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Bots are Stealing Food Orders on Instacart and Hurting Undocumented Workers

Updated: May 02, 2020 11:18
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Instacart workers are on strike for May 1 today, along with frontline workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, and other delivery retailers. One reason Instacart workers are striking, is the heartbreaking exploitation of undocumented workers, bagged into a new exploit on that grocery delivery app.

According to a report from TechCrunch, third-party bots are swarming Instacart and stealing orders from Instacart delivery workers. These outside apps with names like Ninja Hours are extorting the undocumented community by charging them cash for access to the orders that the bots are stealing.

“For $200,” Tech Cruch reports, “undocumented immigrants could pay Ninja Hours to create an account for them so they could shop.”

The swiping of money from undocumented workers is only one sad side of this bot operation, as one Instacart driver told TechCrunch that the Ninja Hours site “was always written in Spanish — really targeting the Latino community.” The animated screenshot above from TechCrunch shows how the scam is stealing orders. On the petition Ban Instacart Bot Shoppers, delivery worker Melanie Ibarra describes it firsthand.

“Up until some weeks ago, Instacart was BOOMING with orders due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” she writes. “Now all of sudden we are not seeing any orders available. If there are any, when you see it, it’s gone within a blink of an eye before we can even click on it. Or let’s say if you’re fast enough, you click on the order and click ‘accept’, a window pops up that reads ‘oh no, looks like this order has been taken’. And this is happening all day every day. This is because instacart shoppers are paying third party apps aka bots to steal all the good, high paying batches.”

Instacart seems to know they have a problem, as evidenced by messages TechCrunch acquired seen above. “We have several robust security measures in place to ensure the security of the Instacart platform,” the company said in an obviously false statement to TechCrunch. “Selling or purchasing batches is not an authorized use of the Instacart platform and is a violation of our Terms of Service.”

Instacart is making a big deal of their hiring a quarter million delivery drivers, but they’re not actually “hiring” them. It’s a shit job with no benefits and not even a guarantee of minimum wage, from a company that claims to be worth $8 billion but cannot even fix its bot problem. You should not apply to deliver for Instacart unless they get this fixed, and on the May 1 strike, you should not use Instacart either.  

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Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura is a two-bit marketing writer who excels at the homoerotic double-entendre. He is training to run a full marathon completely drunk and high, and his work has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on days when their editors made particularly curious decisions.