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By Julia Glum
September 21, 2021
A closeup of a hand with a smartphone showing the Instacart app icon with a delete sign on the top left corner
Money; Shutterstock

If you've been getting grocery delivery during the pandemic, you may want to think twice before filling your cart this week: A group of Instacart workers is pushing millions of customers to delete the app in solidarity with its fight for better working conditions.

The nonprofit Gig Workers Collective announced the #DeleteInstacart boycott in a blog post Monday. In it, the organizers laid out five demands aimed at ending "Instacart’s long-standing practice of gig worker exploitation." Higher pay and better conditions for workers, most of them contractors called "shoppers," are chief among its requests.

"We are asking customers to delete the app today — because there is only one thing Instacart and its executives and investors care about: money," the advocates wrote. "And we ask that customers refrain from reinstalling the app unless and until Instacart rectifies the genuinely inequitable manner in which it treats its shoppers."

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Founded in 2012, Instacart is one of the few companies that saw business boom when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the United States last year. Grocery panic buying coincided with people's fear of leaving the house in a major way. After losing an estimated $300 million in 2019, the company saw a 500% increase in volume and $700 million in goods purchased — in April 2020 alone, according to VentureBeat. This past March, Instacart raised $265 million in funding and notched a $39 billion valuation.

But complaints about worker mistreatment have persisted throughout it all. Shoppers alleged Instacart unfairly penalized them for unavailable items, allowed for "tip-baiting" where users reneged on promised big tips, eliminated union positions and didn't provide them with sufficient personal protective equipment, among other offenses.

"Asking customers to delete the Instacart app in the midst of a pandemic is not something we take lightly," the #DeleteInstacart team wrote Monday. "But we have spent the past five years fighting for better working conditions and firmly believe we have exhausted all less drastic options."

The #DeleteInstacart shoppers are asking for five major changes to Instacart's structure: to be paid per order; to reinstate item commission, which would pay them more to fulfill bigger grocery orders; to improve its rating system; to provide occupational death benefits, which support the families of those who die on the job; and to increase the default tip from 5% to "at least 10%."

In a statement, Instacart told Money it's "deeply committed to creating the best possible experience for our shopper community."

The company refuted several of the Gig Workers Collective's claims, pointing out that shoppers can see payouts before accepting batches and highlighting a shopper injury protection policy that it says already includes accidental death benefits.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, we've invested in countless new measures to support the health and safety of the shopper community," Instacart added. "We take shopper feedback very seriously and remain committed to listening to and using that feedback to improve their experience."

The boycott comes as Instacart is thought to be preparing for an initial public offering, or IPO. Twitter showed dozens of #DeleteInstacart messages Tuesday, many of them accompanied by messages of support for shoppers.

Similar battles have been waged elsewhere in the gig economy. This past July, organizers encouraged Uber and Lyft drivers to strike and riders to boycott as they fought for increased pay and the ability to unionize. Rideshare workers staged related rallies back in 2019, as well.

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