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A millennial who used a gig app to work in retail explains why he's never using it again

Alex Bitter   

A millennial who used a gig app to work in retail explains why he's never using it again
  • The gig economy is expanding beyond delivery and rideshare.
  • One example is Shiftsmart, an app that lets workers pick up one-off shifts at a host of employers.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a worker in South Carolina who worked for Shiftsmart, an app that allows workers to pick up shifts for various employers, including Google, Subway, and USPS.

The worker worked for Circle K and Parker's Kitchen, a South Carolina-based chain of convenience stores and gas stations, by claiming shifts through Shiftsmart.

The worker asked not to be named for fear of retaliation at work. Business Insider has verified the worker's identity and employment. The story has been edited for length and clarity.

I am homeless, and gig work is pretty much the only thing that kept me above water.

I started with Shiftsmart last year. I needed a way to make extra money, and a friend turned me on to it. I signed up.

I would go to Circle K and work as a cleaner and merchandiser. To start a four-hour shift, I would show up, contact the manager, and let them know that I'm here to assist with whatever they need.

They would put you on certain tasks: Mopping up the floor, cleaning the bathrooms, restocking, just different odd jobs they need to take care of.

There were a whole bunch of other jobs that I could've gotten on Shiftsmart, like a mystery shopper, but most of them were 50 miles away — an hour's drive. You could take them, but then you're out the time and gas money.

If shifts sit unclaimed for too long, they'll entice you by raising the pay. The other day, I went in and worked a little over four hours. The estimated pre-tax earnings would've been $57.17 with a $50 bonus because nobody wanted to pick up that shift.

The bonus will start at $10, for example, then they'll raise it up to $20, then they'll raise it up to $30, and so on until somebody takes that shift. You get paid between 24 and 48 hours after the shift, in my experience.

What's funny is that one of the managers for this Circle K location I worked at through Shiftsmart noticed that I was working hard and said, "Hey, are you doing this just for side money, or are you looking for a full-time job? I would love to hire you." So, I decided to take her up on it and start working there full-time.

Shiftsmart itself has technical issues. Once, I was missing just over $1 of my pay. I had to go in through the app and submit a request. They sometimes correct it, but sometimes you won't hear anything from them. I'm not going to keep going after somebody for $1.17, but that adds up over the scale of thousands of people who could be experiencing the same thing that I am.

It also uses a ranking system. They have a "reliability" score, which is how often you actually show up to shifts and how often you cancel shifts with at least 24 hours' notice. They also have an "on-time" score. That goes down if you are late to work, of course, but if you show up 30 minutes or more early and clock in, then your time will also go down.

I realized that, at the pay rate Shiftsmart and Circle K were offering, it was putting me further into a hole financially. I don't know the exact numbers, but Shiftsmart has to be getting paid by Circle K whenever someone takes a shift. As an employee, I can make more money, and I don't have to deal with the same rankings and compete for shifts.

I'm just cutting out the middleman, in other words.

If you're going to get into gig work, by all means, do your hustle and try to survive, but don't get stuck in it. Understand that these types of gig jobs are not for all people. If somebody gets hurt on the job, they're not covered by workers compensation. I'm not sure I'd do it again.

Shiftsmart did not respond to a request for comment from BI.

Are you a gig worker and have a story idea to share? Reach out to this reporter at

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