And if you live in NY, you not only have a favorite bodega, you probably have a favorite bodega cat. Ironically named "Bodega" after the stores they hope to eradicate, the startup founded by two ex-Google employees plans to install unmanned pantry boxes in apartment buildings, offices, dorms, and gyms that provide basic household items typically provided by the neighborhood Bodega. Unlike classic bodegas and mom-and-pop corner stores, these machine box things will not make you an egg and cheese on a roll, and they will certainly not recognize you and talk with you about whatever the hell you talk about at 2 a.m. on a weekday when you've wandered in cuz you can't sleep and now you're hungry. Then, cameras powered with computer vision will register what the user has selected and automatically charge their credit card. It's nearly as if the co-founders (ex-Google employees, for what it's worth) have never lived in a city where bodega as a crucial neighborhood resource.
Former Google product manager Paul McDonald said he and fellow ex-Googler Ashwath Rajan cooked up the concept to appeal to people who don't want to walk around the corner for groceries, he told business magazine Fast Company.
Bodega owners in NY are already facing an uncertain future.
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It might also face stiff opposition in New York: Frank Garcia, the chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told Fast Company that he "would ask my members not to allow these machines in any of their properties in New York State". Each case carries different products, depending on what the company has assessed to be the most popular items in that particular community. There is actually nothing at all interesting about this invention besides the appropriation of the bodega name and culture being specifically used in order to make local bodegas obsolete. They're going out of business, Garcia said, because of costs including rent, licenses, insurance and fines and the juggling of business mandates, inspections and so on. Before 2018 ends, they hope to have more than a thousand machines. "The intention was to support immigrants".
Silicon Valley seems to be obsessed with "disrupting" services that already exist-and, for decades, have worked just fine-in New York City, whether it's laundromats or dollar vans or even dog-walkers. (Search "bodega" on Twitter if you don't believe me.) McDonald and Rajan claim to have done some outreach, but it rings a bit hollow: "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, '" McDonald said.
Is there actually a chance of this start-up displacing real bodegas in New York City? But some Twitter users did take issue with the name.