Earlier this week, several thousand workers who shuttle groceries on the app Instacart went on a 3-day national strike, demanding the app change it’s default tip from 5 to 10 percent. Yesterday afternoon, in what workers say is a rebuke to their organizing, Instacart declared that it will eliminate a $3 “quality” bonus given to shoppers who receive 5 star ratings from customers.
Instacart’s reason for cutting the bonus suggested workers weren’t performing highly enough to deserve it.
“[We] found that the [quality bonus] did not meaningfully improve quality. As a result we will no longer be offering the quality bonus beginning next week,” an email Instacart sent to its workers on Thursday and reviewed by Motherboard said.
Many veteran Instacart workers rely on the “quality bonus” perk as a significant part of their earnings, which can account for up to 40 percent of earnings, Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper from Menlo Park told Motherboard. The minimum wage for each batch is currently set at $7.
“The quality bonus was a way to incentivize customer service. The shoppers who’ve done this for a long time know what customers want. They know how to make alterations to an order. These things come with experience, so this really harms the best, longest time shoppers,” Vanessa Bain, a lead organizer of the strike, and an Instacart shopper from Menlo Park, California, told Motherboard. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is retaliatory.”
This isn’t the first time Instacart has cut its shopper’s earnings. In 2016, the company announced it was turning a 10 percent default tipping fee into an intentionally misleading 10 percent service fee that went directly into the pockets of the company, not its shoppers. Instacart’s CEO Apoorva Mehta also came under heat earlier this year for including tips into shopper’s base pay, a practice which Instacart discontinued in February following widespread outrage, The New York Times reported.
Instacart workers across the country say they have seen their wages plummet over the past year, as the app has tweaked its pay algorithms. Bain said she used to make $1,500 a week for her work on the app, but now takes home hundreds.
Do you work in the gig economy and have a story to tell us about your working conditions or organizing on your platform? We'd love to hear from you. You can reach Lauren at email@example.com, or securely on signal at 201-897-2109.
“This latest cut is really discouraging,” Bain said. “Their response to our attempts to meaningfully organize is to stamp out the fire. It’s a disgusting attempt to warn people about the consequences of acting out. But what I’ve seen is that it makes more shoppers agitated and concerned.”
Instacart did not respond to a request for comment.