Two ex-Google employees want to put bodegas out of business
George Carlin once said that corporate America was turning the whole country in a giant mall. So, Silicon Valley is going one further - why not turn it into one big vending machine?
Two ex-Google employees have raised $2.5 million for their start-up, called Bodega. The vision? To replace bodega stores with boxes, or cabinets, that unlock with an app, and are equipped with scanners that charge customers exactly what they took.
Essentially, they invented the vending machine - except this time it's designed to replace brick-and-mortar food stores. The company has even called itself Bodega, aiming to totally replace bodegas as a business model.
The goal is to have a Bodega box "always 100 feet away from you".
Co-founder Paul McDonald explains:
“Each community tends to have relatively homogenous tastes, given that they live or work in the same place. By studying their buying behavior, we’re hoping to eventually figure out how the needs of people in one apartment building differ from those in another. We could customize the items in one dorm versus the next.”
When asked if the name 'Bodega' was offensive, McDonald responded:
“I’m not particularly concerned about it. 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’. It’s a simple name and I think it works.”
The backlash on Twitter was swift and hilarious:
The store raises serious questions about Silicon Valley start-ups and automation. After all, if a company can make a massive profit by rendering an entire industry obsolete and thousands of employees redundant, what will come of the economy?
The two ex-Google employees behind Bodega seem to see the world world as one giant app, just waiting to be hooked into a system that will make human action unnecessary. It's all good for a few shareholders, but I doubt you could re-train thousands of bodega owners overnight. The most likely result is mass poverty.
What do you think? Does industrious capital deserve to overrun industries if their ideas are good enough? Or are actual human workers more important than the next golden idea to come out of Silicon Valley? Even asking this question is somewhat hypocritical - ArticleBot9000 would gladly take my job if it could.
McDonald places emphasis on the efficiency of his product:
“Brick-and-mortar retailers have been scrambling to try and keep up with Amazon, but we believe they have an opportunity to take a different approach. They could bring the products to where people already are so that they can access them immediately, when they need them. This beats out any two-hour delivery–or even half-hour delivery–alternative.”
First it was a McDonalds in every city. Now, a vending machine with a complete bodega stock every 100 feet. The entire climate of employment in America will be upheaved by innovations like these if they catch on, and people are rightfully scared.
Losing the bodegas is like losing one's own childhood, or one's home. A vending machine is not the same as a local business. Not even close. If we depersonalize the whole world for our convenience, what humanity will remain in its cold mechanisms? Not much.