In September, the unveiling of a new, automated retail concept by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs ended up being a lesson in hubris and the power of social media. Bodega, named after the iconic, local corner stores in New York and other urban markets, would make those traditional bodegas obsolete, the entrepreneurs claimed.
The company would stock the 5-foot-wide, 3-foot-deep “pantry box”—similar to a vending machine or hotel minibar—with a customizable assortment of nonperishable items commonly found in corner stores, such as snacks, candy, soup, beverages, pain relievers, toothpaste, shampoo and laundry detergent. Customers could unlock the unit with a cellphone app, and cameras register what they remove, charging their credit cards as necessary.
The company would place Bodegas in apartment buildings, gyms, offices and on college campuses.
The problem? The claim that the concept would put genuine bodegas out of business was met with a swift backlash on social media, which branded the misappropriation of the name as culturally insensitive to Hispanics, and which came to the defense of the independent, mom-and-pop retailers who run the traditional bodegas.
Will bodega be back? For the answer to that question, you’ll have to read the Top C-Store Surprises of 2018.