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This Startup Is Getting Roasted for Making a Vending Machine to Replace Corner Stores

bodega startup
Bodega

Aspiring startups can be in for a rude awakening when they decide to put their big idea out there, especially when that big idea is essentially reinventing something that already exists, and threatens to put a struggling industry out of business. That cruel reality is in full effect right now the company Bodega, which is rolling out what it calls "pantry boxes" full of non-perishable goods in communal spaces. In other words, they're developing personalized extra-large vending machines to install in apartment buildings and college dorms so people won't have to run out to their corner store to grab sundries and snacks.

While they've been up and running testing things out around the Bay Area for a while, the nascent brand faced a minor PR crisis after Fast Company published a profile about the company on Wednesday. It detailed Bodega's mission, but also explored why its plan to make neighborhood mom-and-pop corner stores obsolete might be a bad look, especially considering many of them are run by immigrants. They also asked the ex-Googlers who founded it why coopting the term Bodega -- itself a reference to the type of locally-owned shop it intends to eliminate -- as their brand name could be seen as insensitive.

People on Twitter wasted no time in roasting the company on all fronts. Many people were quick to judge it for basically just pitching a newfangled vending machine, and the exceptionally bold name.

Besides calling it out for naming itself Bodega, lots of people piled on the company for its choice of logo: a cat, which many considered a not-so-subtle reference to bodega cats (a lot of bodegas, especially in New York, have their own pet cats hanging around),

The backlash was so swift, Fast Company even published a follow-up to their profile, highlighting how pissed off it made people.

"Rather than take away jobs, we hope Bodega will help create them," the founders wrote in a post on their blog to address the mounting criticism. "We see a future where anyone can own and operate a Bodega --  delivering relevant items and a great retail experience to places no corner store would ever open."

However, their pseudo-apology didn't do much to curb the tide of negative tweets, which has prompted some to question whether it can weather this storm.

Something tells us there may very well be a major re-brand in Bodega's future.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.