Many gig economy workers will do anything to stand out and get ahead of others engaged in their side hustles as significant changes to nearly every aspect of traditional work infrastructure transform the global workforce. Amazon Flex deliveries are so competitive, drivers are using tools to secure work that actually violate the company’s terms of service.
Each would-be driver has the Flex app on their smartphone and begins the day checking it for available shifts in their area. Repeatedly refreshing the app’s job screen is critical to confirming a billable delivery route. Hundreds of drivers are competing for each delivery, which pays between $18 and $25 an hour.
Some workers are consequently using a bot — a hardware and software amalgam to perform a simple online task — in order to better their odds of getting a gig.
The problem is that engaging bots to better their chance for work is against Amazon’s policies. But some drivers are comfortable with this violation because the income is needed and Amazon is Amazon.
“Their business model is basically one that acts like someone tossing a fish into a bucket of lobsters,” said a former Flex driver named Jonathan Lee Provost. “We all have to fight for a meal and literally have to manually tap several times per second, nonstop, until we see a block.”
There are also social media groups for “Flexers” who intensely monitor for new shifts.
“You start to learn when shifts become available, but there’s no guarantee you’ll open the app and something will be there,” Polenz said. “It’s completely unpredictable.”
A company spokesperson confirmed with CNBC that bots are prohibited by Amazon.
“We’re committed to creating fair opportunities for our delivery partners to secure delivery blocks,” the spokesperson said. “The use of third party tools to accept work creates an unfair advantage, is against our policies, and can result in removal from the Amazon Flex program.”