When they set out across America, Scott Glass and Lee Poichuk weren’t sure if they could trade invisible money for haircuts, rock climbing sessions, and a bong.
Travelling through 40 North American cities in 30 days, the two Torontonians wanted to see if they could survive 100 per cent off Bitcoin for their upcoming documentary, The BIT movie.
Bitcoin, the first decentralized digital currency, allows people to send money directly with no bank attached. Sent across the world for fractions of a cent, Bitcoin avoids bank fees and merchants obtaining personal information.
Glass recruited Poichuk – until then, a stranger – to be the videographer for the film. Without knowing if they would get along, or possibly starve to death, they ended up meeting a handful of individuals who survive on Bitcoin entirely.
But despite pre-planning their trip, they still came across many barriers.
“There were a lot of close calls,” says Poichuk. “Parking was difficult.”
To avoid parking tickets, they used Bitcoins to buy gift cards online using Gyft.
But even more challenging was locating gas stations in sparely populated areas of southern states.
“It slowed us down and changed our schedule,” says Poichuk.
But as someone would expect, this wasn’t their only challenge. Despite using Coinmap to view where Bitcoin is accepted, they would arrive at merchants that claimed to accept Bitcoin only to find that the retailer didn’t know how to properly process the transaction.
“A lot of retailers get on the bandwagon because they think they’re missing out,” says Glass.
In Toronto, more than a dozen cafes, restaurants and services accept Bitcoin. This includes The Tech Guys Toronto, board game cafe Snakes and Lattes, Smoke Bourbon BBQ, and Urban Living Suites. Additionally, Decentral, home to leading-edge tech start-ups, has the first Bitcoin ATM in Toronto.
Similar to the Blackberry scanning system, Bitcoin users each have their own unique code.
“It’s changing the world of banking as we know it,” says Michael Perklin, President of Bitcoinsultants Inc. “Just like [when] the Internet changed how we communicate.”
Perklin, a cybersecurity consultant who receives his incomes entirely from Bitcoin, says he uses it indirectly for everything, and directly when he can.
“Accepting Bitcoin in your store is as simple as downloading an app on you or your employee’s phone,” he says. “It costs zero per cent per transaction instead of three to seven per cent.”
A Bitcoin user himself since late 2010, Perklin believes most retailers will begin to use Bitcoin eventually.
“It’s a great way to pay for things online,” says Glass, who mostly uses Bitcoin for flights and online merchants, whereas Poichuk plans on using Bitcoin only when the opportunity arises.
“It’s fun to use,” he says. “But I won’t invest everything I have into it.”
The pair say they still have interviews to complete before they release The BIT movie towards the end of 2015.