Tech bros want to make bodegas obsolete with vending machines

It’s rare that something unites people of every political persuasion on my Twitter feed in shared hatred, but this Fast Company article about two ex-Google employees who are hoping to wipe out a chunk of the working-class economy with their glorified vending machine possesses that elusive magic.

To be fair, featuring two tech bros sucking their own dicks at the prospect of “disrupting” the economy by pretending to invent something that already exists and throwing in an added dash of cultural appropriation is essentially shooting fish in a barrel. But, hey, sometimes you can’t help but take the easy shot — especially when two tech bros want to wipe out bodegas with a glass box they call “Bodega,” which features a logo in the shape of all the bodega cats that will be homeless if corner stores go out of business.

Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. 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.”

It took 13 years at Google for these brain geniuses to invent a vending machine that requires a smartphone, a data plan, and a credit card to use.

“The vision here is much bigger than the box itself,” McDonald told 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.”

The vision will devastate how immigrants support themselves and their families after coming to the U.S. In New York City alone, immigrants own 48% of the city’s small businesses, which includes the ubiquitous corner stores.

From New York Times:

“When you think of New York neighborhoods, you think about the stores and restaurants and groceries,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow at the institute — a union-supported, nonpartisan research and advocacy group. “Those are the kinds of small businesses where immigrants are playing a particularly strong role.”

So McDonald and Rajan are gleefully admitting that they want to wipe out a large sector of the economy.

On Wednesday, 50 Bodega vending machines were unveiled on the West Coast and the company hopes to have 1,000 boxes littering the landscape by the end of 2018.

As for ripping off the name “bodega” for a product that aims to put Hispanic immigrants out of work, McDonald doesn’t see any problem as far as cultural insensitivity goes. He did market research, after all.

“I’m not particularly concerned about it,” McDonald said. “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.”

Keep telling yourself that, champ.

[photo: Bodega]