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The Wall Street Journal reports on how "the rise of grocery-delivery apps such as Instacart, DoorDash and Uber Eats" has shifted the arguments and hostilities that sometimes would occur in supermarkets to online platforms, as "app disputes have at times mushroomed into battlefields over substitutions, pets and more."

Which puts the delivery apps in a tough position - they want to grow their business and serve customers, but they also have to look out for the people who are doing the physical shopping and making deliveries.

The Journal writes that "Instacart, the biggest U.S. grocery-delivery app by sales, in April began sending warning emails to customers who had been flagged by shoppers as troublemakers.

"'Hi,' the emails begin, 'We recently received a report of your behavior going against our Community Guidelines.'

"The notices caution customers not to berate shoppers, argue over out-of-stock items or their own murky directions or refuse to show identification for alcohol. Repeat offenders can be kicked off the app, according to the company.

"Instacart relies on more than 600,000 shoppers - all gig workers - and says addressing customer rudeness has been a recent top priority for the company’s team overseeing shoppers. Instacart said reports of rudeness fell by 90% after the warning notices started going out to customers flagged by multiple shoppers. The company said reports of rude behavior represent a very low percentage of total orders, and that it also seeks feedback from customers."

DoorDash, the Journal writes, "said it prohibits harassment by workers and users, and that violators are subject to reduced service or deactivation. The company added that customers can share substitution preferences before or during the order. Uber said earlier in the year that it made changes to its app to address shoppers’ pain points, including out-of-stock items."

KC's View:

It shouldn't be a surprise that in an increasingly intolerant world, where a lot of folks feel entitled and empowered to behave any way they want, these kinds of hostilities exist.  Of course they do.  And I'm sure there are plenty of occasions in which the gig workers are to blame for the problems.

I is interesting that in the Journal story, there is very little discussion or consideration of the retailers' dilemma.   They're committed to serving their customers, but they find themselves distanced from the shopper relationship in these cases, but so distanced that they're not going to be blamed by unhappy customers.

I think it is incumbent on retailers to work with the app platforms to find ways to be more plugged into the process so they can manage the relationships in a more effective way.