- Chicago area gig workers who use Walmart’s delivery platform Spark say bots are a growing issue.
- Drivers recently protested at a Walmart Supercenter in Illinois as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
- They say users who deploy bots make it harder for them to make enough money on the platform.
Some drivers for Walmart’s delivery platform Spark say there’s a growing problem on the app involving users who deploy bots to hoard orders and make it harder for other drivers to get deliveries.
A group of drivers who said they had been affected by the prevalence of bots in their area held a demonstration in front of a Walmart Supercenter in Cicero, Illinois, on Thursday, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Drivers at the rally said they now had to work longer hours on the Spark app to make close to what they were making before and attributed the slowdown of jobs to hoarders who were gaming the system to their advantage. These drivers’ concerns highlight a growing issue for many gig workers.
One Spark driver, Nancy Marcos, told the Tribune that while she used to make between $100 and $150 delivering for the app daily, she now makes half that amount. Eric Guzman, a Spark driver who had been delivering for the platform for a year and a half, said that he makes around $200 a week now, compared to the $1500 he was making previously. Another driver said she had started noticing a drop in orders in January.
It’s unclear exactly how prevalent bots are on Walmart’s Spark platform.
A spokesperson for the company said that bots are an industry-wide issue and that Walmart takes “a proactive and comprehensive approach to identifying and preventing the use of bots on the platform,” including investigating incidents and deactivating drivers. Walmart declined to share exactly how many reports it had received on bots on its platform. Still, it said it’s been in touch with stores in Cicero, Bedford Park, and Forest Park, where the drivers at the rally pick up deliveries, and said it had investigated reports in those areas.
Workers who fill orders for multiple apps, from Instacart to DoorDash, have used — and complained — about bots for years. Bot users download an app or code to their phone, which they then use to claim batches faster than shoppers claiming orders by tapping them as they appear on their screen.
Gig workers can set bots to claim specific orders, such as those with delivery addresses close to them. But using bots violates the terms and conditions of most delivery apps.
Some bots, like Instaman, are apps that shoppers can download themselves. Sometimes, shoppers pay for access to an app or code. Some of these offers are scams, and shoppers end up paying for bots that don’t work, Vice reported in 2020.
Some gig workers have turned to bots as competition for orders has grown. Instacart, for instance, hired hundreds of thousands of new workers in 2020 as more people ordered groceries for delivery during the early months of the pandemic. At least 600,000 contractors work for Instacart today, according to Business of Apps.
Some gig workers have turned to other controversial ways of increasing their earnings. Some DoorDash workers, for example, are asking for extra tips mid-delivery from customers.
Are you a Spark driver or Walmart employee with information to share? Reach out to the authors at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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