Startup replaces iconic bodegas with 'vending machine' style boxes

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Bodegas, which take their name from the Spanish word for grocery store, cellar or warehouse, are corner stores commonly ran by New York City's Latino and immigrant communities. They know how we like our sandwiches. 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. But apparently, that term is just too cold for McDonald and Rajan, who are instead calling their unrefrigerated boxes filled with non-perishable snacks and sundries Bodegas.

Except this new-age Bodega has no workers.

Yet this fancy vending-machine company is being pitched as a great disrupting force coming after the world's bodegas.

"I've never longed for anyone to be mauled to death by actual bodega cats but here we are", one woman tweeted. This is a box and a not a bodega. Like all things out of Silicon Valley, there's a tech bent-here, the vending machines assess the buying patterns of the customers to restock as well as customize the offerings.

The name really is a marketing move to capitalize on something that most urban dwellers (read millennials) are familiar with.

"The idea you can make a "Bodega box" shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the goal of a Bodega in the first place", @Smooth_Orator wrote.

According to Fast Company, Paul McDonald, a former Google product manager, is launching Bodega, with the help of another former Google employee, Ashwath Rajan.

"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, '" he said. The idea behind the venture hasn't been sitting well with Twitter users.

That intention doesn't sit well with Frank Garcia, outgoing chairman of the NY state coalition of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Yes, clearly. The name Bodega sparked a wave of criticism on social media far beyond what we ever imagined. "My grandfather must be rolling over in his grave right now". Created to be set up like vending machines in apartments, dorms, business locations, and gyms, the concept could ultimately eliminate local Bodegas, at least that's the goal. "The intention was to support immigrants".

The company's website,, describes the boxes as "small, automated stores in offices, apartments, college campuses, and more". "And we apologize to anyone we've offended".

"On Wednesday afternoon, he conceded that ".it's clear that we may not have been asking the right questions of the right people". "To me, it is offensive for people who are not Hispanic to use the name "bodega, ' to make a quick buck", Garcia said".

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