- In Buffalo, New York, where Wegmans recently began offering home delivery through Instacart, some of the e-commerce company’s shoppers say they’re not getting enough orders to justify the hours they put in, according to The Buffalo News.
- An unspecified number of shoppers interviewed by the publication say they were filling many orders and subsequently earning good commissions and tips when the service first came to Buffalo, but these days are seeing significantly fewer orders. One shopper told The Buffalo News that her pay dropped from $415 to $265 in the span of a week.
- Instacart offers drivers a commission on each order plus “bumps” for driving longer than average distances. The company offered a $10 per hour guaranteed pay for more senior shoppers as a way to offset slow times, but recently lifted that policy, according to a company spokeswoman, “thanks to the greater Buffalo community love for Instacart and boost in Shopper income.”
It’s hard to gauge the scope of this issue from the Buffalo News article. The writer didn’t specify how many shoppers she interviewed, and didn’t include input or sales figures from either Instacart or local grocers that would indicate how e-commerce sales in the area have trended over time.
One of the story’s commenters disputed the findings, noting that she works part-time shopping for Instacart and is consistently busy.
“I do hours almost every single day and I'm never sitting around waiting for batches,” she wrote. “And it's only going to get busier with the holidays approaching.”
The largest retailer offering Instacart delivery in the Buffalo market is Wegmans, which began rolling out the service across its six state footprint starting in June.
Buffalo’s 6.3% unemployment rate is 50% higher than the national average, indicating the supply of workers for gig economy jobs like those offered by Instacart are plentiful. This actually stands in contrast to the national trend, in which companies that offer part-time work are having a hard time filling open positions, and have resorted to offering incentives. Instacart will soon offer reduced-price mobile phone plans for its workers and invite them to company town hall meetings. Food delivery startup DoorDash, meanwhile, offers health insurance plans and has begun leasing motorized bicycles to delivery workers.
Regardless of how widespread this problem is, it offers food for thought to retailers and e-commerce providers staffing these positions. Although these companies prize the flexibility many gig workers offer, they need to make sure they’re not scheduling too many shoppers, and that the job is meeting employee expectations. Open lines of communication, including a way for workers to express their displeasure, seem to be key here.
Instacart, which has partnered with retailers left and right in the wake of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, has had issues with its workers in the past. Earlier this year, the company settled a class-action lawsuit with workers over improper handling of tips, neglecting to pay business expenses and 16 other charges. The company has also endured criticism for making it too difficult for customers to tip shoppers, though it did recently retool its platform to make the practice easier.