An AntiClimactic Ending to a New Beginning – And Why That’s a Good Thing.
I bought stuff from Overstock.com using bitcoin on the first and opening day of this new currency option. And boy, it felt good. I did something in celebration of the event that I don’t normally do because it seems so geeky… I chose the option to share it with my personal friends on Facebook. Ok, I geeked out for a moment. What was my overall reaction? Well, it seemed so….normal.
I read the headlines all over financial news networks. I saw pieces of interviews with Overstock’s CEO Patrick M. Byrne. When I went to their website I expected a huge banner across the front page declaring something about the Big News! I expected on-screen balloons and digital confetti being blown across my monitor. Yet, I was met with patio furniture and bedding links for purchase; cue the crickets. It wasn’t any different than the last time I had shopped at Overstock. I wanted to make a specific effort to shop at Overstock and buy something I truly needed. I wanted to do my part to “thank” the company for showing true initiative and the American Spirit.
It didn’t take long to think of something I needed. My wife bought me a smoker barbeque device for Christmas and I experienced my first effort being a “Smoker”. After reading up on it to make sure I was doing it right – I found an essential ingredient to the experience (other than the type of wood chips you “cook” into the food), was a meat thermometer. So last week I bought a version of the thermometer that was suggested in the on-line article… let’s just say that the smoker, thermometer and I had a little “misunderstanding”.
I plunged the little digital unit into my intended dinner and wondered how the scientific geniuses at the thermometer company were able to make plastic electronics with a battery inside so heat resistant that it could withstand the heat of a barbeque smoker. Half way through my planned two hour smokefest, it was time to check the temperature of the meat. I learned an important cooking lesson and the limits of plastic technology. I pulled what was left of my digital thermometer out of my pork roast and watched it stretch like melted cheese. The wires came dangling out of the melted digital head and I knew at once I had overestimated the thermometer geniuses’ abilities. The apple-wood smoked roast was wonderful, but if you concentrated just right – you could detect the faint flavor of burnt plastic.
So this brings me to my Overstock experience. It was time for a new thermometer before I attempted a new siege inside the smoker the following weekend involving salmon. I searched the Overstock website and found immediately my new thermometer for my upcoming battle plan I like to call: “heat meat and retreat”.
What struck me was that there was no mention of bitcoin anywhere. The prices were all in dollars which was a little bit of a letdown. Not only was there no greeting welcoming bitcoiners to the Overstock.com world of every-day shopping, but when I added an item to my digital shopping cart it simply plinked the dollar amount onto my tab just like it did a few weeks back on the site.
On the checkout page I saw the section for “billing information” and thought triumphantly “Ha! You won’t need billing information – I’m paying in digital cash today! There’s no more need to give personal information.” Then realized that…um… they were going to need to know what address to send it to. Okay, I can be happy I at least didn’t have to share my banking information.
The total price with shipping and discounts added in displayed were all priced in dollars, and the payment type defaulted to credit card. The page showed the obligatory boxes for credit card number and expiration date. PayPal was also listed as an option but for how much longer? Then… the button I was waiting to see…”Bitcoin Accepted Here”.
I clicked it for the selection type and then clicked the big green “Submit Order Now” button. I found another surprise. Based on my email address, which was a requirement on the billing screen, it must have looked up my account on Coinbase. I saw the big familiar looking “Confirm Payment” that I’ve seen when sending money using the Coinbase website previously. The total was still listed boldly in US dollars. But underneath it – in a much smaller print– almost as an afterthought, was the amount of BTC for my purchase. It included a small QR code next to it. It was kind of….anticlimactic.
Once clicked, a new screen appeared announcing that it was awaiting receipt of the amount of BTC required and the wallet ID appeared that must have been created for the transaction. There was one hiccup that required me to open a separate tab to the Coinbase website where I needed to be logged in. For some reason the Overstock.com website didn’t redirect me to the site in the same way Ebay sends you to PayPal if you’ve selected that payment option. I’m sure little glitches like that get worked out soon enough.
So that was it. Normal. You almost wouldn’t realize you are dealing in bitcoin at all – and I think that is how it should be for widespread adoption. People are comfortable looking and pricing everything in dollars. If they keep their Coinbase account with money, the underlying units don’t really matter as everything gets translated into dollars anyway. As Coinbase already has the money available from you to disburse the transaction- it goes quickly -no waiting for the blockchain. It felt…natural – and that’s a good thing.
My new digital thermometer arrived a few days later and was exactly the item I ordered: one 8 second digital thermometer with a unusually stubby poker end. I grabbed some raw chicken and tried to insert the thermometer but found it just wouldn’t go in very well. I looked closer at the box for some direction and was surprise to see the directions included a diagram of a person putting this thermometer into their ear. So, I got my second chance to buy something from Overstock with bitcoin much sooner than I had planned. This time my search term included the word “Meat”.
Mark has spent close to 25 years working and advising in various IT roles for government, retail and healthcare industries. He graduated with a BS in Business Management from the University of Phoenix which taught nothing about bitcoin. He's into hardware and has a thing for Indian motorcycles.