On September 13, we reported on a startup called Bodega that wants to eliminate the need to leave your apartment building to get sugar or shaving cream by setting up unmanned pantry boxes full of the things you usually get at your local mom-and-pop shop. The story unleashed a wave of criticism from bodega lovers around the country who felt that the company had appropriated the term “bodega” from the Latino community while also seeking to put that very institution out of business.
Paul McDonald told Fast Company that the startup already had 30 functioning units sprinkled at gyms, apartments, and dorms around the Bay Area, and Bodega’s website showed 30 locations where it claimed the device was in use. However, BuzzFeed fact-checked this figure by calling each of those locations, only to find that there are actually far fewer units in use than McDonald had claimed:
“People at six locations listed on Bodega’s map told BuzzFeed News they did not have a Bodega unit on their property. Some people at listed locations said they were only in preliminary discussions with the company…
Flagship Athletic Performance, another of the 30 locations, told BuzzFeed News it doesn’t have units in two of its locations listed on the map. “How strange, thank you for bringing that to our attention. We only had preliminary talks with them,” the company said in a Facebook message.”
When BuzzFeed asked McDonald directly about how many units the company had, he admitted that there were only 14 that were operational, with 21 more expected to go live by this week and another 30 in the next two or three weeks. And Bodega appears to have changed the copy on its website after this conversation, noted BuzzFeed.
McDonald, who didn’t return calls for comment on the number of units, told Fast Company last week that he planned to have a thousand operational units by the end of 2018. But who knows how accurate that projection is.