Economics/Class Relations

Walmart’s unknown drivers

August 21, 2023
Welcome back! The key to living long might exist in a surprising place: naked mole rats. A special anti-aging process enables them to live much longer than other rodents.


In today’s big story, we’re looking at Walmart’s issues with its delivery service and the wider problems in the gig economy.


What’s on deck:

  • Markets: Where you should be putting your money ahead of potential rate cuts.
  • Tech: Amazon is not planning on making many exceptions for its new RTO policy.
  • Business: The “black cloud” private lenders have created for college students.
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Walmart’s woes

Apriori1/Getty Images; Jenny Chang-Rodriguez/Insider


Your delivery has arrived! (We just aren’t sure who’s dropping it off.)

That’s reportedly the problem at Walmart’s delivery platform, Spark. Employees and drivers told Insider’s Yeji Jesse Lee and Alex Bitter the service has issues with drivers posing under different names across multiple phones.

As a result, other Spark drivers feel they are getting boxed out from getting orders by the handful of drivers in an area working under multiple names.

The trend could also pose a safety issue, according to some drivers, who said those working under an account that doesn’t belong to them might not have undergone a criminal background check.

“We actively monitor and deactivate accounts whenever we become aware of fraud and are continuously rolling out new features and solutions to further prevent this activity,” a Walmart spokesperson told Insider.

The company is rolling out facial recognition and an identity scan system to verify identities and prevent fraud.

Walmart’s issues with Spark are the latest in the laundry list of problems plaguing the broader gig economy.

Competition among drivers remains a real hangup. Instacart shoppers sometimes camp out in parking lots to compete for orders. Things got so bad that Costco told them to knock it off.

Bots have also become a headache (or a leg up) for gig workers. The tech enables users to claim orders quickly. But their usage violates the terms and conditions of most delivery apps.

That’s in addition to gig workers seeing their take-home pay dwindle following the highs of the pandemic. Last month Instacart cut its minimum base pay nearly in half, dropping it from $7 to $4 per order. Now the highest-earning orders are more extreme, with demands like 72-mile drives.

With base pay dropping, drivers largely rely on customers tipping, which has become a hotly debated topic.

The gig economy’s evolution isn’t that different from what’s taking place across tech. After years of operating at a loss to attract customers and grow in size, startups (and their investors) are putting their foot down.

But there’s a lot more at stake when adjustments are made to the gig economy as opposed to the rest of the tech universe. Some rely on it for supplemental — or their entire — income, while older people and those in rural areas might need the services to get groceries.


3 things in markets

Before the opening bell: US stock futures are up early Monday after a brutal week for the market.
Reuters / Brendan McDermid
  1. How to invest ahead of potential rate cuts in 2024. The Fed seems likely to lower rates by next year. So what to do in the meantime? Market experts recommend getting into bonds while yields remain high.  
  2. Everyone’s going bankrupt, but don’t sweat it. (Seriously.) Corporate bankruptcy filings this year are almost double what occurred in all of 2022. But as scary as that sounds, a few key indicators (bonds, banks) haven’t shown signs of concern.
  3. Companies are considering going public again. $3.7 billion data startup Cohesity hired a new CFO and is talking about getting ready for an IPO. And Instacart reportedly is on the cusp of filing paperwork with regulators for its plans to go public.
3 things in tech
Getty Images
  1. Tesla owners reveal tips for EV road trips. Range anxiety and lack of charging infrastructure are major hurdles for EV adoption. Yet Tesla owners say going electric on a road trip has benefits, like not having to pay for gas and getting to cruise on autopilot.
  2. Amazon wants to make return-to-office exceptions extremely rare. Some employees are considering extreme lengths to comply with the policy, like flying weekly from San Francisco to Seattle. Others are internally mocking the company’s leadership principles to make fun of the aggressive RTO policy.
  3. Former Google strategy and operations manager revealed his salary journey at the company. He said working there was like getting a mini-MBA. His first role at Google was as an analyst on the trust and safety team, making a total of $88,000. He ultimately climbed his way to a total compensation of $198,000.
3 things in business
Chelsea Jia Feng/Insider
  1. Private lenders have left millions of college students with no hope for the future. Amid a push for federal student-loan forgiveness, people who took out private loans remain stuck. Many came with predatory terms that make it impossible to pay down.
  2. How claims of theft, embezzlement, and abuse shut down a legendary Michelin-starred restaurant. Guests would book reservations for Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare months in advance. Yet it quietly ceased operating in July amid an ugly — and previously not reported — legal battle between the chef and Brooklyn Fare’s owner.
  3. Colleen Ballinger’s fans have grown up. Now, they can see through her act. She’s been a YouTube mainstay since 2008. But Ballinger has been accused of “grooming” her minor fans and making skits that included racist stereotypes. And some of her now-adult fans are examining how strange their relationships with her were.

Heavy rain, Amazon, & more


Earnings, “The Bachelorette,” & birthdays

  • Earnings on deck: Zoom and other companies.
  • The season 20 finale of “The Bachelorette” airs on ABC. Charity Lawson is down to two men on the reality television dating game.
  • “To Di World!” It’s Usain Bolt’s birthday. Kim Cattrall, Sergey Brin, and Bo Burnham were also born on this day.

Michigan’s $1 house

Chris Hubel/Good Company
Photos of the Michigan house that went viral for its $1 price tag. The two-bedroom fixer-upper in Pontiac, Michigan was called the “World’s Cheapest Home.”
The Insider Today team: Dan DeFrancesco, senior editor and anchor, in New York City. Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York City.
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