A Chandler business is taking the plunge into the world of Bitcoin.
Bitcoin was invented in 2009 as the first peer-to-peer digital currency. Using Bitcoin, it is possible to send money like an email without going through a bank or government or corporation, said Stephanie Wargo, vice president of marketing for BitPay, a Bitcoin payment processing service.
“When my wife and I decided to go into business, it was almost a no-brainer to accept Bitcoin,” said Tom Bogle, owner of The Ice Box, a Chandler mobile shaved ice vendor at 4495 S. Basha Road.
“One of the reasons we decided to be a relatively early-adopter in the Bitcoin retail space is because it is something we believe in.”
He is also a business teacher at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe.
“I teach courses in entrepreneurship and financial planning, so I have been aware of Bitcoin for several years and discuss the impact that it has on businesses, especially as technology is changing the way many people do business entirely,” he said.
The Ice Box business started in July after Bogle and his wife visited family in Utah and had a realization that where they lived in Chandler there was rarely any shaved ice vendors. Since they had access to the ideal location, they decided to sell authentic shave ice from a mobile location, he said.
However, The Ice Box is not fully licensed yet but is working with the Institute for Justice to help change feed vending laws in Chandler to help make the city more friendly to food trucks and mobile food peddlers, he said.
Since they are not officially open for business yet, they have not seen an increase in sales as a result of accepting Bitcoin. However, Bogle said they have seen an increase in interest in their company, so they are confident that they will already have some dedicated customers once they are officially open.
Dr. Ajay Vinze, who teaches information systems at Arizona State, said what has happened in this digital environment is the need for currency to behave differently as well as people wanting options for currency.
Bogle said he also had the business listed on CoinMap.org, a map of the world’s businesses that accept Bitcoin, which has garnered them attention from the community as well.
“It really does redefine what money is and forces people to look at the Federal Reserve notes in their pocket and ask why they are money, but strings of computer code aren’t,” he said. “Once you start asking those questions, it’s not a very far leap to decide that Bitcoin is a viable alternative.”
As well, the anonymity of the currency is a big draw for some.
“When you use a dollar bill and you give it to someone, your transaction is anonymous in some ways. No one can track that dollar bill back to you. With Bitcoin, many people want that,” said Vinze.
In order for The Ice Box to start accepting payments in Bitcoin, Bogle and his wife chose a payment processing service called BitPay.
“All we had to do was set up an account with them online and we were verified to accept Bitcoin within a couple of days,” Bogle said.
However, that is not even necessary with Bitcoin. As long as the company sets up a digital wallet, they can instantly start accepting Bitcoin without paying for any additional services or fees. He said they chose to
go through BitPay since they could easily integrate their services into their accounting software.
“We are a proud BitPay client, but understand that other businesses manage their own payment processing. Bitcoin allows them that flexibility,” he said. “I honestly see no reason why any business should not start accepting Bitcoin.”
If the business is concerned about the current valuation of Bitcoin, they can choose to keep all their prices in U.S. dollars. Most payment services and digital wallets will automatically calculate the price in Bitcoin based on real-time exchange rates, he said.
To use bitcoins online or in local businesses, they have to go into a Bitcoin exchange online to purchase the currency first. After the payment is processed for their bitcoins, then they are able to exchange those bitcoins to any currency that they would like, Vinze said.
For the foreseeable future, The Ice Box will continue to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment.
For more information, visit The Ice Box’s Facebook page: facebook.com/TheIceBoxAZ.
Kendra is a senior studying journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.