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‘Dark stores’ offer anything you need in 30 minutes. But there’s a human cost

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On an otherwise busy stretch of Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood stands a black-painted former autobody shop. Long papered-over windows hide its internal workings and lend a gloomy presence to a street otherwise bustling with brunchers.

A hopeful shopper stands over the threshold, taking stock of shelves lined with Doritos, Kettle Chips and sodas as a worker explains that it’s closed to the public. “You can order on the app for delivery, though,” he says.This store-like expanse is a micro-fulfilment center, or “dark store”, for Gopuff, one of numerous hyper-fast delivery companies to launch over the last few years in large cities across the US as the pandemic switched consumer focus – for those who could afford it – to ordering in.These companies offer delivery in 10 to 30 minutes of everything from candy and alcoholic beverages to coffee filters and batteries.

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