Taking their lead from a group of Bitcoin enthusiast customers and a “serious, public conversation” on Facebook, Europe’s military surplus giant, Varusteleka, now accepts bitcoin payments.
Varusteleka trades in military surplus clothing and equipment from around the world and is now aiming to expand its sales reach to customers where international payments have proven difficult. Using BitPay as a payment platform, the company now aims to ease that friction while opting to still receive the payments at their end in Euros.
The founder of Varusteleka, Valtteri Lindholm, explained to CoinTelegraph:
“Payments within the euro zone are easy enough, but payments even to EU countries not part of euro are sometime so hard that no business gets done. Euro's not going to gain popularity anytime soon, so there is good room for bitcoin. I think international webshop sales are only at their starting point.”
When asked what had prompted the move to accept bitcoin, Lindholm explained:
“We got a number of requests for accepting bitcoin last year, and to ease the work on our customer service department, I wrote a piece on why we do not accept bitcoin and published it on our Facebook page. […] A serious, public conversation ensued - a rare event for any Facebook post - after which I came to accept that BitPay does actually currently offer a deal too good to be true, but at no risk to us. From then on, we set about getting bitcoin as a payment option.”
“It's been on for 5 days and 3% of our web payments have been made in bitcoin. I'm inclined to believe that the percentage will drop as the dust settles, and that for a long time practically all of those who pay with bitcoin would be able to pay with Euros too.”
The grassroots drive by customers to get companies accepting bitcoin can be seen as one of the important ways in which the crypto-currency has spread to merchants. Lindholm suggests the fact that there still “aren't many places yet to use bitcoin” may be a contributing factor in customers requesting to pay in the digital currency.
Playing on the Finnish love of privacy, the surplus dealer has even written some tongue-in-cheek tips for their Finnish customers wanting to receive their military equipment in complete anonymity now that digital currency is accepted for payments.
“For completely anonymous domestic delivery, pay with Bitcoin and choose delivery to Smartpost unit. Give fake address details and use your most anonymous prepaid cellphone number to get the access code message. Remember to cover your face and eyes when you pick up the package, as Smarpost units have cameras on them.”
Lindholm's explanation that the “Finnish are pretty tight-assed about their personal information in general,” which may be one factor contributing to the popularity of bitcoin in the country.
Finland has been one of the fastest countries to adopt the crypto currency with a 2014 survey finding that 10% of Finns were interested in investing in the BTC market. The Nordic nation also installed Europe's first Bitcoin ATM in 2013 and now has a BTM within reach of 33% of its population.
The Varusteleka founder, however, had previously found the idea of accepting bitcoin unattractive, explaining that it wasn't until the Facebook debate on the company's page, that he personally started taking it seriously. He also criticized the lack of marketing skills in the crypto space:
“I feel that the bitcoin enthusiasts promoting it do not have the slightest idea on how to market the thing to large masses - they're tech freaks interested in tech things, and that really shows in their output.”
Varusteleka was founded in 2003 in Helsinki and has grown to become Europe's largest military surplus dealer. They made headlines in 2014 when upon the news that Arnold Schwarzenegger was visiting Finland, the company launched a popular viral “Make Arnie Come” campaign.
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