It’s only day two of bitFlyer’s bitcoin point-of-sale trial at Bic Camera in Tokyo, but we decided to go in there and see how well it worked. Could the system — and more importantly, the staff — handle bitcoin payments on a busy Saturday?
Bic Camera is trialling bitcoin payments in two physical multi-level department stores: Yurakucho (near Tokyo station and Ginza) and Shinjuku. Those are two of Tokyo’s major shopping districts, and Bic is actually putting a lot of effort into promoting it. There are signs encouraging customers to use bitcoin just inside the major entrance, and others next to every door and escalator.
Bic’s trial is in co-operation with Japanese bitcoin exchange bitFlyer. The two companies held a press release on Friday (Japan time), attracting nearly 30 representatives from mainstream and online media.
Testing the Bic Camera Bitcoin POS – Success!
We were a bit nervous about testing the system on a busy Saturday afternoon. Would the staff know what to do? Would they be annoyed with us for taking up their time? Would they even know what bitcoin was, or understand what we were asking for? Memories of unsuccessfully trying to use bitcoin at random small businesses popped into our heads.
The results couldn’t have been any more different to that. One of the registers we lined up for had a clear Bitcoin logo sign, and the helpful staff member pointed us straight to it. Even though he said it was his first time using the system, it was fast and easy. Payment was finalized the moment our wallet broadcast it to the Bitcoin network — no waiting ten minutes (or more) for block confirmations.
The staff member said he’d heard the store had received lots of inquiries about bitcoin. It appears most of the interest comes from non-Japanese though, as many questions were about tax-free sales. Bic Camera does duty-free sales for anyone who can prove they’re a foreign citizen in Japan for a short stay.
Trial Will Hopefully Lead to More
Many eyes will be on Bic Camera in the coming weeks. It’s the first significant test for Bitcoin at a large physical retailer, where staff need to process sales and clear crowded lines with minimal fuss. Even if only a small percentage of customers pay with bitcoin, that’s still a challenge.
The current trial will end at some point, but Bic Camera has certainly put a lot of effort into training its staff and making its customers aware. With new laws that recognize Bitcoin as a legal form of payment in the country, other businesses will be curious to hear the results.
Do you think bitcoin can be a viable point-of-sale option in a large department store? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Jon Southurst, bitFlyer