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Instacart Customers and Workers Are Revolting Against the App

Two days after Instacart workers went on strike, the company eliminated one of their last pay perks.

by Lauren Kaori Gurley
Nov 11 2019, 5:48pm

Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon

Following a brazen move by Instacart to cut workers’ pay less than 48 hours after a 3-day strike last week—customers, who use the app to outsource their grocery shopping to gig workers, are deleting their accounts and apps in solidarity with workers—and shaming the company and its CEO Apoorva Mehta online.

Last Monday, thousands of Instacart shoppers cancelled orders and turned off the app for 72 hours, demanding the company reinstate its 10 percent default tip. (The default rate is currently 5 percent.) Days later, in what many workers described as an act of intimidation and retaliation, Instacart sent a mass email to all of its workers, announcing it would eliminate the $3 “quality bonus,” which can account for up to 40 percent of workers’ earnings. The company said the bonus “did not meaningfully improve quality,” and that the pay cut would go into effect this week. Instacart denied that this was an act of retaliation.

But over the weekend—customers, activists, and even a California legislator rebuked the app on Twitter using the hashtags #DeleteInstacart and #BoycottInstacart.

Motherboard alone received nearly 50 messages from Instacart workers across the country voicing outrage about recent pay cuts. Many of them have the overall sense that what was a good paying gig just two years ago has devolved into a subsistence wage job as the company has tinkered with the algorithm that determines pay and flooded markets with new workers, driving down wages. Today many shoppers say they are barely scraping by, and often earn less than minimum wage.

One Instacart worker named Jenny told Motherboard that when Instacart came to her town in 2018, she was a promoter of its services and was able to buy a new car, clothes, phone, and finally pay her bills. She and her husband relied on the app as a primary source of income. “Now with this latest cut of the quality bonus, plus declining tips… I face losing everything I’ve been working for.”

Another Instacart worker wrote, “I've been a Instacart shopper for over 3 years and it's honestly criminal what this job have [sic] become.”

Longtime Instacart delivery workers, in particular—who have built relationships with clients and know their preferences—rely on the “quality bonus,” which comes with a five star rating. “I used to like working for them and I really enjoyed helping customers who were disabled or unable to get out to the store,” another worker wrote to Motherboard. “I have over 39 five star ratings and prided myself on my customer service. But no more! This is just so wrong on many levels.”

Regular customers posted screenshots of themselves deleting the app off their phones, or cancelling their subscriptions.

“I love this service. I use it quite a bit, and I always tip the drivers well, but your company is behaving thuggishly by retaliating against employees who are organizing themselves which is their right to do,” the TV writer, Andrea Ciannavei tweeted. “You’re not getting one more red cent from me until you do right by the people who work for you.”

“Join me in boycotting Instacart until they pay their workers a living wage,” wrote Meredith Whittaker, a core organizer of the 2018 Google walkouts.

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 lauren.gurley@vice.com, or securely on signal at 201-897-2109.

Last Friday, Instacart workers wrote a post on Medium in protest of the pay cut that included hundreds of names of corporate Instacart employees gathered from Linkedin. That post was flagged and removed, but an updated version of the post that doesn't include the list of names is still on the site.

“Make no mistake, we will not be silenced. If you profit off of our exploitation, whether you’re Apoorva Mehta [Instacart’s CEO], an investor, employee or partner, you will be held responsible for your misdeeds,” Instacart workers wrote in the updated post.

Instacart did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.

Tagged:
labor
strike
boycott
gig economy