Amazon delivery drivers reportedly say their plot to outsmart the company's system to land orders by hanging smartphones in trees has been foiled

  • Amazon drivers reportedly hung smartphones in trees outside of Whole Foods locations in order to be chosen over competing drivers to make deliveries.
  • That plan has reportedly stopped working, according to Bloomberg, and drivers say they've noticed a change in how the system chooses them for delivery routes.
  • A driver also told the outlet that they've noticed the smartphones disappear from where they were placed in the trees.
  • The reports come as the gig economy and its workers face increasing competition amid a steep drop in business during the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.


Amazon delivery drivers who had devised a system of hanging phones in trees outside of Whole Foods stores to secure deliveries ahead of competing drivers say the plan has been foiled, according to a new Bloomberg report.

Contract drivers told the outlet that they think Amazon has plugged the hole in its algorithm that allowed the drivers to play its system, a change that a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg would be easy for Amazon to make.

Drivers who had been frequently chosen for online orders since they were closer to pick-up spots, like Whole Foods stores, said they aren't getting the same amount of work, and others, located further from where orders originate say they're being chosen more often.

A driver also told the outlet that the phones are no longer placed in trees outside of a Whole Foods location where they normally were. The system was put in place by a network of drivers who were looking to secure deliveries ahead of competing drivers that weren't in on the scheme, as Bloomberg earlier reported.

In response to the new report, an Amazon spokesperson echoed its previous statement to Business Insider in an email. The company had previously said "Instant Offers are another way for delivery partners to be their own boss and work on their own schedule," referring to Amazon's fast-delivery options.

"This story isn't an accurate description of how they work, and waiting in the parking lot or using the store Wi-Fi is not an effective way to increase one's chances of seeing an instant offer," the spokesperson added, referring to the Tuesday report.

The reports come as the gig economy and its workers, including those for ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft, grapple with a steep drop in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Bloomberg noted, the drivers involved in the smartphone plot make about $15 for every delivery they are able to snag.

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