When Louise Saler-Reinier started making enough to pay her bills by delivering groceries, she was thrilled. She had previously worked as an Instacart shopper in and around Chicago but had grown frustrated with low wages and customers who pulled their tips just after their groceries were delivered. Then she discovered Dumpling, a grocery delivery app founded in 2017 as an ethical alternative to gig economy stalwarts.
On Dumpling, couriers set their own rates, shop at whichever stores they want, and develop relationships with customers who book them specifically. For a monthly fee or $5 per transaction, Dumpling provides them with digital tools, puts their profiles in a searchable database that can generate business, and issues Dumpling credit cards that cover the cost of groceries until the customer can be charged.
Saler-Reinier joined Dumpling in February. Through dogged marketing efforts on Facebook and Nextdoor, she was able to build a sustainable business called “Louise Shops for You” and even had the option to set a minimum tip for herself. But this summer, the company began introducing changes she didn’t like. It added additional processing fees and started sending Dumpling marketing emails to her customers. What really pushed Saler-Reinier over the edge, though, was Dumpling’s decision to remove the minimum tip option. “I’m not going to stand here and let you treat me like Instacart,” she told OneZero about Dumpling.
While apps like Instacart and DoorDash have been criticized for tip stealing and low pay, Dumpling originally positioned itself as the worker-friendly alternative. “With multiple years of all these multi-demand apps, we know that workers are going to be exploited and screwed at some point and their pay is going to be drastically reduced,” Dumpling CEO Joel Shapiro said in an interview with TechCrunch in July. “We’re trying to make them ultimately have control so the rug can’t be pulled out underneath them.”