The owner of an information technology business based in Rathdrum plans to create a website within weeks identifying which businesses in the Coeur d’Alene area accept the digital currency known as Bitcoin.
Zach Doty said his business, Integrity CompuTech, which has 350 regular clients in North Idaho and has been operating for six years, will be on the list after it began accepting bitcoins a week ago. The currency’s symbol is a “B” with two vertical bars like a dollar symbol.
As a merchant, Doty said he looks forward to avoiding credit card processing fees, because there are no transaction fees with bitcoins.
Bitcoins are exchanged between parties independent of banks or governments. People send bitcoins to others using mobile apps and computers, almost like sending cash digitally.
“I see the local market for bitcoins growing really fast over the next few months,” Doty said.
His isn’t the only local business taking bitcoins seriously.
J.J. Honeycutt, who owns and operates the “paintless dent repair” business Dent Viking in Coeur d’Alene, said he has started accepting bitcoins as a payment option.
“As a businessman, I find it a wise strategy to give my customers as many options for payment as possible,” Honeycutt said. “But the tech geek side of me just thinks how cool it is for a dent-repair technician in small-town Idaho to accept a decentralized digital currency.”
“If you’re a small business owner, I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard about it,” said Erin Jenkins, president of Confidential Investigations in Hayden. It became a payment option starting the first of this month at his 17-year-old business.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “It’s like somebody saying, ‘Do you accept credit cards?'”
Doty is offering customers a 10 percent discount for paying with the currency.
The value of bitcoins goes up and down, he said, but one bitcoin’s value was hovering around $800 on Thursday.
Doty said he has “invested” a large amount of money into the currency, but he declined to say how much money he spent adding bitcoins to his “digital wallet.”
“The wallet is your private key to unlocking your money,” he said. Bitcoin wallets are installed on a computer or mobile phone. Unlike bank accounts, the wallets are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Doty wished he would have invested in bitcoins earlier when the value of each one was much lower.
He said because it’s a digital currency, each bitcoin can be subdivided up to eight decimal places.
Critics and regulators are concerned that bitcoins might be used for illegal activity, because transactions are hard to track.
Honeycutt said the Bitcoin concept has more upside than downside.
Funds are easy to transfer from one party to another, he said. He also likes that Bitcoin transactions are private and decentralized. That matches his business operation, which is all mobile.
“Even companies as large as Overstock.com are jumping on the bandwagon,” Honeycutt said. “It could be a long time before it will ever be a mainstream alternative.”
In the meantime, he wants to cater to all customers.
“If my customers want to pay for my services in livestock or a digital ‘cryptocurrency,’ I am cool with it all,” he said.
Jenkins, of Confidential Investigations, said both vendors and customers have been asking about bitcoins. He thinks the new currency will be even more attractive in North Idaho where government is politically unpopular.
A Republican Texas congressman said recently he is accepting bitcoins for campaign donations as he runs for the Senate, touting the “freedom” the currency provides.
Jenkins, personally, is looking forward to cutting down on credit card processing costs.
“Those add up to half a house payment some months,” Jenkins said. “It I can avoid doing that, wow!”
Chad Von Lind, who has been running a Coeur d’Alene-based independent leather goods business for a couple years called Craft and Lore, said Bitcoin is attractive because it’s decentralized and can be anonymous.
Also, all transactions are final, with no chargebacks, he said.
“It really is like paying in cash,” Von Lind said. “I don’t need all your information – I just need to know that I was paid.”