Silicon Valley is a hotbed of ingenuity and creativity focused on creating the future that we all supposedly want. However, sometimes it feels like, for every new company that revolutionizes our lives (Lyft, Apple, Facebook), there are misfires that either overcomplicate simple issues or provide us with solutions to problems that don’t exist (Juicero, anyone?). The idea for Bodega certainly wants to be the former but based on the initial reaction may end up becoming the latter.

Per Fast Company, former Googlers Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan recently launched Bodega as a concept meant to populate cities with five-foot-wide pantry boxes full of food, beverages, and nonperishable items that you might find at the local corner store. Via an app, you can unlock the box, take what you need, and your account will be charged based on sensors and cameras inside. The process doesn’t require that an employee be there to oversee the transaction. 

If that sounds a lot like a “vending machine,” well, that’s what it sounds like to a lot of people on social media as well. Their grand plan is to have “100,000 Bodegas” across the country “with one always 100 feet away from you.”

Courtesy of Bodega

One way to spin the idea is to say that it will provide a level of convenience that even the local convenience store can’t match. Put in harsher terms, Bodega literally wants to replace the neighborhood bodega or independent convenience store. And when you put it like that, the startup takes on a whole new notion. 

It’s one thing for Amazon to make moves on rival corporations in order to infiltrate your neighborhood. No one feels too bad for Whole Foods. It’s another thing for a Silicon Valley company with millions of dollars in funding to make moves on independent mom-and-pop shops in your neighborhood. As outlets like Jezebel have pointed out, bodegas often serve as community centers and safe havens for locals. They’re often run by literal moms and pops who know their customers by name and interact with them outside of the store as well. Boasting about an initiative to harm or even end those kinds of businesses was never going to be thought highly of, especially when you factor in the socioeconomic disconnect between the two sides. And what about the beloved bodega cats

Bodega’s co-founders also note that they plan to focus efforts on putting their boxes on college campuses and inside dorms, which doesn’t quite strike the same nerves. Perhaps with smarter branding toward being a modern vending option, the company could have avoided the backlash it received. 

If Bodega has a PR team, they’re going to have to hit the ground running in order to get people on their side (if that’s even possible). In the meantime, people from Chicago to Los Angeles to San Francisco might take this as a sign that they need to spend more time at their local bodega, buying that extra bottle of Gatorade, and ensuring that the moms and pops of their neighborhood stay put at least a little while longer.