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:
anyway, if a store on the corner isn't convenient enough for you, it ain't convenience keeping you out of the bodega. it's the people.— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) September 13, 2017
- Founded by two ex-Googlers— Kelly Ellis (@justkelly_ok) September 13, 2017
- Stated business model: make local, immigrant-owned businesses obsolete
- Audacity to name it "Bodega"
- Ew pic.twitter.com/gQD1IpGse0
Weird that they're calling this heinous vending machine "Bodega" and not "Gentrification Box" https://t.co/xPCozclRRD— Tristan Cooper (@TristanACooper) September 13, 2017
Dear America: I would like to take this opportunity to apologize that the Bay Area even exists. https://t.co/qv2iG5Ko0v— John Birdsall (@John_Birdsall) September 13, 2017
Others are taking a moment to point out that a generic box can in no way actually replace the bodega:
*Walks into bodega*— Clumsy King (@CushKobain) September 13, 2017
Me: "Let me get a chopped cheese with grilled onion."
My bodega guy lives in my building; I'd like to see your dumb machine bring you an egg sammie at 11pm & talk about its world travels https://t.co/siSA2hFLKl— Danielle Henderson (@knottyyarn) September 13, 2017
If you think this is a threat to the bodega, you should go to a bodega for the first time in your life. https://t.co/T7Wf5azZoj— Philip Bump (@pbump) September 13, 2017
Many feel that retribution for this bad idea is best left in the paws of the bodega cats:
I've never longed for anyone to be mauled to death by actual bodega cats but here we are https://t.co/mgG5WtD2Vd— Andi Zeisler (@andizeisler) September 13, 2017
Now is the time for the Great Bodega Cat Uprising of 2017— Adrienne Vogt (@AdrienneVogt) September 13, 2017
tfw you just heard about Bodega pic.twitter.com/0HVVRaARq4— Daniel Radosh (@danielradosh) September 13, 2017
I've talked it over with my family and after much prayer and consideration I will take all the obsolete bodega cats.— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) September 13, 2017
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.”