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Instacart, DoorDash, and other apps appear to be trying to roll back Seattle's new laws for gig workers

Alex Bitter   

Instacart, DoorDash, and other apps appear to be trying to roll back Seattle's new laws for gig workers
  • Instacart, DoorDash, and other apps seem to be trying to roll back Seattle's new gig worker pay law.
  • Their efforts targeted the workers via surveys and requests for testimonials to send to the city.

On February 29, Instacart sent an email with a link to a survey to its gig worker shoppers in Seattle. Its stated purpose: To figure out what its shoppers thought of the city's new law on gig work.

But in the preamble to the survey, Instacart indicated it already had thoughts about how things were going. "Some shoppers are seeing a negative impact on earnings, limited service areas for batches, and decreased order frequency," the email read. "That's why it's crucial we hear from you about exactly how these changes have influenced you and your work with Instacart."

The survey is one example of how Instacart, DoorDash, and other gig work companies have been pushing back on a law that took effect in Seattle this past January. The law, one of multiple proposals known collectively as "Pay Up," most notably aims to increase delivery workers' pay to a rate comparable with Seattle's $19.97 minimum wage.

The companies lobbied against the proposals before the Seattle City Council. But they haven't given up the fight just because they've become law.

Some of the questions in Instacart's survey asked shoppers about how their earnings or wait times for orders had changed since the pay law took effect.

One asked shoppers whether they supported or opposed Pay Up — but only after offering Instacart's own explanation in the previous questions about the law.

That's caught some workers' attention.

"There were so many red flags in that survey that, of course, I didn't want to bother to do it," one Instacart shopper who delivers orders in Seattle told Business Insider. The shopper asked not to be identified for fear of having their Instacart account deactivated, but BI verified their employment and identity.

The survey also asked shoppers whether they were waiting longer to claim orders to shop or earning more or less from Instacart customer tips — even though Instacart itself plays a commanding role in determining both, the shopper told BI.

After Pay Up took effect, for instance, Instacart reduced the default tip on orders within Seattle to 0%. Before the law took effect, it was 5%. The survey also didn't mention that Instacart had increased fees for customers since the law took effect, the shopper said.

On Wednesday, Instacart said that the survey had garnered responses from "more than 250 shoppers." The summary touted that a super-majority of shoppers in Seattle said their experience on the app had gotten worse since Pay Up became law in January, with earnings down and wait times to claim orders up.

"A staggering 82% have said tips are down since PayUp took effect," the summary says, for example, without mentioning Instacart's change to its default tip in Seattle.

A spokesperson for Instacart told Business Insider that "the voice of shoppers is critical in helping to shape public policy across the country, and we regularly reach out to shoppers to understand their experience on the platform. In one recent survey, 72% of shoppers surveyed in Seattle told us their experience has been worse since the PayUp law took effect.

"Elected officials, especially in Seattle, rely heavily on the voices of local constituents — including workers, businesses, and customers — to inform the direction of their policy proposals," they continued. "Instacart will continue to listen to shoppers and help empower them to make their voices heard in important policy conversations."

About a month later, in March, Instacart sent out another email to shoppers. While it didn't reference the survey, it did claim that the company had heard from shoppers whose pay had gone down and who were waiting longer to claim batches of orders. "It's clear that this new law isn't working and unfortunately, this is exactly what we warned the Council would happen," the email read.

The message included a link to a form with a pre-written letter, which pointed to many of the same issues that the survey had alluded to, including lower pay and wait times. It instructed shoppers to add their own experiences and then submit it to Instacart as a testimonial for the city council.

Some shoppers posted the email on Reddit. One poster, who included screenshots of the message, encouraged other Instacart shoppers to turn the pre-written letter to the city council around. "Instead, tell them to crack down on Instacart's retaliation," the post read, referring to the costs that the company passed on to customers.

"I actually removed some of the text and I rephrased it to say, 'Thank you for passing Pay Up,'" the Instacart shopper who spoke with BI said.

Other companies have made their gig workers aware of their stance on Seattle's new law, even if they haven't issued calls to action like Instacart's.

About a week after Seattle's pay law took effect, DoorDash sent an email to its workers in Seattle with claims that Dashers would see fewer offers and wait longer to claim them. DoorDash also said in the message that it would end its Top Dasher and Priority Access programs in Seattle, both of which allow delivery workers access to better-paying batches if their metrics, such as customer ratings, are high enough.

"These new rules restrict platforms from rewarding high quality Dashers," the email read, referencing Pay Up.

"It's painfully clear from listening to Dashers, merchants and consumers that this new law simply isn't working," a DoorDash spokesperson told BI.

"The regulatory response fee in Seattle helps offset the costs associated with the current law," the spokesperson said. "If those costs can be decreased through reform legislation, we will explore all options to increase affordability for consumers, including a reduction of the fee."

Uber Eats and Grubhub have also put out statements saying that things have gotten worse for their gig workers since Seattle's law took effect. The companies have also added fees for customers since Pay Up took effect. DoorDash, for instance, has added a $4.99 charge to orders in Seattle, though nothing in the Pay Up legislation required it.

Seattle's city council is considering significant changes to Pay Up in hopes that the companies will take away those fees, local news outlets reported in recent weeks.

Anna Powell, a DoorDash government relations manager, told GeekWire in February that the company's goal was more ambitious.

"We would like to see a repeal of the ordinance," Powell said.

Do you work for Instacart, DoorDash, Walmart Spark, or another gig delivery service and have a story idea to share? Reach out to this reporter at

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