The gig econ­o­my of ride-shar­ing and gro­cery deliv­ery has become noto­ri­ous for exploit­ing and mis­treat­ing work­ers — and now, Moth­er­board has an inside look at one par­tic­u­lar­ly bad exam­ple. A new piece digs into Tar­get-owned gro­cery deliv­ery com­pa­ny Shipt, exam­in­ing all the extra work dri­vers feel pres­sured to do just to stay active and keep receiv­ing work on the plat­form. It’s a thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion of a com­pa­ny cul­ture that seems based on fear and intim­i­da­tion.

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.

So it’s not enough to deliv­er the customer’s order from Tar­get, now if you want to keep get­ting good rat­ings and more work you have to take out their trash and walk their dogs. Cool sys­tem! The arti­cle also details how Shipt work­ers wor­ry about the com­pa­ny retal­i­at­ing against them for post­ing neg­a­tive com­ments or ask­ing point­ed ques­tions on inter­nal mes­sage boards and Face­book groups. One work­er described being tem­porar­i­ly deac­ti­vat­ed after crit­i­ciz­ing the company’s new logo.

Shipt logo

And then there’s the issue of pay: Shipt work­ers told Moth­er­board that the com­pa­ny recent­ly switched from a straight­for­ward per-order pay struc­ture to a con­fus­ing algo­rithm that con­sid­ers… some fac­tors… to deter­mine how they’re paid. You will be shocked to hear that the new algo­rithm does not favor the work­ers; some report their pay has dropped by 50 per­cent since Shipt made the switch.

It’s part of an unset­tling pat­tern for gig work­er plat­forms. Door­Dash had to address com­plaints it was skim­ming dri­vers’ tips. Uber work­ers went on strike to protest unfair pay, poor work­ing con­di­tions, and an over­all lack of trans­paren­cy from the com­pa­ny. Inde­pen­dent con­trac­tor dri­vers for Ama­zon have described bru­tal work­ing con­di­tions, includ­ing long shifts with no breaks to meet the demands of Prime ship­ping orders. And The Verge has writ­ten about the appalling con­di­tions for con­tent mod­er­a­tors at Face­book and the waiv­er YouTube mod­er­a­tors sign acknowl­edg­ing they’ll like­ly get PTSD from the work.

But go read this Moth­er­board sto­ry about Shipt because it has a lot of great details about how real peo­ple are affect­ed when a com­pa­ny treats them like dis­pos­able cogs in their cor­po­rate wheel. And you should be aware when you place an order online — whether it’s at Ama­zon, Tar­get, or some oth­er com­pa­ny — how they treat the work­ers who bring your deliv­er­ies.

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