Who among us can forget the Bodega, a vending machine with the terrible name that was designed to compete with the beloved corner store. TreeHugger and Brooklynite Melissa wrote:
Seriously, is nothing sacred?! I’m neither a city planner nor an urbanist by vocation, but as a long-term Brooklyn resident, I am a life expert in bodegas. And the idea is maddening to me. It’s such an insult to the bodega – to suggest that a dumb box full of junk could replace a community staple like the corner store feels so out of touch.
Now, Silicon Valley is at it again with what TechCrunch calls "the latest startup to try and unseat the local convenience store", the Robomart, an
autonomous rolling bodega no don't call it that, an autonomous rolling greengrocer. According to their website, it is filling an important, unfilled need, a compelling consumer demand:
We conducted extensive research and surveyed women between 26-44 in the US and found that more than 85% of them do not shop for fruits and vegetables online, because they felt home delivery is too expensive and that they wanted to pick their own produce. Almost 65% said they would order a Robomart more than once a week.
So instead, a fancy electric rolling store will be summoned by smart phone like an Uber car, open up so that the poor woman between 26 and 44 can squeeze a small selection of fruits and vegetables to pick their own, each of which must be tagged with some kind of RFID thingie since it has a patent pending "grab and go" checkout free technology.
And this will be better and cheaper than home delivery because there is so much room on the roads for a rolling vegetable bin, and one can pay for Level 5 self driving autonomy with high value products like celery and lettuce.
Although, to be fair, entrepreneur Ali Ahmed is selling the platform, not the lettuce; It might be full of bread and bagels or even get really crazy and deliver milk and eggs. He tells TechCrunch: “I believe we’re creating a new category. We think we’re competing with the sidewalk robots.” In other words, he is rolling out a bigger automated delivery system that clogs roads instead of sidewalks.
Perhaps it is because I am not a woman aged 26-44 but I cannot see that this is filling some great need. It also doesn't recognize that selling produce is more than just throwing it in a rack; someone has to arrange it to look good, water it and ensure that customers don't squeeze the avocados and tomatoes.
I apologize if people think I am being a snarky old curmudgeon. But actually selling things takes people who know something about selling and presentation. Actual greengrocers create jobs and fill stores on main streets. Customers could actually get a bit of exercise walking to those stores, talking to neighbors, supporting local businesses. I don't know why Silicon Valley is so intent on killing all of this.