New York, NY: The use of the alternative cryptocurrency, bitcoin, was given a major boost last week when online retailer Overstock.com announced a plan to begin accepting bitcoin payments later in the year. This, along with other businesses experimenting with bitcoin payments and even the development of a bitcoin ATM, has added to a rise in notoriety for bitcoins, as well as value.
Martin Hamalgam, owner of the store “Things & Stuff” in Williamburg, added to the excitement when he publicized that his store would begin accepting bitcoin as a form of payment this weekend. Unfortunately, the results were less than spectacular.
“Our first customer that wanted to pay with bitcoins didn’t even know what a bitcoin was,” stated Hamalgam. “When one customer was told the price for her stuff and couple of things was $45.00, she said she wanted to pay in bitcoins, so I told her it was 0.05346 BTC. She looked at me, and then put 3 paper clips on the counter. I shook my head and said, ‘Try again.’ Then she handed me half of a rotten apple.”
While many customers tried to pay via Bitcoin incorrectly, with offers ranging from video game tokens to food stamps, even those with knowledge of Bitcoin had a hard time completing a transaction. Local hipster techie Ryne Adale had her Bitcoin wallet information ready as she waiting in line with a pile of things to be the first customer to pay with Bitcoin. However, when she arrived to the counter, the transaction with “Things & Stuff” took almost 12 hours to complete.
“The biggest issue normal retail businesses have with Bitcoin right now is how volatile the currency is,” explained Hamalgam. “One moment, a bitcoin can be worth $800.00. The next, it’s worth $8.00. That’s a huge price drop and can ruin a business, so I created a real-time conversion rate system to our transaction software to make sure that our Bitcoin price is perfectly matched to the exchange rate in US dollars.”
Unfortunately, the transaction worked too perfectly, as Hamalgam was forced to change the cost of Ms. Adale’s purchase over 5,000 times as the exchange rate of Bitcoin rose and dropped each time Adele was prepared to transfer 0.1003 BTC. The transaction was suspended when Hamalgam began hitting his register over and over again with his bare fist.
Still, neither Hamalgam nor his customer were willing to give up on the new payment option.
“I didn’t get into Bitcoin because I wanted things to come easy and logical,” stated Ms. Adele. “I’ll be back tomorrow to try again. If I have to call in sick to work in order, so be it.”
Hamalgam has since upgraded his Bitcoin transaction software for 10 BTC, hoping that accepting bitcoins will alleviate some of his losses in sales.