What is the motivation to accept Bitcoin payments in your business and why are many companies and businesses enthusiastic about doing so?
If I see an establishment with a Bitcoin sticker on the door while traveling, I often curiously step inside to see what the place is all about. A Visa or American Express sticker don’t have that effect for me at all, paying by card is already a boring standard. To the extent that it even looks like spam.
The Czech Alza, as one of the largest crypto-accepting (e)shops in Central Europe, had a cryptocurrency turnover of 200 million Czech crowns (about eight million dollars) in 2021. Unfortunately, this number doesn’t just mean new customers, which they wouldn’t have without accepting cryptocurrencies (they accept Bitcoin on-chain, Bitcoin Lightning and Litecoin). How many of these customers pay with crypto because Alza simply has this option – and choose it from the payment options when paying for an order they would have made anyway? And how many customers are there who wouldn’t shop at Alza at all if crypto payment wasn’t an option? I don’t have an answer to that question, but many skeptics of cryptocurrency acceptance automatically assume that the answer to the second question is zero.
Alza is a bit of a ❤️-brand (“love-brand”) for crypto enthusiasts in Central Europe – much like Trezor / Satoshilabs, Braiins, Bitcoin Coffee, Paralelní Polis and many similar companies and projects. Not just because we know them, but especially because we feel a bit “VIP” when interacting with them. We are Bitcoiners, they understand us. We feel at home there. For me, there are more establishments like this.
I’ll focus on what we must do and what we definitely must not do to build a ❤️-brand. I will focus on businesses that have nothing to do with Bitcoin – cafes, restaurants, but also other establishments (barbers, massage, e-shops, …). Of course I do not know, whether you will be able to create a ❤️-brand with the help of this guide. Hopefully it will help.
What is the goal? What does becoming a ❤️-brand mean?
The goal of the ❤️-brand is to become the “obvious” choice for a certain group of people. It’s a place where we are welcome, treated better and understood.
If I’m in Prague, I usually go straight to Paralelní Polis. Besides the fact that they have great coffee, working environment and like-minded people, I know I don’t need to use Czech crowns there, but my lightning wallet will work. It’s a place where they kind of “get” me.
At the same time, I meet other people there who aren’t necessarily orange-pilled yet. An operation where the social aspect is important so on top of that there is a network effect.
Such cafes operate all over the world. If you ask me about a restaurant in Berlin, I only know Room 77 off the top of my head (sadly no longer operating). At a similar time as Paralelní Polis was founded, the owner there accepted Bitcoins. Did he have a business case for it? What is the bottom line, what’s in it for him? Bitcoin was a toy back then that probably no one took seriously. He did it as an experiment. Competing with the quality of hamburgers in Kreuzberg is hard enough and you need to differentiate yourself. What happened was that bitcoiners started going there. Suddenly he had people there who were organizing meetups. Bitcoin developers were coming there to work. Every Bitcoiner who visited Berlin had to go there. They felt at home there.
How not to do it
What you haven’t seen in Room 77 is a waiter who is annoyed that he has to use some weird cryptocurrency terminal again because the boss wants him to. Experiencing a place that has a “we accept bitcoin” sticker where they take a dusty terminal out from under the counter, with a dead battery and needs like 5 minutes on the charger to even boot up, but someone took the charger anyway… When it finally starts, no one knows the PIN (true story from a café). Alternatively, the wifi password has been changed, it is not configured and no one knows the password (my experience from one pharmacy). Or “I’m new here, couldn’t you pay normally please?” (experience from another café). The bonus is when the café has a no-cash system and after a 10 minutes of failed attempts to revive the bitcoin terminal you are informed that the only functional payment option is a credit card (also true story).
This is exactly the kind of experience that puts people off. And that’s exactly how ❤️-brands don’t get built. The customer who wanted to feel “at home” and to feel that someone understands them, feels like a fool who annoys the cashier with something. Putting down the stickers, recycling the terminal and attending to the primary business is the better choice in this case.
Of course, Bitcoiners themselves are at fault here as well. HODL! “I keep my sats” is unfortunately an increasingly common approach. Part of the reason why merchants are picking up dusty terminals from drawers is because nobody wanted to pay with Bitcoin yesterday and the day before and probably a few months before. Otherwise it would have been charged and ready to use.
How to do it then?
I have a good experience when there is a cashier who is enthusiastic and interested. You can’t fake it and you definitely can’t fake it when your attitude is “the boss wants me to do this”. Have some interest in the subject. That doesn’t mean the barista at the coffee shop or the waiter has to be able to recite the benefits of taproot and recommend the best Lightning wallet. But it is very nice, if they say things like “it is a good idea to have a record in the back-up memory of good deeds of society”. Or “I’m keeping the tips they give me in Bitcoin, I’ll see what happens with that”. Even a one minute small-talk about how Bitcoin’s price crashed or “I know someone who lost money in Luna” is cool. Genuine interest wins over expertise.
