Silicon Valley has done it again. “It” meaning appropriate something that already exists and reinvent it in a way that kills local business, and discourages from anyone from interacting with another actual human being ever again.
You may be thinking that this article is about the time that Lyft reinvented the bus, or the time that Soylent reinvented Slimfast, or that Juicero reinvented using your hands to squeeze something. Nope! I’m thinking about the time that “Bodega” reinvented the vending machine.
Bodega is the product of two ex-Googlers, who aim to “make [the] corner store a thing of the past”. The name is a nod to corner stores in parts of New York and LA, and the logo is a cat, a nod to the bodega cat meme.
What does Bodega do?
Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the “store.”
Your author found a similar device within steps of his desk. It carried spicy Cheetos. The credit card swipe was broken, though.
What’s with the cultural appropriation of the name “bodega”, and why are you so focused on taking the human element out of a neighborhood lynchpin? A friend of mine was recently working on getting a grant to provide Narcan free of charge to bodega owners in Bushwick. How is your vending machine going to serve the same community need?
Why not just work with the bodega owners to streamline and update their inventory management systems to better serve their local customers?
Is this just a vending machine, or is it the above mentioned improved inventory management and delivery system?
What would it be like if Silicon Valley was somehow incented to tackle problems that are larger than unemploying working class people?
After the article FastCo article was published, and Bodega got dragged on social media, the owner responded, saying that they’re “Definitely not [trying to put corner stores out of business]. Challenging the urban corner store is not and has never been our goal” and that “We want to bring commerce to places where commerce currently doesn’t exist. Rather than take away jobs, we hope Bodega will help create them. We see a future where anyone can own and operate a Bodega — delivering relevant items and a great retail experience to places no corner store would ever open.”
He also acknowledged that they might not have done enough homework on the name, saying that despite “speaking to New Yorkers, branding people, and even running some survey work asking about the name and any potential offense it might cause […] it’s clear that we may not have been asking the right questions of the right people”.
Why it’s hot
As a woman behind me in line for 29rooms described the Fyre Festival, this was a “disaster in branding”. It shows the importance of getting out of your bubble and talking to people to accurately understand the needs and desires of your audience.
Also, is the work you’re doing worthwhile? Can we push ourselves to make work for clients that is deep and meaningful and works with communities to empower and support them, and not seeking to undercut or replace meaningful parts of people’s lives with empty and pointless solutions?
Some Hot INternet CoNtEnt about Bodega: