Eater.com – “You know what this place needs,” I said to myself this morning, as I went into the little store around the corner where I buy my daily coffee, my breakfast sandwiches, my late-night potato chips, and my emergency tampons. “What it needs is less stuff, and to be inside my apartment building, and also to accept Apple Pay.”
No, of course I didn’t say that. If you’re a living human being in the United States who has ever had a dollar in your pocket, you’ve probably been in a bodega — or, depending on where you live, maybe you call it a corner store, convenience store, deli, packie (short for “package store”), or party store. Maybe it’s attached to a gas station. Maybe it is a gas station. For some reason, former Google employees Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan think all of them need to be disrupted.
A Fast Company story this morning profiled Bodega, the duo’s startup (which has drawn investment from high-profile firms like First Round Capital and Forerunner Ventures, as well as executives at Facebook, Google, and more), which seeks to replace these corner stores with boxes. Specifically, five-foot-wide, wifi-enabled boxes stocked with non-perishable goods, which we can access by downloading an app, and picking up the items we’d like in view of a computer-vision camera which will automatically charge us for our purchase. “Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary,” McDonald told Fast Company, “because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you.”
The backlash was swift. Declaring that you want to replace family-run, neighborhood-oriented storefront retail with computerized protein-bar transaction cubes is not really the fast track to community embrace. There’s a lot to loathe (and a lot to mock) about Bodega, including the name itself, which nods to the immigrant families who often own the stores the startup wants to put out of business. (Thoughtfully, Fast Company asked McDonald about that. He replied, “We did surveys in the Latin American community to understand if they felt the name was a misappropriation of that term or had negative connotations, and 97% said ‘no’.”)
SMFH people are really trying to appropriate Bodegas now?? I’ll stop at a Bodega before any fancy vending machine or major chain. You get to know the owners personally and can get some of the best food around for the low low and they never hold back on the serving size (those of you in South Jersey that live near a Lucky 7, get a Belly Buster and thank me later). I’m happy they got the backlash that they received, we need to end this madness before it starts.