'Unfair' Instacart personal shopper pay algorithm sparks backlash

Occurred: October 2018-

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

In an open letter to Instacart CEO Fidji Simo, the Gig Workers Collective encouraged 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 - issues 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.

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

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Page info
Type: Incident
Published: October 2021
Last updated: February 2024