Many Instacart shoppers still don't have their COVID-19 safety gear

The wait is partly intentional.

REUTERS/Cheney Orr

Instacart’s plans to give shoppers masks and sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic are proceeding slower than many employees would like, and that’s partly on purpose. In response to workers’ concerns, the company told Wired in a statement that it had capped orders for the safety gear (which goes through the company store) to “thousands” per day. It needed to slow the rate of fulfillment to make sure each order was coming from a real shopper. The problem, though, is that the process appears to be fraught with issues.

There’s no queue, so workers have to check every day for stock — and supplies may only be available for minutes before they run out. The company reportedly hasn’t said much about how to place orders or when, either. The lack of info has led to shoppers relying on unofficial communities to get details.

While Instacart is likely constrained by supply (masks and other equipment are in high demand worldwide), this bottleneck creates problems for both shoppers and customers. Workers either have to scramble to buy protective items separately or accept the risk of infection. That, in turn, could lead to unwanted days off, customers waiting longer for food and the risk of spreading the virus to others.