My Amsterdam Letdown and Why Bitcoin’s Real Value May Lie Beyond the First World


While in Amsterdam during my vacation in Holland, I did not miss the opportunity to visit almost every local Bitcoin-friendly business participating in the Bitstraat program in the city.

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed—not by the number of participants, which currently totals one or two dozen, but by the problems I encountered when trying to pay for my purchases with bitcoin.

First, the staff at many places, including the cafe that hosts the Bitcoin embassy itself, were not on-boarded when it comes to using the POS terminals. Understandably, personnel frequently changes and many new staff members have never even heard of digital currency, let alone knowing how to operate the tablets given out to merchants (the first 100 were free) by BitPay as part of the program. One time, I even had to demonstrate, to their amazement, just how easy it was (for me at least) to bring up the QR-code via Bitkassa’s interface.

Second, the infrastructure still is not where it should be. For example, the two-way Bitcoin ATM at Cafe Kobalt only worked once out of the four times I visited. Initially, the touch screen was nonresponsive and a day later, after it was fixed, the machine ran out of cash immediately after my first successful attempt, and charged 5% commission at that. Additionally, the android POS tablets were ostensibly of inferior quality and did not work on two occasions and two different locations, forcing me to pay with cash. Thus, the technology itself, while copacetic perhaps for the tech-savvy user when operational, it is nowhere ready for the mainstream.

The problematic 2-way BTM at Cafe Kobalt