Pando

Instacart demands correction to Pando report on new worker policy. Hours later, announces that exact policy

By Dan Raile , written on July 23, 2015

From The Sharing Economy Desk

On Tuesday, I wrote about Instacart transitioning some of its contractors in certain markets to part-time employee status.

I also interviewed some of the workers who stood to be impacted by such a change -- including one who complained about the company’s poor communication.

“It’s funny how little they tell us, they just roll shit out,” he said. “It’s a black box. For example, if my hours get cut in half one week, and I email “Shopper Happiness,” they won’t explain why. They’ll say something like ‘we’re just scheduling more effectively,’ so I won’t know if there is something I need to change or improve. I understand move fast and break shit, but this isn’t just affecting user experience, it’s people’s livelihoods.”

Shortly after my piece was published, Instacart’s PR company wrote to complain that my piece was misleading. Specifically, they claimed I had suggested that the company was planning to reclassify San Francisco’s in-store shoppers, without giving them fair warning. They requested a correction.

I wrote back explaining that Pando readers are intelligent enough to realize I made no such claims. Accordingly, I wouldn’t be publishing a “correction.”

And then, a few hours after the piece was published, something odd happened.

Emails obtained by Pando [see below] show that at around 7 o’clock on Tuesday evening, Instacart began informing its in-store shoppers in San Francisco that they were planning to reclassify workers.  Current in-store shoppers were given less than 48 hours to decide whether or not to take on this new role, which offers a $16/hour base wage and tax withholdings, but limits their hours. In fact, they have less than 48 hours to decide whether or not to apply for the “new” position, which has an August 3rd start date…

[Y]ou must respond to us by end of day Thursday July 23rd if you wish to be considered for the new part-time in-store shopper role ...

In other words: Instacart was planning to reclassify San Francisco’s in-store shoppers without giving them fair warning.

The email fails to share with workers some important details. For example, in San Francisco, employers with more than 20 employees must pay a minimum amount for employee health-care for all employees working more than eight hours per week. Paid sick leave is mandatory as well. These benefits are not mentioned. California has no maximum hours law for part-time employees, though Instacart tells it prospective part-timers that, “There may be some limitations on how many hours you will be scheduled for per day and per week.”

One thing is very clear though: “Note that the current ISS [in-store-shopper] contractor position will no longer exist.”

What a difference a day makes!

(The PR folks for Instacart declined to comment on the development.)

Here's Instacart's email to SF workers...

 

From: [Instacart]

Date: July 21, 2015 at 7:[redacted] PM PDT

Subject: Important Announcement: Changes to ISS at Instacart

Dear [Redacted],

We want to thank you for all your hard work shopping for our customers in San Francisco and the Bay Area. As we continue to grow, we have reevaluated what it means to be an In-Store Shopper: we truly value the work that you do, and want to make sure that you have the opportunity to apply to work as an employee of Instacart if you choose. As of August 3rd, we will be introducing a new In-Store Shopper (ISS) role, which will expand on the responsibilities of and replace the current In-Store Shopper role and be a part-time employee position.

What does this mean? We’ll be bringing ISS in the new role into our family as employees and adding management resources and training.  Importantly, we’ll be changing the pay structure for this new ISS role to be an hourly wage of $16 and we’ll take care of tax withholdings on your paystub. Note that the current ISS contractor position will no longer exist -- you must respond to us by end of day Thursday July 23rd if you wish to be considered for the new part-time in-store shopper role.  

We will be considering candidates for the new role based on the following performance expectations

  • Exhibit an incredible customer service attitude in everything you do
  • Hold yourself to high standards and integrity in every task and interaction
  • Utilize great verbal and written communication skills
  • Work well with other shoppers, drivers, cashiers, and shift leads
  • Be incredibly reliable
  • Work quickly and accurately
  • Display a passion for your work and the customer

If you choose not to be considered for a position as an ISS part time employee and would prefer to remain working with Instacart as an independent contractor, you are invited to apply for a position as a Full Service or Delivery Only contractor.  Details for both options are below:

Option 1: Respond to this email to be considered for the Part Time In-Store Shopper position.  We will take your performance in the above categories under consideration in our decision. If accepted, you will be need to complete the paperwork that will be sent to your email address from Hellosign if you are chosen.

  • This is a good option for those who do not want to drive, and it means falling under our part time employee wage structure (details in the attached PDF)
  • There may be some limitations on how many hours you will be scheduled for per day and per week, and Instacart will process your income tax as the employer.
  • Paperwork includes signing 6 documents. 5 documents will be sent together via Hellosign: A Code of Conduct, Offer Letter, PIIA, W-4, and direct deposit form. The I-9 documents must be completed in person and details will follow.

Option 2: Respond to this email to be considered to move to a Full Service or Delivery Only contractor position

  • You’ll need your own car for this role, and will receive the applicable commission payments (details in the attached PDF)
  • There will be no limitations on the hours you work per week, and it will be entirely your responsibility to withhold all necessary taxes and meet the other legal and tax obligations of continuing to work as an independent contractor

We understand there is a lot of information in this email, so I am readily available to answer any questions or concerns you may have here.

Thank you for your patience and flexibility!