If I have this kind of experience, I want my friends to experience it too. Taking a buddy to a coffee shop, paying with Bitcoin “as if it was completely normal” is cool.
Why, for example, is Alza a Bitcoiner ❤️-brand and other e-shops that also accept Bitcoin not so much? Well, being the first one helps – especially if you did it before Bitcoin became popular. Alza not only accepts cryptocurrencies, but also publishes interesting and high quality articles (in Czech and Slovak), has ATMs in their stores. And you can feel that crypto payments work – it is not a random afterthought. Many e-shops, often those of my acquaintances, add Bitcoin as a payment option, but it’s kind of noticeable that it’s just an “extra”. You can tell right away if they are asking questions “how many people are going to pay me that way?”, “how much will I save on fees?” or “how much money will this make me?”. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in the bottom-line, but building ❤️-brand requires ❤️, not only green PnL. ❤️-brand actively works with the community. You don’t go somewhere where you’re “tolerated”, but you go to a place where you feel like a part of a secret society. They don’t have to be hard-core orange-pilled, they can just view it as a playful experiment. A positive playful experiment.
Bitcoin as an expression of gratitude
Gratefulness is one of the best life-hacks. If someone helps me solve a problem, even with a paid service or product, it’s polite to say thank you. And it feels good. Sometimes that thanks takes the form of money – the help doesn’t have to be altruistic. Money is a thank you card that the recipient can use to solve their problems. BTW: Attitude of paying and saying “thank you for helping me” at least quitely in my head feels amazing, it will seriously change your experience.
If I’m a Bitcoiner, I prefer when someone expresses their gratitude towards me in Bitcoin. They know I appreciate it and they are thoughtful enough to notice and act on it. I will appreciate it even if the market value is the same. Whether I receive guaraní, dollars, Czech crowns, euros, bitcoin or ethereum doesn’t matter at the end of the day, with a small transaction cost I can get what I want (see the Law of Cryptocurrency Isomorphism).
(slide from my talk “We have arrived” from this year’s HCPP)
However, if I know that the other side is a Bitcoiner and is forcing euros on me because “he’s HODLing sats” and thanks to “Gresham’s Law” (“bad money with forced circulation crowds out the good money” – everyone wants to get rid of shitcoins that the counterparty can’t refuse) wants to dump his shitcoin problem on me, it’s kind of sad. Anyone can buy bitcoins – they can even buy more than they spend.
Look at it like this. Someone has a shitcoin problem. They have more fiat than they want. And instead of solving the root issue – their shitcoin problem, they dump the shitcoins on people who they know would prefer Bitcoin.
It feels to me like I’m trying to express my gratitude to someone with a thank-you card. Try it, thank you cards are cool. But I don’t want to use good quality paper. Oh, here’s a dirty tea napkin. I was gonna throw it away anyway, so I’ll use it to express my gratitude:
Would that please you? :). Would you feel the gratitude of someone that gave this to you?
Don’t get me wrong, all money is an expression of gratitude. It’s about motivation. Am I solving my problem or thanking someone? If I know someone likes roses, should I give them tulips?
Personally, I would prefer to give a thank you card that the person will keep and enjoy both tomorrow and the next day…
In most cities there is room to build bitcoin ❤️-brands. The best bitcoin-friendly restaurant, cafe, massage, dentist, pharmacy, travel agency, barber, bookstore, grocery, … is still missing almost everywhere. And it is no big deal. It’s an experiment that won’t ruin anyone. It’s legal, nothing to worry about. Maybe it will work and people will even travel a bit for this experience. Maybe you’ll make money, maybe you’ll lose money on it. But one thing’s for sure – you’ll be different from a similar store two hundred metres away.
The power of attracting bitcoiners to where they are welcome is amazing. You may have heard of Bitcoin Beach in El Salvador. It’s an entire Bitcoin beach! And it attracts people to a not entirely attractive nor safe Central American country. It’s not by legislation, for example in Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay you can accept Bitcoin in exactly the same way, and you don’t pay taxes on it either. And I suppose Uruguay’s beach is probably even a bit cooler. But it’s not a ❤️-brand. They’re not proud Bitcoiners. It is just possible, not real. Possibility < Action.
If you’re a Bitcoiner, express your gratitude using Bitcoin. It’s a great tool to express gratitude, and it is a very warming feeling. A simple digitally signed ‘thank you’ message warms the ❤️.