A year later, Forbes revisits "Living On Bitcoin" series

Home » A year later, Forbes revisits "Living On Bitcoin" series
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zcopley/

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zcopley/

In May of 2013, Forbes writer Kashmir Hill spent a week living on bitcoin. Or trying to, at least. With bitcoin still little known outside of tech and black-market circles, and the media attention around the late 2013 price boom still months away, Hill struggled to find merchants who had even heard of bitcoin, never mind the handful who actually accepted it.

Today, Hill returned to the bitcoin-only lifestyle for another week. With a full year of media attention pushing bitcoin ever closer into the mainstream, will it be any easier to live on the cryptocurrency for a full week?

If day one is any indication, the answer is: Yes, mostly. After some negotiation, Hill was able to convince her roommates to accept bitcoin via Coinbase for rent, picked up a few handy gift cards from Gyft for everyday needs, and even had some Indian food delivered via Foodler. But even if the situation is improved, Hill still ran into a several significant challenges.

For instance, after a Yelp-confirmed bitcoin-accepting restaurant turned out not to offer the service at her location, she instead opted to try Buyer’s Best Friend, a nearby bitcoin-using gourmet grocer.

The small stand had only snack foods: chocolate bars abounded. I picked out a green tea, a jar of gourmet pickles and a bag of toasted coconut chips. But then something went wrong at check-out. The Buyer’s Best Friend clerk converted my $26 bill into Bitcoin and popped up a QR code using Coinbase. I scanned and sent the .06032 worth of Bitcoin for my pathetic lunch but it didn’t immediately go through. It showed up as unconfirmed on my Blockchain app and the clerk didn’t get an email from Coinbase letting them know they’d been paid. I waited for 20 minutes but it still hadn’t gone through. It was now past 2 p.m. They recommended I try sending the money again, but I explained that there was no way to reverse the payment on my end and I didn’t want to send $26 to them twice. My colleagues and I left, with me very hungry and them grateful they could buy food with cash.

It took more than an hour for that transaction to confirm, likely due to a lack of transaction fees. On the bright side, Hill was offered in-store credit for her next visit.

Although Hill’s bitcoin experiment does seem easier than her last attempt, it’s clear that bitcoin has a long way to go before it can compete with the relative ease of cash and debit/credit cards. Following her journey, however, should provide an insightful window into the current gaps in bitcoin adoption.

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