This startup is trying to replace corner shops and people are absolutely roasting them

Jessica Brown@Jessica_E_Brown
Friday 22 September 2017 09:00
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Picture:(Juanmonino / iStock)

The humble corner shop, or bodega, is a staple of city life. The little TARDIS like shops seem to have almost everything, and have become an institution close to many resident's hearts. So when a start-up called Bodega announced plans that might make 'bodegas and mom-and-pop corner stores obsolete' - people got rather miffed.

Their plans involve something called the “bodega unit” – which, if we're honest, is just a glorified vending machine.

The start-up was formed by ex-Google employees Ashwath Rajan and Paul McDonald, and in a profile of the business on Fast Company they explained their invention will give people a more customised shopping experience.

The five-foot-wide “pantry boxes, filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store,” will be installed in apartments, offices, dorms and gyms.

People unlock the box with an app, and cameras register what you take and charge your bank card automatically. There’s no human interaction required.

They hope to stock the units depending on the taste of one particular area, and believe people in the same place will share fairly similar tastes.

McDonald told Fast Company:

Each community tends to have relatively homogenous tastes, given that they live or work in the same place. By studying their buying behaviour, we’re hoping to eventually figure out how the needs of people in one apartment building differ from those in another. We could customise the items in one dorm versus the next.

To say people 'aren’t happy' about the thought of saying goodbye to their corner shops would be an understatement.

They. Are. Livid.

Seriously.

No one is pleased.

After the backlash, Bodega wrote on its website:

The name Bodega sparked a wave of criticism on social media far beyond what we ever imagined. When we first came up with the idea to call the company Bodega we recognised that there was a risk of it being interpreted as misappropriation.

Challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal. Corner stores have been fixtures of their neighbourhoods for generations. They stock thousands of items, far more than we could ever fit on a few shelves.

Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas, we clearly hit a nerve this morning, we apologise. Rather than disrespect to traditional corner stores — or worse yet, a threat — we intended only admiration.

Phew.

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