Customers entering Super Save Discount Foods on Paseo del Pueblo Sur over the last three weeks may have noticed an odd sight inside the grocery store’s front doors: a digital bitcoin machine, or BTM. The green and orange automated teller stands next to the claw machine and gum balls, its screen lit brightly, welcoming people to come and try cryptocurrency.
If it seems oddly placed, take it up with DigitalMint, the company behind the BTM, said Super Save Assistant Manager Leo Pacheco. “I don’t really even know what bitcoin is,” he said.
Understanding isn’t helped by bitcoin’s association with new, hi-tech terms like blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Even the name “cryptocurrency” comes from the Latin for “hidden money.” However, DigitalMint’s BTM provides step-by-step instructions for first-time users.
According to its website, “DigitalMint is the leading Bitcoin ATM and Teller network, enabling consumers to buy cryptocurrency instantly at locations across the United States.”
DigitalMint states its main focus is, “to empower underserved and under-banked populations, utilizing digital currencies as a tool for financial access and inclusion.”
However, the site is unclear as to the benefits for underserved populations using digital currency. DigitalMint did not immediately respond to our request for a statement.
Despite industry efforts at education, Pacheco isn’t alone. Bitcoin’s popularity may be on the rise, but understanding how it works remains a barrier for investors and entrepreneurs.
According to the journal Research, “29 percent of people who had never bought cryptocurrency say not knowing what to do with it prevents them from buying. 20 percent say they don’t understand how to buy it. 24 percent of all American adults don’t understand how cryptocurrency works at all.”
Bitcoin is a digital currency (one of many, but the first and by far the most popular.) It exists independent of any country or state and can be used anywhere, at least in theory. Essentially, digital money is produced through a method called “mining.” That digital money is then purchased by customers and kept in a bitcoin wallet where it can be used at any business that accepts it.
It was created in 2009 by an anonymous person and has been used as a means of investment and to make anonymous online and international purchases ever since. But this new kind of currency skyrocketed in value in 2017 and has become an increasingly accepted form of payment.
The benefits of using bitcoin, and specifically a BTM at Super Save, may still be a bit hard to see, but they are there. For instance, bitcoin fluctuates in value.
The leap in price from mere pennies on the dollar to a single bitcoin being worth thousands in 2017 (at press time, one bitcoin was worth $33,963) made many people’s dreams come true. According to CNNMoney.com, bitcoin is also helpful for small businesses. Not being tied to any bank or country, use of bitcoin comes without credit card and bank fees.
People have also lauded bitcoin for the fact that it operates outside of a centralized financial system, and yet several countries, such as China, have imposed regulations on it and other virtual currencies. Given that these currencies aren’t defined by geographic borders, however, enforcing regulations can be challenging.
Bitcoin is the only digital currency operating BTMs in the United States.
How it’s going ...
So far, not so good, for the big, green BTM machine. “It came in three weeks ago,” said Pacheco. “Honestly, I haven’t seen a single person use it.”
The problem, according to Pacheco, is that nobody really understands what it is and it hasn’t been explained to Super Save management.
The deal to put BTM machines into Super Save stores was made at the corporate level after DigitalMint approached Super Save with a business proposal. Pacheco said the BTMs aren’t in every store, but Super Save and DigitalMint have placed them in various test stores in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Texas.
Super Save has 12 stores in New Mexico, but only one in Taos.
According to Google Maps, DigitalMint has also installed ATMs elswhere in the state, including one in Santa Fe, six in Albuquerque and three in Farmington.
Perhaps, in those areas, the machines have had greater success.