Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Workers for Shipt, an Instacart-Like Company Owned by Target, Describe a Culture of Unrealistic Expectations, Retaliation, and Fear

Lauren Kaori Gurley, Vice:

When Target bought the company for $550 million in 2017, Shipt rapidly expanded its same-day delivery to half of its stores. Today, Shipt has more than 100,000 gig workers, according to the company. The company has tripled its geographic reach since 2017.

Shipt workers told Motherboard that customers who order from Target often seem surprised when independent contractors in plain clothes driving their personal cars show up at their homes with massive deliveries from Target. Because Shipt classifies its workers as contractors, not employees, workers pay for all of their expenses — including gas, wear and tear on their cars, and accidents — out of pocket. They say the tips on large orders from Target, sometimes with hundreds of items, can be meager.

Workers say Shipt customers often live in gated and upscale communities and that the app encourages workers to tack on gifts like thank you cards, hot cocoa, flowers, and balloons onto orders (paid for out of their own pocket) and to offer to walk customer’s dogs and take out their trash, as a courtesy. Shipt calls this kind of service “Bringing the Magic,” which can improve workers’ ratings from customers that factor into the algorithm that determines who gets offered the most lucrative orders.

If this “gig economy” nonsense is to have a quality of employment greater than that of a freelance servant, workers need rights, reasonable expectations, benefits, and real income. This nonsense of paying people according to a black box algorithm should not be legal.