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Instacart shoppers, including those in KC metro, plan strike over reduced pay and tips

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LENEXA, Kan. -- If you can't make it to the store or just don't want to, apps like Instacart connect you with a willing shopper.

But now some of those shoppers say the company isn't making it worth their time, so they've planned a strike Nov. 3-5.

Amanda McDade worked as an independent contractor for Instacart for a few months and said at first she was pleasantly surprised by the pay.

"But then it started declining the last 2 months, and I stopped doing it because the orders weren't worth it anymore," McDade said.

She's one of a host of shoppers for Instacart who said recently she's seen the amount she can take home for shopping slashed.

"Pay has dropped drastically. I would say my pay is probably cut over half," Tamila Dorton said.

To try to understand why, first you have to know a little more about how Instacart operates.

Customers can order from a number of stores and have someone do the shopping for them. There are services fees that go to the company, and Instacart then compensates independent contractors for the shopping.

"We are just a self-employed person out there trying to make a buck," Justin Miller said.

Like other app-based work in a gig economy, there's an algorithm that's supposed to pay shoppers based on the size and weight of the order, distance and difficulty of drop-off.

But it seems as more more people have signed up to shop with the company, pay has dropped.

"Their thought process is someone is going to take it, someone wants $7 for 60 items at a grocery store that`s going to take you an hour to shop minus your gas and your mileage and all that on your vehicle," Miller said.

Don't answer the call for too many less lucrative orders, and shoppers say they face penalties from the company including lower ratings and being locked out for a day.

Then there's the issue of tips.

Instacart sets a default tip amount of 5% at checkout, or a minimum of $2, far below the 15 or 20% that's the norm in much of the service industry. Customers can change their tip up to three days later, but shoppers said it's not an easy process for customers.

So for three days starting Sunday, Instacart workers are organizing a strike.

"If we're not out there taking these orders and rushing to get them, they don't make the money that they are making," Dorton said. "And they need to realize that they we are their company. We are their business."

Local shoppers said they don't want to hurt customers who need the service and are therefore encouraging them to plan their orders around the strike.

"Our goal is just to open the eyes of InstaCart and let them know that we are watching and this is not fair," Miller said.

"We take the feedback of the shopper community very seriously and remain committed to listening to and using that feedback to improve their experience," Instacart said in a statement.

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