Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Startup's plan to replace bodegas meets backlash on social media

Startup's plan to replace bodegas meets backlash on social media

"The vision here is much bigger than the box itself", McDonald explained in a story published by 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".

A startup company installing boxes with bodega staples in apartment buildings and similar locations has been met with fierce opposition from New Yorkers attached to their corner stores.

As essential part of living in NY is stopping by your local bodega for a breakfast sandwich, late-night snack or even a six pack. It's an essential neighborhood hub, where locals congregate and gossip about what's happening in the area.

McDonald and Rajan's venture, which not-so-ironically is called Bodega, envisions five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items that can be opened with an app and will automatically charge customers for what they take. While the concept for Bodega makes sense, if successful it could have a huge adverse impact on many black and minority owned urban businesses and local economies already struggling against the backdrop of gentrification.

An app unlocks the box, and camera sensors see what you take so that you are charged accordingly. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the "store". And not everyone has a credit card. And get this-their logo is even a Bodega cat. What does the company unoriginally named after actual bodegas actually do? When a bunch of Puerto Ricans starting calling [their stores] 'bodegas, ' they didn't intend them to be vending machines.

But the future of that bodega experience may be threatened by a new innovation - which borrowed the same name - started by two former Google employees. "These are marginalized business owners to begin with in places like Oakland, New York and San Francisco". Something tells me they did not consult, say, the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, because according to the article, the chairman of the coalition, Frank Garcia, is not pleased at all.

McDonald and Rajan have raised 2.5 million dollars to invest in their company but not only are people underwhelmed by the lack of originality behind Bodega, if successful, the startup would become yet another mainstream enterprise which would threaten the livelihood of working-class local business owners.

As you may know, the industry of bodegas and mom-and-pop corner shops has been on a steady decline in face of the rising costs of rent and the competition of grocery delivery companies like FreshDirect. How much are we willing to sacrifice for convenience?

Like this: