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This Startup Wants to Make Bodegas Obsolete and Twitter Is Not Here For It

Bodega, the startup, is not winning many internet fans

Photo: Bodega
Monica Burton is the deputy editor of

The latest unwanted tech “innovation” aims to make the bodega obsolete, and Twitter is not having it. A startup, boldly called Bodega, has invented a vending machine that would house non-perishable convenience items, which sounds fine. But, the two ex-Google employees behind the concept are positioning it as a replacement for the local corner store, even adopting a cat as the company’s logo, a reference to the cats that live at convenience stores in cities like New York and Los Angeles.

The app would allow users to unlock the five-foot-wide pantry boxes and cameras with computer vision will register the items taken. The app then automatically charges the credit card on file. Like many startups, the idea seems to be to eliminate the human part of an everyday transaction. Co-founder Paul McDonald is explicit about Bodega’s mission: “The vision here is much bigger than the box itself,” he says in Fast Company. “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.”

Although some can see the benefits of a vending machine selling convenience store items (including, for example, standardizing prices), for most of Twitter, the future McDonald describes doesn’t look so rosy. Some say Bodega isn’t just a bad idea, but also offensive. Bodegas are often owned by immigrants and people of color and serve as communal spaces for entire neighborhoods. Eliminating bodegas would not only destroy livelihoods, but also that feeling of community:

Others are taking a moment to point out that a generic box can in no way actually replace the bodega:

Many feel that retribution for this bad idea is best left in the paws of the bodega cats:

And finally:

Update, 9/13/17, 4:25 p.m: McDonald apologized for any offense caused by the company’s name on Bodega’s blog this afternoon. “Challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal,” he says. Rather, Bodega’s intends to “bring commerce to places where commerce currently doesn’t exist.”

Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete [Fast Company]