Instacart and DoorDash’s Tip Policies Deliver Outrage to Workers, Customers

From today’s New York Times:

Delivery has always been a rough business. Since time immemorial, couriers have braved the elements, gotten by on meager wages and dealt with annoying customers, growling dogs and fifth-floor walk-ups, all for the chance of a big tip from a happy customer.

But thanks to two Silicon Valley upstarts, even those tips are in doubt.

This week, Instacart and DoorDash — two giants of the app-based delivery industry, collectively valued by investors at more than $11 billion — have come under fire from critics who have accused the companies of taking advantage of their workers with deceptive tipping policies. Both companies acknowledged putting customer tips toward workers’ minimum pay guarantees, in effect using them to subsidize their own payouts.

“It’s offensive, it’s unethical and in this climate, it’s a very dumb thing to do,” Matthew Telles, an Instacart courier based in Chicago, said this week.

Ashley Knudson, a Seattle-based Instacart worker, said she felt “cheated” by the company.

“I have gone from making $1,000 a week and providing for my family to now, if I’m lucky, making $600 a week,” she added.

Read the complete article here.

Is the Gig Economy Working?—For Some, But Not For Most Workers

From this month’s The New Yorker magazine by Nathan Heller:

The American workplace is both a seat of national identity and a site of chronic upheaval and shame. The industry that drove America’s rise in the nineteenth century was often inhumane. The twentieth-century corrective—a corporate workplace of rules, hierarchies, collective bargaining, triplicate forms—brought its own unfairnesses. Gigging reflects the endlessly personalizable values of our own era, but its social effects, untried by time, remain uncertain.

Support for the new work model has come together swiftly, though, in surprising quarters. On the second day of the most recent Democratic National Convention, in July, members of a four-person panel suggested that gigging life was not only sustainable but the embodiment of today’s progressive values. “It’s all about democratizing capitalism,” Chris Lehane, a strategist in the Clinton Administration and now Airbnb’s head of global policy and public affairs, said during the proceedings, in Philadelphia. David Plouffe, who had managed Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign before he joined Uber, explained, “Politically, you’re seeing a large contingent of the Obama coalition demanding the sharing economy.” Instead of being pawns in the games of industry, the panelists thought, working Americans could thrive by hiring out skills as they wanted, and putting money in the pockets of peers who had done the same. The power to control one’s working life would return, grassroots style, to the people.

The basis for such confidence was largely demographic. Though statistics about gigging work are few, and general at best, a Pew study last year found that seventy-two per cent of American adults had used one of eleven sharing or on-demand services, and that a third of people under forty-five had used four or more. “To ‘speak millennial,’ you ought to be talking about the sharing economy, because it is core and central to their economic future,” Lehane declared, and many of his political kin have agreed. No other commercial field has lately drawn as deeply from the Democratic brain trust. Yet what does democratized capitalism actually promise a politically unsettled generation? Who are its beneficiaries? At a moment when the nation’s electoral future seems tied to the fate of its jobs, much more than next month’s paycheck depends on the answers.

Read the entire article here.