Walmart's delivery program is having an identity crisis. Some drivers aren't who they say they are.

When Mike Del Rio started working as a delivery driver for Walmart's in-house delivery platform, Spark, he initially found the pay to be good. He mentioned that he was making around $150 for a five-hour shift delivering groceries for Walmart stores in northern Utah, which was better than what he earned as a driver for platforms like Uber and Instacart. However, things changed earlier this year.

Del Rio started experiencing long periods of waiting in his car without receiving any delivery orders. At the same time, he noticed a few drivers consistently coming and going from the parking lot, completing one order after another. Eventually, Del Rio discovered that some drivers were using different names each day and had multiple accounts on the Spark app. They even used two phones simultaneously to pick up orders in front of Walmart employees. (This information has been verified by Insider.)

Del Rio is not the only driver who has noticed this pattern. Multiple Spark drivers across the US have observed an increasing number of drivers using multiple accounts on the Spark app to receive more orders and earn more money. 

While Walmart has been focused on expanding Spark in recent years, drivers and employees claim that the company has struggled to address a significant issue affecting not only drivers but also customer safety. This issue involves drivers misrepresenting their identities. Insider interviewed six Spark drivers and a Walmart employee who works with Spark drivers, some of whom requested anonymity due to concerns about potential retaliation by Walmart, including deactivation.

In summary, there have been reports of some Spark drivers using multiple accounts and identities, which raises concerns regarding both driver integrity and customer safety.  

In a statement to Insider, a Walmart spokesperson said that Spark "takes any reports of fraudulent activity seriously and has deployed many of the same enhancements other platforms have introduced to identify and prevent fraudulent activity, including process improvements, product, and technical solutions and confirming the identity of drivers picking up and delivering orders."

"We actively monitor and deactivate accounts whenever we become aware of fraud and are continuously rolling out new features and solutions to further prevent this activity," the spokesperson added. "We encourage drivers to report any concerns to Spark Driver platform driver support so we can investigate and take the appropriate action."

Some Spark drivers are delivering under multiple names and phones to grab more orders 

Launched in 2018, Walmart originally described Spark as a "crowdsourced delivery platform" that offered grocery deliveries directly to customers' doorsteps. As home deliveries of groceries grew with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart ended partnerships with platforms like DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft to focus on delivering its products to customers' doorsteps directly.

And it's only continued to grow: Walmart says that over the past year, it's tripled the number of drivers on its Spark platform.

During an earnings call in late 2022, Walmart's chief financial officer, John David Rainey, said Spark served customers in all 50 states at over 10,000 pickup points. While it still works with some third-party apps, Spark has grown to become Walmart's largest local-delivery-service provider. 

But amid the growth, Walmart has had to combat a ballooning issue.

Joseph, a Spark driver in New Jersey who asked to be identified by only his first name, told Insider that over the past year, he's seen how other drivers use multiple phones to get more orders on the Spark app. At the same time, he's seen his pay drop drastically, he said. 

"To be honest with you, I do this to try and keep in some kind of decent shape. It keeps me moving, it keeps my steps going when I'm shopping, and I enjoy doing it," he said, but added: "It's not fun anymore when you're going uphill, and there's no way of making it." 

Gregory Carr, a Spark driver in Mississippi, told Insider that he used to drive for Spark full-time, working up to 60 hours a week. "For me, this job was supposed to represent being your own boss, making decent money without problems." But now he's pivoted to driving an armored money truck as pay from the platform has dwindled. 

"I have to go to work with a bulletproof vest on every day. I have to put my life at risk just to try to make ends meet for my family because Walmart Spark failed me," he added. "If they fire me because I talked to you, so be it. It can't hurt me because I don't make money anyway."

A Walmart supervisor in Texas who oversees online pickup and delivery orders said that of the 20 or so Spark drivers that pick up regularly at his store, he estimates that about half of them are working under names that aren't their own. 

"It just became obvious through the natural process of the business that this was happening," he said. "When somebody shows up under three different names, it's just sort of like, OK, what's going on here?"

spark platform
Spark has tripled the number of drivers on its platform over the past year. 
Yeji Jesse Lee/Insider

Spark's Terms of Use prohibit "sharing accounts, using another person's account, activating multiple accounts, or entering false information into the Spark Driver App."

