You may have heard about a “new” business called Bodega that is getting a lot of attention today — and not in a good way. Fast Company published a story about two former Google employees that wanted to create “bodega boxes” — essentially, vending machines — that sell products you’d normally find at a convenience store. The boxes are named after the bodegas (corner stores) you’d find in New York that sell you everything from sandwiches to shampoo. Oh, their logo also uses the shape of a cat head as the logo because New York bodegas are known for housing felines who chill and make sure there aren’t any mice around.
As soon as the product was made public knowledge, the response was swift and immediate, with widespread criticism over what many claim is a culturally insensitive use of the word “bodega.” Bodegas are the corner stores you see in New York. Here’s how the Internet responded. Grab your popcorn.
This is the Twitter post and story that sparked the bodega controversy all over Twitter.
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) September 13, 2017
Namely, people focused on one paragraph from the Fast Company article that questioned co-founder Paul McDonald about the name. It reads:
“I asked McDonald point-blank about whether he’s worried that the name Bodega might come off as culturally insensitive. Not really. ‘I’m not particularly concerned about it,’ he says. ‘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.'”
Then, this happened.
Twitter unifying to come at this horrendous Bodega Box idea. pic.twitter.com/fzCC1C1ZjP
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) September 13, 2017
Don’t come for the bodegas unless you are ready for a proper dragging.
People quickly pointed out the ridiculousness of suggesting that a cabinet-turned-vending machine was an appropriate “replacement” to the neighborhood bodega.
a vending machine is not a bodega
— Greg Howard (@greghoward88) September 13, 2017
It sure isn’t.
Especially when it comes to the items that you just can’t get from a vending machine.
*Walks into bodega*
Me: "Let me get a chopped cheese with grilled onion."
— Clumsy King 🤴🏾 (@CushKobain) September 13, 2017
How are you supposed to get yourself a proper meal from this glorified IKEA cabinet?
After all, it is the human interactions and the community that makes a bodega a bodega.
will it extend "credit" when you're short but need eggs or milk or toilet paper? (this is an important part of my local bodega)
— Eva Destruction (@EvaDestrction) September 13, 2017
Bodegas are more than just profit making businesses. They exist in communities and are an integral part of the community. The owners/workers know your name, your sandwich order, and even your birthday if you’ve been around long enough. That the essence of a true bodega.
Not to mention that some of your neighbors would end up losing their jobs.
My bodega guy lives in my building; I'd like to see your dumb machine bring you an egg sammie at 11pm & talk about its world travels https://t.co/siSA2hFLKl
— Danielle Henderson (@knottyyarn) September 13, 2017
Who else stands with and loves their bodega people?
Some are suggesting that the company is really just a way to make them feel more comfortable buying their essentials.
Wealthy tech bros are so uncomfortable interacting w working class POC that they think a glorified vending machine is better than a bodega. https://t.co/wPWhfkwBrx
— vero bayetti flores (@veroconplatanos) September 13, 2017
Do they sell burn cream in those cabinets?
They are even being asked to use their “creativity” to help bodegas instead of ending them.
— Chuey Martinez (@ChueyMartinez) September 13, 2017
Well, will they?
Mainly because McDonald implied they wanted to disrupt the bodega market.
– Founded by two ex-Googlers
– Stated business model: make local, immigrant-owned businesses obsolete
– Audacity to name it "Bodega"
– Ew pic.twitter.com/gQD1IpGse0
— Kelly Ellis (@justkelly_ok) September 13, 2017
People started to send out the message to all bodega cats.
Dear Bodega Cats,
Now's the time to start the revolution.
— Morgan Jerkins (@MorganJerkins) September 13, 2017
Get your claws ready.
And the beloved bodega cats came out to let the co-founders Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan know that this is not a game.
tfw you just heard about Bodega pic.twitter.com/0HVVRaARq4
— Daniel Radosh (@danielradosh) September 13, 2017
You know that it’s real when the bodega cats leave the store to join in the public criticism.
The backlash from social media prompted McDonald to write a Medium post discussing the name and the reactions.
“Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas, we clearly hit a nerve this morning,” McDonald wrote. “And we apologize to anyone we’ve offended. Rather than disrespect to traditional corner stores — or worse yet, a threat — we intended only admiration.”