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Why Instacart Shoppers Are Striking on Thanksgiving

Why Instacart Shoppers Are Striking on Thanksgiving

For the past week, Instacart Shoppers have been gearing up to strike on November 22nd and 23rd. Two months ago, Instacart announced that they would be removing the customer’s option to tip Instacart shoppers directly. Instacart changed the tip option to a service fee option. Instacart will still be able to profit from our tips (now service fee) and the Instacart shoppers will not get any of it. Instantly, this caused a lot of anger among all Instacart shoppers.

Instacart Service Fee Hurts Customers and Shoppers, Only Instacart Benefits

Here is a list of reasons why Instacart shoppers and customers would suffer alike:

For the few weeks between the announcement and implementation of the new system, Instacart shoppers had united together in various Facebook Groups and started to tell their customers about the new changes. They had also threatened to strike the first two days of the new system. The customer backlash was swift and loud. Many customers called into Customer Service and posted on Twitter and Facebook to voice their concerns. There were a few customers who told me that they would not be using the service if they removed the tip option.

Instacart Fights Back Against the Strike

Once word spread about the strike and Instacart found out about it, they did a few things to break up the strike:

Instacart Lowers Base Pay and Hides Tip Option

Instacart didn’t want to admit that it was the Instacart shoppers who forced Instacart to reintroduce the tip option. Instacart announced that it was the customers that influenced the change, and not the shoppers. They did this to make sure Instacart shoppers did not believe that they had power over the company.

When Instacart added back in the tip option, they hid it under a few layers of menus. They did this purposely in order to ensure customers kept paying the service fee directly to Instacart while giving the option to tip. Some long time customers figured it out and leaves a tip, but now Instacart orders are mostly devoid of tips.

Here are the two things Instacart did when they brought back tips:

Instacart New Scheduling System Eliminates Full Time Shoppers

The new scheduling system was implemented at the same time as the change to a service fee. Instead of the best shoppers getting the better schedules and more hours, now every shopper needs to pick up hours. This causes a massive rush to get hours on the first day it is available. There are some full time shoppers who qualify for “Early Access.” However, many shoppers noted that there aren’t many hours available even for shoppers who qualify for “Early Access.” Many Instacart shoppers went from working 50 hours a week to barely 10 hours a week because there are no hours available.

This type of system works better for occasional shoppers since they are better able to pick up hours during the week. For the two weeks of the system, I was able to pick up similar amount of hours during the week but it was always last minute, so I had to leave my availability open and adapt quickly in order to work a few hours for Instacart. For most people, this is almost impossible to do because if they can’t schedule hours, they may not be able to work.

There is one reason why Instacart is doing this. They are spreading the same number of hours among more shoppers, which makes it harder for Instacart shoppers to organize and have a bigger impact on Instacart operations. A few months ago, there were a few shoppers who shops a large amount of hours. If enough of these full time shoppers organized, they could seriously affect Instacart. By spreading out the hours among more Instacart shoppers, they lower the impact of a single Instacart shopper. As I stated before, Instacart was hiring many more shoppers to replace long time Instacart shoppers who quit. These newer shoppers are less likely to strike because they don’t know how much more money Instacart shoppers used to make. This is a similar tactic that Uber and Lyft uses when they lower fares.

Before the change to the scheduling system, I heard from many more Instacart shoppers that shopped full time (>40 hours a week). After the change, I have only heard of a few shoppers that are still working for Instacart a large number of hours. For the shoppers that need Early Access or more hours, they often are working the less ideal hours, like on Saturdays and Sundays.

The new scheduling system also penalizes shoppers who take a break for a week or two. Instacart shoppers can be sick or traveling and take a week off. However, if they do that, they lose Early Access and then have difficulty picking up hours again. It is a vicious cycle and it is hard to get out of it. In my market of Seattle, it is also difficult to get either enough hours to qualify for Early Access or enough hours on the weekend to qualify. If you take a week off, it can take up to three weeks to requalify for Early Access. Some shoppers depend on this income so having a lower income for three weeks is devastating.

Why Instacart Shoppers Are Striking on Thanksgiving

Much of this introduction frames various reasons why Instacart Shoppers are frustrated with the new system. Below is the summary of the current problems with Instacart:

Instacart shoppers believe all of these changes was to hurt the existing shoppers and to punish the shoppers for organizing a strike. Instacart is also hiring even more shoppers to replace the long time shoppers so that they are less likely to strike. Instacart is just waiting to replace most of the problem shoppers (those that are willing to strike) so that Instacart can continue to collect our tips in the form of service fees to improve their profitability.

Instacart Shoppers Thanksgiving Strike

For the past few weeks of the new system, Instacart shoppers have been organizing again in order to gear up for a bigger strike after the changes. The busiest day of the year for Instacart are the two days preceding Thanksgiving. Instacart shoppers believe that we can really make a difference if they went on strike on November 22nd and November 23rd. The communications have been sent through Facebook and word of mouth for the past two days and many shoppers are much more motivated to strike this time around.

Here are some details about the strike:

The Instacart shoppers are looking for the tip option to be much more prominent so that we can be better compensated for our time. We believe that if enough Instacart Shoppers disrupt service, we can send Instacart a message that shoppers are critical to their business and if we are not heard, their business will suffer.

Why Instacart Shoppers Are Much More Likely to Strike

As noted above, many shoppers have been getting less hours and making much less now with the removal of tips. Instacart shoppers went from working 40 hours a week to barely 10 hours a week. Income levels have dropped from $20 an hour down below $10 an hour. I am average about $15 an hour now, down from above $25.

Here are a few reasons why Instacart Shoppers are much more likely to Strike on Thanksgiving:

In the weeks after the change, Instacart shoppers have been looking for other jobs. Many of them have went back to driving on Uber and Lyft. Some of them have signed up for Amazon Flex, which actually pay about the same and also get tips. I have been earning the same on Amazon Flex as I did on Instacart and it is significantly easier. I will be doing a followup post for alternatives jobs for Instacart Shoppers.

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