Shopper Response to Shipt’s “Community Update”
On Friday, Shipt published a bizarre and insulting “Community Update” originally drafted in response to a “third party inquiry.” Topics addressed range from Shipt’s self-described start up growing pains (Shipt has been in operation since 2014 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Target in 2017, one of the largest domestic retailers and employers), its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the state of worker’s pay. Shipt pats itself on the back for providing an essential service during times of crisis, while simultaneously gaslighting workers into believing a pay cut is not a pay cut.
Shipt has made various claims about earnings over time, claiming to pay workers $25/hour (before tips and expenses), then claiming to pay $22/hour, (before tips and expenses) and ultimately now foregoes claims about hourly pay. Instead, after cherry picked data Shipt is now claiming shoppers earn an average of $21.97 per order (which regularly take over an hour) --including tips, and promotional pay, but before expenses. By examining Shipt’s own advertised earnings potentials we can effectively conclude that workers are indeed earning less. Including tips in earnings potential is misleading and an obvious attempt to inflate actual earnings potential, but less obviously including promotional pay has the same effect. Promotional pay is entirely subject to Shipt’s discretion and will undoubtedly decline or even disappear over time. When compared to commission-based pay, workers are earning undeniably less under Shipt’s new pay structure.
The backlash to Shipt’s latest post from workers that have seen their earnings plummet as a result of Shipt’s “effort-based” pay structure is notable. Many workers expressed outrage over Shipt’s pivot toward claiming that their earnings from Shipt are intended to be supplemental income. This came as a slap in the face to the very same workers that Shipt has coaxed into building a clientele off the pretense they are small business owners, and corporate messaging that workers ultimately controlled their own seemingly limitless earnings potential.
Shipt’s description of itself as a “technology marketplace” is patently absurd. In transitioning from a commission-based pay structure to proprietary black box algorithmically generated pay, Shipt is exerting unprecedented control over workers by not only establishing rates but obscuring workers’ ability to properly account for their earnings and ensure they are paid properly.
Shipt “strongly disputes any claims that shoppers are not provided with transparency,” yet under its new pay structure workers have no ability to verify or even account for how or why we are paid what we are paid. The ability to see estimates of pay ahead of accepting or rejecting an order is categorically not the same as transparency. Transparent pay means workers can understand how and why we are paid what we are paid, and whether actual pay is congruent with expected pay. Additionally, there have been countless reports of workers earning below quoted estimates, without explanation or even acknowledgment from Shipt that earnings failed to meet advertised rates of pay.
More than ever, workers are reliant upon tips to make ends meet. Shipt has an established track record of being less than forthcoming about “glitches” that have impacted customer’s ability to leave tips, and workers’ ability to receive them. As of the time of publishing there are still daily reports of systemic tip issues that Shipt has publicly denied and has failed to properly fix. Even by Shipt’s own figures of 0.01% of tips being impacted translates to thousands of tips being withheld from workers on a monthly basis. This is not an insignificant or trivial number of workers that have earned less than they were rightfully entitled to.
After the onset of COVID-19, workers were forced to stage a walk-off to demand Shipt provide PPE to its frontline essential workers. Even since providing PPE to workers, the supplies have been inadequate, and are not automatically sent to active workers, instead workers must order PPE monthly through Shipt, receiving a supply that if used properly would only last full-time workers about a week. Shipt also made two shameful attempts to charge workers for essential supplies like hand sanitizer and face masks, before ultimately ceasing sales due to backlash and outrage.
What is clearer than ever is that Shipt really does not value its essential frontline workers. Even in the midst of a pandemic where grocery delivery has transformed from a luxury service to an essential one, Shipt has focused its efforts on rapid expansion over the health, safety, and financial well being of its existing workers. We must not normalize, accept, or even tolerate Shipt’s gaslighting nor its reckless disregard for its essential workers.