Ryan Ladd ordered some trash cans, laundry detergent, and other items from Costco through Instacart for the house he had just bought in Denver, Colorado.

But in the moving rush, he forgot to change his address with the delivery service, so the roughly $300 Costco order showed up at his old doorstep. As he tried to work out a solution with Instacart, the service imposed its own: It deactivated Ladd’s account, citing “some irregularities,” according to an email Business Insider reviewed.

Ladd said he was able to go back to his old address and retrieve most of what he ordered — some meat in the order had gone rancid sitting outside.

“I don’t have time to go shop, and so I was so excited to be able to use Instacart,” he said. “To see them treat a customer like this, it shocked me more than anything.”

Gig delivery apps like Instacart, Uber Eats, DoorDash, and others frequently deactivate their workers — sometimes with little explanation or chance to appeal the decision, as BI reported in October.

But customers can also find themselves suddenly locked out of their accounts with similarly unclear justification, as Ladd’s story demonstrates.

Other delivery customers have similar stories. One Instacart customer in South Carolina told BI that Instacart placed a hold on his account last fall after he redeemed a $3,000 Instacart gift card that he had earned through a rewards program at work and placed an order. The customer asked not to have his named used since he was still working to reactivate his account, but he provided BI emails showing his account and interactions with Instacart support.

Instacart asked for a photo of his ID in order to reactivate his account, the customer said. He says he got back on Instacart long enough to place another order — then, the company deactivated his account again.

“They really just shut me out and told me that there was nothing they could do about it because it was a gift card balance,” he told BI.

One Reddit user posted last May on r/instacart that their customer account was locked after they tried to use a new credit card to pay for an order.

“I have credit on my account from mistakes they made so the fact they deactivated my account and won’t reverse it without letting me prove my identity is frustrating,” the post reads.

The problem isn’t unique to Instacart. Dozens of DoorDash and Uber Eats users have taken to social media sites like Reddit and Facebook to share complaints about their accounts being deactivated. Many of these users say their account was impacted after they made an innocent mistake, like using the wrong address, or tried to update payment or personal details on their account.

In another May post, this one on r/doordash, a DoorDash user said that they were able to get their account reactivated after calling the service’s phone support line. But even after solving the problem, they still had no clue what the problem was in the first place.

“I’m not a dasher, only a customer, all I’ve ever done is exactly what the app allows me to do which is order food and pay for it,” the poster wrote. “Never even used multiple payment methods or anything.”

Instacart’s website says that customers’ accounts can be deactivated “due to potential fraud or other risks.” When that happens, customers can appeal the decision and get a refund on outstanding orders if their account is reactivated. If Instacart declines the appeal, “your account stays deactivated and refund requests are denied,” according to the website.

“In accordance with our Community Guidelines, Instacart can deactivate customer accounts in cases of suspected fraud,” an Instacart spokesperson said. “This helps protect customers, shoppers and our retail partners.”

A DoorDash spokesperson said it has “extensive guardrails in place to address and prevent fraudulent activity.”

“In some cases, that may mean temporarily deactivating accounts while we investigate,” the spokesperson said, adding that customers who have been wrongly deactivated can contact the company’s support team. “The trust and safety of our community is paramount, and we apologize for any inconvenience if we’re overly cautious from time to time.”

Uber Eats did not respond to requests for comment from BI.

After BI reached out to Instacart last week about Ladd, the former customer in Denver, the company reactivated his account and said it would not fight a dispute that he filed with his credit card issuer over the spoiled items and fees on his order.

But on Saturday, the company canceled an order he placed at a local supermarket. A follow-up email explained that Instacart had put a hold on his account due to “unusual activity.”

On Monday, Instacart reactivated Ladd’s account again after BI followed up with the company. “Our system flags and automatically places a hold on accounts with unusual activity, including when delivery, billing and/or IP addresses all have different locations,” an email that he received read.

This time, Ladd is confident he got everything right: He told BI that he placed his Saturday order at home, asked for Instacart to deliver it there, and used a credit card tied to his current home address. An Instacart spokesperson declined to comment on Ladd’s latest deactivation.

Even before his account got his account back, Ladd said he was considering an alternative to Instacart. “I’ll drive to Costco once every couple of weeks, I guess,” he told BI.

Do you work for or use Instacart, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Walmart Spark, or another gig delivery app and have a story idea to share? Reach out to this reporter at abitter@businessinsider.com