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4 Reasons To Hate The Startup Dedicated To Killing Corner Stores

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Every morning, the internet wakes up to see some asshole doing something stupid and cringeworthy, and all we can do is sigh and endlessly make fun of them until they go away. Yesterday, it was Ted Cruz’s horny late night habits, and today it’s two Silicon Valley dumbasses and their cool plan to put mom and pop shops out of business with their vending machine for boxing gloves.

The fine folks as Fast Company profiled the extremely-less-fine folks behind the tech startup “Bodega,” whose intent was to run actual bodegas out of business and replace them with Redbox for ramen and toilet paper. It was founded by two ex-Google employees, Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan, who felt the specific need to do a lot more evil in the world than they could manage at Google.

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.”

And, unsurprisingly, the whole internet is ripping on this objectively mean-spirited, bad idea. Here’s why:

1. It’s like a bodega, but much more complicated and is definitely going to fuck up and since there’s no human manning it

I mean, what could possibly go wrong with unmanned vending machines that require an app and facial recognition software? It’s not like:

  • Someone could open it with their app and then have a friend roll in and steal everything (so the person with the app has deniability)
  • People are gonna leave trash in them, or at least find ways to put an empty box of tampons in one and take out a full box to trick the machine
  • These small boxes are extremely unprepared to supply an area and will definitely run out of stuff you need FAST and there’s no way of knowing when they’ll be restocked
  • A new-ish service could be a little buggy and accidentally charge you for the wrong stuff and then you’ll have to go through some inane, tedious process of contacting customer support that will take hours

See? This is WAY better than going to a store and interacting with a human being. Can’t wait to go to open an app, get my face scanned by a company I have no reason to trust, and buy boxing gloves from an unmanned box.

2. It’s literally taunting homeless cats

Bodega not only wants to crush local convenience stores, it wants to MOCK THEM as they do it – that’s why they named their service “Bodega” and why they made their icon a cat: “bodega cats” are a common sight, basically just homeless cats that get regularly fed or cared for by bodega employees and become regulars there for food, warmth, and shelter.

Obviously, with the Bodega units, there would be no humans to offer these cats anything, nor any shelter for them to flee to when bad weather rolls in. The cats – like the mom & pop store employees – would be on their own. And this would all be bad enough, but by making a cat their icon, they are MAKING FUN OF THE CATS AND THEIR SHITTY SITUATION. C’mon.

3. Instead of supporting local businesses, you get to support two rich assholes who live in Silicon Valley who love mocking homeless cats

Sure – bodegas and mom & pop shops are a bit overpriced, but there’s a reason: they have to pay for labor (since there are actual people manning the stores) and for the property itself. The deal with Bodega is that it pays for neither – they convince property owners to let them install their units for free because it will bring convenience to residents or customers.

In most cases, Bodega doesn’t pay for the retail space, but pitches itself as an amenity or a convenience to property managers. At gyms for instance, McDonald makes the case that having a Bodega stocked with power bars and protein powder might make the facility more attractive to members. In dorms, a Bodega might be a more comprehensive alternative to a vending machine or a college-owned “honesty box” store. In apartments, a Bodega saves residents a trip to their local bodega. Within the current business model, Bodega does not have many fixed costs-besides installing the simple box itself-and makes money from the sale of each item.

The net effect is that you no longer support local business owners or employment in your area – instead, all of your money goes to these two (already rich) assholes who wouldn’t give you a second glance if you were starving by the side of the road. They want to crush local businesses, and in exchange you can save a dollar on single-ply toilet paper. What a great bargain!

4. They sound like aliens observing humans for the first time

This isn’t really a knock against the service itself, but holy crap these dudes sound like some robots or aliens (or…robot-aliens?) who observed humanity for the first time and are commenting on their “strange behavior”:

In his initial observations of consumer behavior, he’s noticed that people seem to enjoy learning about new products. “One woman in a dorm stopped by the Bodega every day for a packet of microwave popcorn,” he says. “On day three, she picked up nail polish remover, and on day four, she picked up a cookie. This happened because she was coming into contact with these products every day.”

“Ah yes, humans require products, for both sustenance and pleasure. When they see products, they desire them – and exchange strange green pieces of paper for them. Curious.”

That combined with their hatred of cats makes me think these dudes are definitely aliens (ala Alf). We should not trust them. Protect local businesses, protect bodega cats.

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