Bitcoin, the digital currency, is making headlines as its price goes up and up. Its meteoric rise has made millions for many people willing to take big risks. More importantly and as its name-recognition grows, many online stores including Expedia, Microsoft and Overstock.com are accepting it as payment and services like PayPal are making it easier to deal with the currency.
But should small businesses accept bitcoin as payment? It’s difficult to find any that do, particularly if they’re brick and mortar. That’s likely a good thing. The currency is extremely speculative and even a relatively small shift in its price could wipe out a merchant’s profit on a sale. However, those risks aren’t stopping one restaurateur in Upstate New York.
Ocean Blue, a seafood restaurant and oyster house located in Utica, decided to take the plunge on Nov. 1 and is now accepting the digital currency as payment for meals. A promotion? A reach-out to a younger crowd? A hip marketing move? Perhaps. But in actuality it was more about controlling the rising cost of credit card fees–an issue affecting many small merchants.
Bitcoin “doesn’t have the fees that are associated with regular banks,” Francis Pezzolanella, the establishment’s owner told local television station WKTV. “Regular credit card transactions can cost you between three to four percent.”
Bitcoins aren’t actually coins so accepting payments needed a little adjusting. According to the WKTV report, Ocean Blue customers use a single-use code with their phone and the bitcoins are then extracted through their digital wallet to Ocean Blue’s. Pezzolanella has the option of immediately converting the bitcoins into U.S. dollars, which he’s doing, rather than holding on to the digital currency in the hopes of a windfall. Good move.
If anything, business owners like Pezzolanella are helping the currency to gain more acceptance and with wider use there’s a hope that there will be less volatility in the future. Only then does it have the chance to become a stable alternative to the credit card.