Amazon has fixed an issue with its Flex contract delivery driver app that allowed sly drivers to pick more orders for delivery as compared to other drivers, a trick for rigging the system that involved hanging an iPhone on a tree near Whole Foods stores.
Amazon Flex is a retailer’s app-based service that facilitates on-demand deliveries but is used by the drivers who make the deliveries rather than the customers. For instance, if a delivery is to be made for Amazon’s Prime Now, the company uses Amazon Flex as a dispatch system to alert potential drivers to a delivery that is available to be picked up and delivered.
Some drivers who are well-versed with using the system were able to secure more deliveries within the dispatch system as compared to other inexperienced drivers. To get more deliveries, these drivers would hang iPhones running the Amazon Flex app on a tree near Whole Foods and Amazon depots that offer same-day deliveries, Bloomberg reported.
By keeping the smartphones close to the depots in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, and Chicago areas, this made the driver seem to be a lot closer and more immediately able to pick up the delivery than other drivers, despite being miles away. With each delivery worth $15 to the drivers (plus any tip), the competition led to some drivers resorting to using inventive ways to be picked.
Previously, this included hanging around in Whole Foods parking lots, though Amazon warned Flex drivers away from adopting such strategy in June. “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 company said in a statement.
To cope with the gaming of the system, Amazon changed how the app worked, with one source familiar with the app stating it required just a “few lines of code.” While Amazon kept the changes under wraps, it looks like the company didn’t create a dead zone around store locations to discourage savvy drivers from stalking the parking lot, and phone hanging, as this leads to increase delivery times for consumers.