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The Effects of Instacart Bots

Grocery delivery services have become an increasingly popular method of shopping, creating a massive job market for food shoppers. However, some shoppers are using Instacart bots to snatch up orders before others have the chance, disrupting the system and disadvantaging bot-less workers.

By Mariana Ranzahuer
July 9, 2020

How online shopping has revolutionized industries

As the world is experiencing unparalleled circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most people have been forced to change their lifestyles and habits to comply with stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines. Luckily, modern-day technology has made it possible for many to work remotely, connect with family members across the globe, and shop from the comfort of their homes. Online shopping has increased in popularity by enabling anyone with a smartphone or electronic device to shop for books, household supplies, clothes, and even groceries—delivered straight to their door.

Instacart is a service that facilitates grocery shopping through an app, which allows users to select individual items from a variety of stores and to specify a preferred time and method of delivery. After the customer submits the order, a personal shopper purchases all of the products on the customer’s behalf—even following special requests, if applicable—and delivers the personalized order (referred to on the app as a batch) to the customer’s front door.

New data shows that Instacart has received a major boost in application use since the beginning of the pandemic, resulting in the company hiring 250,000 additional workers.

Instacart bots

As Instacart shopping has become a more populated and competitive job market, bots have emerged as additional contenders. This is problematic because Instacart shoppers are paid according to order completion, which varies in price depending on collection time and delivery routes. In light of the high demand for Instacart batches, an Instacart hack has surged from third-party bots that snatch the high-valued batches before other shoppers are able to claim them.

Third-party bot intruders

Third-party apps, like Ninja Hours and Sushopper, are popping up all the time, allowing shoppers to pay for early access to orders. Essentially, these apps deploy bots that snatch batches as soon as they are posted, preventing bot-less users from being able to accept and complete orders. The use of these platforms is obviously disadvantageous to shoppers who play by the rules and don’t use Instacart bots. Especially in big cities, Instacart shoppers are reporting that they’re unable to find available delivery time slots for days or weeks on end.

What’s next?

Instacart has consequently faced accusations of neglecting to protect its employees from the hacks of batch-stealing bots. For a while now, the company has been claiming to work on banning unauthorized third parties from accepting batches. However, as we see an increase in bot activity being implemented through other similar delivery apps, there are clearly challenging obstacles to overcome in order to successfully prevent the infiltration of bots on delivery apps.