Norwich is not a big place, so when I searched on coinmap.org I was surprised to find a bar down the block from my flat downtown that accepted Bitcoin. I’ve made some money on the price rise and wanted to share that, as well as support a local business using BTC, so I treated some friends to drinks.
I stopped by the bar, The White Lion, in the afternoon just to confirm. “Sure, we accept Bitcoin, all you have to do is scan a QR code and it’s as simple as that,” the bartender told me. Problem is I don’t have a smartphone. Actually, my fascination with Bitcoin is a little odd on the surface since I tend to be wary of new technologies and slow to adopt them. (I’m also interested in social movements and the power of change and think Bitcoin opens up a whole new world of possibilities—but that’s the subject of another post.) I recently deduced that my electric toothbrush is the third most advanced piece of technology that I own.
After I ordered a round of beers at The White Lion, I borrowed a friend’s phone which was able to scan the QR code which allowed us to copy the address and amount. I then signed into Coinbase on said phone and pasted the address and amount. Sounds simple enough but this was after some trial and error. For example, the transaction would not complete until after we wrote a message for the transaction. This was consistent for the second round as well—though I have no idea why. I’d like to give an example to others of how easy it is to use Bitcoins and this is not the best way to do that, still, if a self-professed Luddite can do it, that says something all on its own.
A few days after my first trip I convinced another friend to download a wallet, sent her some BTC before returning to The White Lion then used her phone to simply scan the code. Another imperfect work-around, still it’s pretty exciting. Writing a blog post about spending Bitcoins in a physical place has become a cliché, but one I now understand. Even with my clumsy work-arounds it felt momentous, like one distant day I may look back and recall the moment when I knew Bitcoin wasn’t just some esoteric sub-culture but an emerging reality.