wnol.info July 19 2018

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

July 19 2018, 04:48 | Alonzo Simpson

Bodega hopes to replace the corner store with a more convenient vending machine cabinet. Bodega

Bodega hopes to replace the corner store with a more convenient vending machine cabinet.   Bodega

And if you live in NY, you not only have a favorite bodega, you probably have a favorite bodega cat.

Bodega, in addition to acting conceptually as a corner store and using the name traditionally associated with the mom-and-pop shops, has also chosen a cat as its logo.

People are not happy with these two former Googlers who have launched a startup that seriously jeopardizes the future of mom-and-pop corner stores and bodegas.

Tech startup Bodega aims to replace beloved brick-and-mortar bodegas with more convenient, automatic-billing "pantry boxes", according to a Wednesday article by business magazine 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", McDonald said.

On the first Thursday of February, New Yorkers were met with an unusual sight: closed bodegas. With a click of an app, users can unlock the box and pick up items automatically charged to their credit card while cameras register the entire transaction. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the "store".

Filling its pantry boxes with hundreds of different kinds of products will make it hard to keep up with unpredictable demand, she writes, particularly when the boxes are user-customized and have hundreds, if not thousands, of different items in small quantities.

The end goal of Bodega is to collect data about its customers in specific areas, and then "use machine learning to constantly reassess the 100 most-needed items in that community".

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And this, ultimately, is why Bodega-the-company comes off as utterly tone-deaf; it ignores the fact that the human experience that an actual bodega provides can not be replicated by a tricked-out minibar.

A pair of California, ex-Google staffers are trying to put the local corner store out of business with a glorified vending machine they are calling "Bodega".

Bodega owners in NY are already facing an uncertain future.

Instead, McDonald says that Bodega is created to put tiny automated stores where there is now little or no retail offerings, like apartment lobbies, gyms, and college dormitories.

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".

Garcia points out that bodega owners are already struggling thanks to grocery-delivery services and rising rents, and this startup would just add another nail to the coffin.

"The "bodega" name is a very important name in the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community", Garcia tells CNBC Make It.

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