I have some questions for former Google employees Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan, the men behind Bodega, a company that wants to, according to Fast Company, make corner stores—that is, actual bodegas—“a thing of the past” by putting app-accessible boxes full of nonperishables in the lobbies of apartment buildings, dorms, and gyms.
Paul, Ashwath, are you aware how important bodegas are to the neighborhoods they serve? Have you noticed how bodegas offer safety, security, and community—not the commodified, jargony version of “community” Silicon Valley has invented for itself to sell blockchain tech stocks and user data it harvested from social media posts about graduations and dead grandpas—but actual community, to neighborhoods full of human beings, only some of whom live in glass and steel towers with “virtual doormen,” full of West Elm furniture and “smart” A/C units?
Are you so far out of touch with what it means to be a person in the world that you think it requires “machine learning” to restock a neighborhood deli? The kids in my neighborhood love those little gummies shaped like hamburgers, so you know what the owners of the bodega in my neighborhood stock for them? Little gummies shaped like hamburgers. Do you comprehend that it does not require “machine learning” to see that people will need sidewalk salt in the winter and lemonade in the summer? Do you get that one does not need “machine learning” to predict that people like pretzels?
Have you heard of Summerhill? Do you hang out there?
Have you ever been in an actual bodega? Have you noticed that “mom-and-pop” store is often a literal description of these places and not just a line on your pitch deck to a bunch of “angel investors” who drive Teslas and haven’t called their actual moms or pops in months?
If you achieve your goal of wiping out those mom-and-pop shops by which you are apparently so bothered, will you finally experience joy?
How was Burning Man this year?
I have a follow up question to your statement that you’re “not particularly concerned” about the name Bodega, explaining that you “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.’” How many members of “the Latin American community” did you ask? What in your cultural education has led you to believe that in this country there is a monolithic “Latin American community”?
When you say you decided to make the logo of your company a cat in a “nod to the popular bodega cat meme,” can you hear yourself?
How long has it been since the two of you stepped away from your open-plan, Kind Bar and coconut water-filled open-pantry, open-plan office/co-working space and realized that this idea of yours, which has already secured funding from everywhere from Facebook and Google to your mom’s butt, already exists? CONGRATULATIONS, ASSHOLES, YOU INVENTED THE VENDING MACHINE.