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Glorified vending machine startup Bodega finally kills off its offensive name

Glorified vending machine startup Bodega finally kills off its offensive name
[Photo: Flickr user Paul L]

Remember the Great Bodega Fiasco of 2017?

Almost exactly a year ago, Fast Company reported on a startup–founded by two ex-Googlers–that wanted to replace your corner shop with what were basically high-tech boxes. The boxes would be placed in apartment lobbies, dorms, and other communal areas, and contain 100 items that residents were most likely to purchase, like Oreos, shaving cream, or tampons. The founders decided to name the new brand Bodega, after the small stores typically run by Latin American immigrants in cities like New York and Los Angeles. They even used a cat as their mascot, after the felines that often hang out at these locations.

[Screenshot: Stockwell]
As it turned out, many consumers were not particularly enthused by the startup’s name. Thousands of people took to Twitter, arguing that these founders–neither of which are Hispanic–were appropriating a culturally specific and beloved institution in their name. Moreover, if the company were successful, it could negatively impact real-world bodegas. Many pointed out that this was particularly painful because immigrants already feel under attack by the Trump administration.

And then came the think pieces in several places in the New York Times, and over and over and over in the Washington Post and in the Atlantic‘s City Lab among other places. Our story spurred commenters to write about Silicon Valley’s obliviousness regarding how it affects the lives of everyday people, the importance of the Bodega in American culture, and how cute bodega cats are.

It seems that Bodega has gotten the message: A full year after it launched, it is now changing its name to Stockwell. It’s a nice, bland, generic name that nobody could take any offense to. The question is, will consumers remember that ill-fated first name? Will they even care?

We’ll keep track of Stockwell’s success and get back to you.

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