Instacart personal shopper pay algorithm

Occurred: October 2018-

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The Markup reports US grocery and pick-up company Instacart is facing a nationwide customer boycott on account of the poor pay doled out to its personal shoppers.

In an open letter to former Facebook executive and new CEO Fidji Simo, the Gig Workers Collective encourages Instacart customers to support delivery workers by boycotting the company until it 'rectifies the genuinely inequitable manner in which it treats its shoppers.'

The boycott is the latest in a series of boycotts, walk-offs and strikes driven by low pay, failure to reimburse workers for business expenses, 'stolen' tips subsidising worker pay and other issues that have dogged Instacart in recent years. 

Automation and greed

Many of these issues are seen to have been aggravated by management greed and an increasing reliance on automation and algorithms.

The company revised its personal shopper pay system early 2019 after shoppers walked out over an October 2018 update to the system that resulted in 'substantially' lower pay, and customers complained on social media that their orders were being delayed. 

And in November 2019 it controversially withdrew a USD 3 'quality bonus' personal shoppers received for every five-star rating they garnered from customers after a three-day worker pay strike.

Employee robot replacement programme

In June 2021, Bloomberg reported that Instacart is planning to replace its personal shoppers with robots. The robots are envisaged to fetch items such as cereal boxes, while humans collect fresh produce and deli products.

Operator: Instacart
Developer: Instacart
Country: USA
Sector: Transport/logistics
Purpose: Calculate pay
Technology: Pay algorithm
Issue: Employment - pay; Fairness
Transparency: Governance; Compaints/appeals; Black box


Research, advocacy

News, commentary, analysis

Page info
Type: System
Published: October 2021
Last updated: March 2022