So, three months have passed since Shipt launched. So, how is it going?
Well... these Facebook posts are rather indicative:
Well, they recently made a change to their algorithm for order offers, which has greatly upset a great number of the shoppers and even for those that aren't upset, it has altered how people schedule. Some people have removed themselves from the schedule out of protest, while others have done so out of necessity, so that their ranking isn't affected by missing offers while working at another job.
The end result, though, is the same (especially in smaller/newer cities like Columbus) -- no open windows in which to place orders, and fewer orders offered to shoppers.
What's It Mean For Me?
Columbus is a small market. It literally just launched three months ago, and after the initial launch, there hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of marketing around here. As a result, there's only a small, albeit rather loyal set of customers, and not much in the way of new customers. Some areas have more people and possibly more new customers, but overall, there aren't that many.
I relied on that loyal customer base, though. Very often, I'd get the same half a dozen or so people, with one or two "strays" (of people to whom I don't often, if ever, deliver), and I had a rather steady income of around $100/week. It's not a lot, by any stretch, but it was enough to fund my HSA account and my soap business. It was literally the difference between crashing at a hotel in Cincinnati this past Friday night for a craft show on Saturday and getting up at 5am to drive down there. So no, not a lot, but enough.
Now, as a result of the recent changes, the number of orders I'm offered has reduced dramatically. This is in no small part due the fact that there are days and times when I'm the only one on the schedule (there need to be at least two on schedule in order for the window to be open to taking orders). I've gone from 6-10 orders a week to as low as 1. If I get more, it's usually because I've picked up orders elsewhere in the city, but even that is drying up, and both the shoppers and the customers enter a sort of "death spiral" -- no one orders, because there's no one to shop the order, and no one shops orders, because no one orders.
What's Going To Happen Going Forward?
I'm going to hang on to Shipt for a while, yet. The flexibility can't really be beat, though I am starting to seriously consider Lyft, especially since I'm not far from the airport, can work in the evenings, and could feasibly make a fair bit. I'd like to try to ride out these bumps in the road and continue to provide feedback to the company. They have a great model and concept, but their execution just needs some work.
So What's Going On?
I can't really say specifically without risking the terms of my employment contract with them, but that's exactly it -- they are very opaque about just about everything. This most recent policy change was clearly something that was in the works for months and included technological changes that were implemented upwards of six weeks prior. At the time of implementation, we were assured that it was just for statistical purposes and it wouldn't affect the offer algorithm "anytime soon." Well, apparently, "anytime soon" is code for "within the next month," because about six weeks later, they gave us a "head's up" that it was going to start factoring into the offer algorithm.
Starting that following Monday.
That was two weeks ago.
There was supposed to be a follow-up providing more information. That follow-up has yet to come.
This has, unfortunately, been a pattern for the company, and it's only going to get worse as they grow (since they plan on adding something like 100 cities this year; or that was their goal at our launch). I even called them out on this lack of communication and transparency, and was met with the typical "we try to be as transparent as possible" corporate-esque answer. It's great that they "try," but as Yoda put it so aptly, "No. Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try."
And it can be done. Buffer does it. Yep, it's hard. Yep, it's scary. I can pretty much guarantee those folks will say they and their company are better for it, though. Hell, they're not new at it, they've been going strong with it for over 5 years. Since they recently bought Respondly, it's clearly working for them. And they are transparent about everything. Everyone's salaries, open source code, even projects that ultimately end up getting scrapped. It's all there for the whole world to see.
It sure as hell would help us shoppers out if we better understood the roadmap that this recent change is supposed to be the first step for. As it stands, we're just getting a bunch of stuff that impact our ability to make ourselves and the company money, and told "trust us," while getting no information, or worse -- incomplete information.
Don't get me wrong, this job was never intended to be a "career" for me. It's most definitely a stepping stone. A means to an end (that end being my own business). However, I was expecting it to last longer. Regardless of how I feel about how the company is handling its growth (both actual and planned), if I can't make money -- especially for reasons beyond my control -- then I'm forced to look elsewhere.