Delivery Gig Workers Use Google Maps to Identify Tip-Baiting Customers

In an ongoing battle against "tip-baiting," gig workers, particularly those employed by Instacart and other delivery apps, have taken to utilizing Google Maps to label customers known for reducing or eliminating tips after the completion of their orders. The practice aims to assist fellow shoppers and drivers in avoiding customers with a history of low-tipping.

Tip-baiting, a practice long resented by gig workers, involves customers initially placing orders with substantial tips, only to later diminish or remove the tip altogether once the service has been provided. This issue is particularly problematic for gig workers who rely heavily on tips, given that base pay from platforms like DoorDash can be as minimal as $2 per order, and Instacart recently reduced its base pay to $4.

A trend has emerged where gig workers are collaboratively marking residences of suspected tip-baiters on Google Maps across the US. The labeling, such as designating houses as "Tip Baiter," is intended to serve as a warning for other workers. It helps them identify and potentially decline orders from such customers, thereby safeguarding their income.

Several instances of houses being labeled as "Tip Baiter" were discovered on Google Maps, though some of these markings reportedly vanished after inquiries were made to Google. The company claimed to be in the process of removing such listings, as they conflict with its policy of only featuring legitimate public businesses on its platform.

Instacart shoppers, who requested anonymity due to fear of backlash, shared insights into this practice. One Minnesota-based Instacart shopper disclosed that she maintains a private map containing tip-baiting addresses. If she learns that another shopper encountered a similar issue with a specific customer, she adds a noticeable marker to Google Maps. This collective effort among workers to signal problematic customers extends beyond Instacart to include Walmart's Spark delivery service employees as well.

Workers are cautioned by Instacart's policies not to disclose confidential information, including customer addresses, outside of the app, and to avoid engaging in harassment or discriminatory behavior. Customers are allowed a two-hour window after delivery to adjust their tips. In cases where tips are decreased or eliminated, Instacart compensates workers up to $10 as reimbursement for the lost tip.

While Google Maps serves as a platform for identifying tip-baiters, the company utilizes machine-learning algorithms to identify and potentially remove non-compliant listings. Gig workers, however, remain committed to the practice, with some going so far as to leave reviews on Google, detailing customer behaviors that negatively impact their earnings.

In conclusion, gig workers have harnessed Google Maps as a tool to counter the issue of tip-baiting, offering a collaborative approach to help their peers avoid low-tipping customers. The labeling practice, while contested by platforms and regulations, continues to gain traction among workers seeking to protect their earnings in the gig economy.

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