Open letter to Fidji Simo, Instacart’s CEO

Dear Fidji Simo,

Last week, you wrote an open letter to your shopper community, asking for suggestions to improve the shopper experience. As you and the gig worker community know, Apoorva Mehta has created a notoriously tumultuous relationship with his workforce despite the fact that gig workers are central to the company’s continuing operations.

For the past five years, we’ve led walk offs for the most basic concessions — reintroducing tips, no longer using tips to supplement pay, hazard pay and providing PPE during a pandemic. These are simple requests, but each time the company gives us one thing, they take something else away. Workers are tired of this endless game of give and take.

During the pandemic, Instacart let its shoppers know just how little they’re valued — we had to walk off the job for the most basic PPE, had to publicly shame the company into providing 14 days of COVID pay to shoppers who tested positive while working, the company threatened to leave Seattle if they were forced to pay an additional $2 per order hazard pay, and Instacart spent tens of millions of dollars in California to ensure their workers wouldn’t receive proper employee benefits and protections via Prop22. As a result, Instacart’s relationship with shoppers is as strained as ever.

In order to start mending your relationship with shoppers, these five most crucial issues must be fixed.

  1. Instacart shoppers must be paid by order, and not by batch. In 2017, when Apoorva Mehta publicly apologized for stealing tips in response to our protests, the company lowered the base pay floor from $10 to $7. But that’s not even the worst part — that $7 figure could cover up to three orders at once. If we shopped a single order, the base pay would be $7, but if we shopped three orders at once, the base pay would be $7 for the lot. Instead of a shopper fulfilling three orders for a total of $30 base, we now do it for $7 base. This is effectively a 76% cut to base pay, and is unacceptable.
  2. Instacart must re-introduce item commission. When Instacart lowered our base pay, it also removed item commission. The $7 base pay was supposed to be a floor, that would raise depending on the size of the order. However, nearly every order pays $7 regardless of the size. A single two item order pays $7, and a triple 50 item order pays $7. Item commission ensures that workers are paid for their time, since the more items that are in the order, the longer it takes to fill.
  3. Instacart’s rating system unfairly punishes shoppers for issues outside their control. For example, the company has an issue with customer fraud that is unfairly impacting workers. Instacart’s lacking fraud detection ability and policies make it very easy for customers to get free groceries by falsely marking items as missing/damaged, with the blame constantly falling on the shopper. Even when we provide photos of deliveries, Instacart can either lower our rating (which prevents us from seeing good offers for weeks), or deactivate us from the platform entirely. A single 4-star rating is enough to affect our pay for weeks. There’s even a Facebook group of 2,000 of these shoppers, the majority of who were deactivated for this reason. Instacart’s inability to properly investigate customer complaints should not result in blame unfairly placed on shoppers.
  4. Instacart shoppers need occupational death benefits. Working for Instacart is not safe, and workers must be protected on the job. The last 18 months have been especially dangerous for Instacart shoppers. The company refused to provide sick pay for shoppers who tested positive for COVID, even when one shopper was on a ventilator. We had to walk off the job in order for Instacart to address this and change their policy. Coronavirus aside, shopper Lynn Murray was killed while shopping for a customer during a mass shooting. While Instacart’s corporate employees spent these last 18 months working from home, shoppers were risking their lives while the company did nothing to protect them. Instead, they quadrupled their workforce with desperate people in need of income, using them to bring down pay and replace any shopper who knew their worth.
  5. The default tip must be raised to at least 10% for every single order. Instacart has been playing with our tips since 2016 — first replacing them with a service fee that the company said went to us (even though they pocketed it), then outright stealing our tips, then using tips in place of what we were owed, and more recently testing out a user interface without a default tip set. Instacart shoppers are bleeding out of both ends — the base pay is now far lower than it has been AND the company is discouraging customers from tipping. A 5% default tip is abysmal when paired with Instacart’s low pay.

Since you’ve said you’re looking for feedback to improve the shoppers experience, we wanted to give you the opportunity to prove that you intend to mend this severely damaged relationship.

In addition to finally addressing these crucial issues most affecting our workforce, we look forward to you keeping your word and responding to the emails your shoppers sent you, and we also invite you to meet with Gig Workers Collective and our members to build a more productive working relationship in which we can discuss these changes and others.

Signed,

Gig Workers Collective