From currency of the future to passing fad, Bitcoin has had a bumpy ride. After the 2013 meltdown of one of its largest online distributors, Mt. Gox, the digital currency has been hemorrhaging value. This has changed over the last few months, as the currency’s worth has rebounded. However, despite these recent gains, few businesses in Westchester actually accept the cryptocurrency—or have plans to do so.
Bitcoin is a digital payment system backed by neither a central government nor a bank, and can be used to buy goods and services similarly to traditional currencies. Bitcoin peaked at a value of $1,150 per coin in 2013, before a precipitous fall based upon the digital currency’s illicit use, security issues, and fluctuating value. Surprisingly, over the last few months Bitcoin has been climbing back toward its former value, with a worth of approximately $400 per coin as of December 8, up from $210 in August.
Staub Auto Repair in Hastings-on-Hudson garnered a great deal of press when it first announced that it would accept Bitcoin in early 2014. Despite the fanfare, Bitcoin has been less than lucrative for the company, which still finds little use for the digital currency today.
“We still use it, but the demand hasn’t been there,” says Henry Staub, owner of Staub Auto Repair. “Only one person ever came in and used it. A lot of people ask about it, but it has never really attracted people.”
Staub also noted that the singular Bitcoin transaction they did conduct, which occurred soon after they began accepting the currency, was fairly complex and took some time to process. Several other area businesses associated with the cryptocurrency who asked not to be named expressed a similar ambivalence about its recent upsurge in worth.
“It has probably been about a year since we last had a Bitcoin transaction. “It has kind of fallen flat and lost a little of its appeal,” says Staub. “It was my son who actually set it up for me. It was his thing to be honest but I thought, why not and let’s see if it gets legs.”
For Staub at least, the currency never quite took flight. “There are a lot of people commenting on it, but very few people actually use it,” he notes.
However, this does not mean that Staub and other local business owners are ruling out the currency altogether. “I am not opposed to it; I just think right now a lot of people are pretty nervous about it. The US dollar isn’t backed by anything—only by what people believe it is worth—so [Bitcoin] only needs people to believe it has value. I think things are heading in that direction.”