Many drivers Insider spoke to said they had reported fraudulent drivers to Spark to no avail. "We need some sort of intervention or help with this," one report reviewed by Insider said.

A Walmart spokesperson told Insider that "complaints related to potential or suspected fraudulent activity are investigated and our team takes the appropriate action." The spokesperson added that while Walmart doesn't share personnel decisions related to drivers, it takes driver feedback seriously and uses it to "inform platform enhancements, including trust- and safety-related updates."

Spark has been accused of another issue related to its drivers. Earlier this year, Spark drivers protested at a Walmart Supercenter in Illinois over what they described as a prevalence of drivers who use bots on Spark. The protestors said that some drivers use third-party codes or apps to automatically claim orders, making it harder for other drivers to get them. Other platforms, like DoorDash and Instacart, have faced similar complaints about bot usage over the past few years.

There's no consistent company policy to verify drivers' identities, but a new rollout may change that

Drivers told Insider that inconsistent policies across Walmart stores have only exacerbated the issue of drivers posing under multiple names.

Several drivers said that while some stores check drivers' IDs before dispensing orders, others don't, and have said they are not allowed to do so.

One Spark driver in Illinois told Insider that orders available to her began to decline this spring. Then, on the Fourth of July, one of the stores she frequents for deliveries started asking drivers to show their IDs to pick up an order. 

The driver said she noticed fewer people showing up to the store to pick up and deliver orders after that. "We had no problem receiving orders" after the ID requirement took effect, she told Insider.

A customer at a Walmart checkout line
Several Spark drivers said that different stores they deliver for have different policies for checking drivers' IDs before dispensing orders. 
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The online pickup and delivery supervisor in Texas told Insider that earlier this year when he tried to implement ID checks at his store, he was told by a superior that he was not allowed to do so.

"Walmart just wants the orders delivered, and they don't seem to really care how," he said. "They're just not tackling this issue fast enough."

Recently though, Walmart started rolling out a new verification process for Spark drivers. The process requires drivers to take pictures of themselves periodically using the Spark app on their phones to ensure it matches their photo ID. 

"As we continue to scale, we're focused on bringing drivers more opportunities to earn and making it easier for drivers to earn, while preventing fraudulent activity on the platform," a spokesperson for the company told Insider. 

Other delivery platforms like DoorDash and Instacart already require this sort of periodic identification and take action against workers who cannot confirm their identity.

Walmart began asking more Spark drivers to complete the verification process last week, according to the Walmart supervisor in North Texas. On Monday, a Facebook group for Spark drivers included several posts asking about the new verification requirements.

Last week, drivers at the supervisor's store told him that they were prompted by the app to verify their identity each time they picked up an order. But by Friday, some drivers told the supervisor that the Spark app had already stopped asking them to verify themselves.

Walmart declined to comment on the record of the pause in the area.

"Based on our initial findings, the tool is effective and we are seeing positive results," a spokesperson told Insider in an email. "We'll continue to listen to driver feedback and evolve the platform to give drivers a better experience."

'It's really a safety issue,' a Spark driver said

While Walmart offers in-home delivery by associates employed by the company, Spark drivers only deliver to customers' doorsteps, and the platform's Terms of Use prohibit drivers from entering homes. But several drivers told Insider they fear fraudulent drivers on Spark could pose a safety issue for consumers who disclose their home addresses to receive deliveries.  

If a driver delivers orders under an account that doesn't belong to them, they may not have undergone the criminal background and motor-vehicle-report checks that Spark requires of new drivers. 

Jessica, a Spark driver in Florida who has been driving for the platform for about two years and asked to be identified by only her first name, told Insider that one of her main concerns is the safety of customers who likely aren't aware that some drivers on the platform have not been properly vetted. 

"We have full access. We go through security, we have access to their codes to get into their property," she said. "Walmart is allowing all this. Walmart's allowing all these people access to their customers."

The Spark driver in Illinois called the lack of verification "a real safety issue." Many of the customers they deliver to are older people, she added.

"I hope that Walmart can acknowledge that there's a huge issue with public trust," she said. "People believe that all of us drivers have been verified."

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